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What a painter should learn from coronavirus pandemic?

Nowadays press, internet and television bombard us with threatening statistics about COVID-19, or coronavirus in plain English. Everyday a new country is added to the list of infected areas, numbers of sick people with a death toll statistics cause panic and fear. Dust masks and hand antiseptic disappeared. People from all over the world have been chasing for any protective masks to sell to China (50% of all masks worldwide are produced in China, by the way). Yet, I am not writing this article about the virus itself. There more than enough experts and non-experts speculating about this subject anyway.

Last week I visited one of our customers in Greece. During my visit, a painter walked in, asking for the dust masks P2. “How many are there in the box?” he asked. “Twenty?” “Give me five boxes. I have three kids at home”. The guy paid and left within a minute. My distributor laughed after the painter left. “His name is George (I changed the name, of course), and he has never used any respiratory protection neither for prep jobs nor for painting. At least he knows now that there are different masks, like P2 available.” “This virus will do well for these folks”, he added with a smile on his face.

It was somehow funny, but alarming at the same time. The painter took these masks obviously because of all the panic around coronavirus. But, why would he expose his health to toxic dust and solvent fumes? How happened that a very distant danger of the exposure to the not-so-deadly virus outweighs the everyday, very real work hazards? I have no reasonable answers to these questions.

We all have people we love and care about. Often a car sprayer is the only person to provide for his family. Not using personal protection in a bodyshop is not only stupid, but also unfair in relation to the close family, especially children. They need you healthy and well. Car paint sprayers have about 90 times higher risk of getting asthma than other working population. Therefore, the chances of dying from breathing related illness if infected by COVID-19 are negligible if compared to the health issues caused by unprotected work as painter. Personal protection products are affordable, widely available from the paint stores and there are no excuses to avoid using them every time you grab a sanding machine or a spray gun. Stay healthy and, please, protect yourself!

Variety of orbital sanding machines. Difference not to be ignored.

When we speak about different aspects of the car body repairs, usually we mainly discuss the quality of the materials, especially chemicals. No doubt, the final result of any refinishing job depends on paint, clear or primer used. However, it is of utmost importance not to forget how important is the preparation stage, including such a tedious task as sanding.

Just after the Christmas holidays, during the paint preparation workshop in the company’s training center, I came across an interesting question from our customer. This quite an experienced painter was testing different brands of abrasives together with our technical specialist. While I was discussing something with one of our sales manager, I overheard a heated discussion between the painter and our technician. The argument was about using P400 abrasive disc with 5mm orbit sander. “I only use 5mm orbit, and there is no need for any other model”, the painter said with confidence in his voice. “All these different orbit sizes are just made to make us buying more unnecessary tools”, he added. If you ever had an argument with a painter, you probably know that they are hard to convince about pretty much anything. “Show me the difference “, exclaimed the painter. Therefore, we decided to give it a try.

The rule of thumb

Probably you know the recommendations of tools manufacturers. For the abrasives with grits from P80 to P180 use a sander with larger orbit of 5-6mm, while for the finer sanding jobs with P240-P600 – orbit of 2.5-3mm. Some of the manufacturers also offer machines with rather big orbit of up to 10mm for demanding paint stripping operations; however this kind of sanding tools are not common. What is usually missed in those recommendations, it is the explanations behind this information.

In reality the theory behind is very simple. A large orbit allows the abrasive to cover bigger surface and to remove the “picks” of the uneven surface faster and more effectively. On contrary, smaller orbit covers smaller area, but more densely, leaving smoother surface.

From our internal tests, we found that 5mm orbital sander with the same abrasive and all other conditions the same, removes up to 20% more material than 2,5 mm orbit. This is very important especially in paint stripping or body filler sanding jobs. On the other hand, finer grits load up less when used with smaller orbits, like 2,5-3 mm. This allows achieving better quality surface at less time.

Take away

The choice of tools and materials is a painter’s undisputed prerogative, however we all should not ignore the common sense and facts. Doubt is good only when it pushes one to explore and search for facts. If facts are obvious, ignorance in this case is unacceptable. Using recommended sanders will save you time and money. Proved!

4 + 2 things car painter and a doctor have in common (revisited)

I wrote this article almost 7 years ago in February 2013, and since then many of our readers referred to it, and, actually, used it in the business presentations and discussions across refinishing industry. It is always fun to make comparisons of incomparable things. After the years, I came across of two more things, which are similar in both trades. I hope you will find those interesting addition to the list.

One could say that there is hardly anything in common between collision repair facility and, let’s say, your family doctor’s office. Well, probably it is true to some extent. Nevertheless, besides the fact that some auto paint professionals are called “car skin doctors”, there are some professional attributes we should borrow from doctors.

  1. Place your professional certificates on some prominent place.

Next time you will visit your doctor, pay attention to the walls of his cabinet. I am pretty sure that his diplomas and certificates will be right behind him nicely framed! It is not a show off, but a well understood practice to assure a patient that he is in the right place for treatment.

Car refinishing professional also spends considerable amount of time to learn the craft. Wether he graduated from technical school or attended a number of professional seminars or has been certified by the car colour company, he had acquired quite a few documents certifying his knowledge. So, my advice is to clean the dust from your professional certificates and to place them on the nice spot of the body shop, or even better in your office!

  1. Find some place for the office.

Imagine that you need a minor surgical operation to be done (a really small one). You come to the place to schedule the date with your surgeon, and he admits you… right over the operation table. Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

Believe it or not, but exactly the same applies to any collision and body repair shop. There should be a place, preferably separated from the noise of working compressor or sanding machine, where painter could discuss with a customer all the procedures, costs and, perhaps, additional services to be offered. Let’s face it, selling your service standing in the middle of noisy and dusty body shop, doesn’t look very professional!

  1. Keep the body shop clean as hospital.

I remember my feelings when during my trip to Zambia I looked for a medical help in one small place in the middle of nowhere. The doctor’s place was dirty and old, and I thought my fever probably is not so important, and I should leave or better run away, as soon as possible. Fortunately, most of the doctor’s cabinets are tidy, clean and well maintained. Otherwise how could we trust our health to such a doctor?

Now one could say, body shop is a working place, where old parts are removed, sanding dust is in the air, while spilled paint stains decorate every corner. Big mistake! Don’t expect your customer to respect you, if you don’t respect yourself the place you spend so much time every day. My advice is:

– Clean that dust from the floor, your tools, infrared dryers, and all the equipment. This will give preserve value of your investment and help to “fight” those nasty dust nibs you spend so much time to polish away.

– Remove all those old bonnets, cracked bumpers and smashed doors. You will be surprised how much bigger your body shop actually is.

– Devote one weekend per year to paint your walls. Nothing fancy, pure white or beige colour will refresh the look of your shop. Better mood everyday comes as bonus.

– Improve the lighting, clean your windows, and let the bright side of life in. Having better vision of the place to be repaired is always a big plus.

– Make some shelves and find place for all tools and consumables. One of the biggest problems with clear coat polishing and swirl marks I noticed all those years, was dirty polishing pads covered with sanding dust.

  1. Dress up and look professional.

Why do you think all doctors wear those nice white lab coats? Because they want to look professional, so they must dress up like a doctor. It is an attribute, rather than necessity. White coat inspires confidence.

I do believe that clean overall is a must, especially when you meet a customer. How customers will take seriously your business, if your working uniform is dirty and looks like rag?

  1. Don’t make diagnosis (estimates) over the phone

Have you ever met a doctor, who would give a patient his diagnosis over the phone? I haven’t, and I hope you neither. In order to find out what is wrong with one’s health, a doctor must see him, examine, probably prescribe some tests, and only then – make the diagnosis and proceed with treatment. This is exactly what should be done, when a customer calls you for an estimate and/or sends you the picture. It simply does not work this way. So, next time you receive a phone call for the repair quotation, just think of your physician first.

  1. Never stop learning.

Doctors never stop learning. They attend conferences, seminars and conventions throughout their whole professional career. Nobody would trust his health to a doctor, whose professional knowledge is based solely on the doctor’s degree studies some years ago. Similarly, a body shop professional should continue his professional education regardless of his or her years of experience. Vehicles change, materials change, tools change, so working on the repair “just the way we always do” is not good enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do not start a new bodyshop without thorough consideration of these aspects.

Recently I have been involved in the planning session for a brand new bodyshop for servicing municipal bus fleet of one of the capital cities in Europe. While this process is not something new or unique to me, I had an opportunity to get into customer’s thinking and logic. And, I assure you that there is no better way to understand your customer, than to be in his shoes for a while. During the numerous round table meetings, I realized that there are certain key aspects one must consider while planning a new shop. Failing to make the right decisions on those aspects will make the future of the workshop seriously difficult. Below I will analyze how to make vitally important decisions on a bodyshop space and layout, key equipment and paint supply. Additionally you will find some useful links curated especially for you on this subject.

Space and bodyshop layout

Working space is probably the most expensive and vastly important asset of any business, and collision repair businesses are not an exemption. Here we need to distinguish two possibilities. First possibility is when you are already given a certain building to fit your new shop in. Second possibility allows you to build the new shop from scratch. In the first case, a deep analysis of the given space must be considered. For example, in the project I referred above, the initially proposed building was quickly dismissed, because number of restraints for a spray booth and prep area location. Second possibility is only limited by the budget, and it is a much easier option for any organization.

Advice 1

Never underestimate the importance of space in a bodyshop planning. For example in Greece, more than 50% of the bodyshops lack the vital space for easy moving the vehicles around the shop. As a result, body and paint shops become bottlenecks, causing delays in vehicles deliveries, while decreasing overall profitability. Remember that it is much easier and cheaper to lay out the shop correctly form the beginning rather than make adjustments later on. Additionally, allocate space for spare parts storage, paint mixing room, dressing rooms and a place for employees break.

Additional reading link:

http://etalon.gr/blog/2013/08/08/4-ways-to-speed-up-your-body-shop-productivity-1/

Equipment

Every new bodyshop requires a great number of equipment and tools for its operations. I don’t want to talk about everything, but three main ones: a spraybooth, a bench and a compressor.

Spraybooth

Probably when you imagine a car painting shop, the first image coming to your mind would be a spraybooth. It is probably the most expensive piece of equipment in the paint shop, so, needless to say, it is of a paramount importance to avoid any mistakes here.

Advice 2

Nowadays one can find a great deal of spraybooths for any budget and special requests. From many years of experience, I can assure you that the most important factor for choosing one booth over another should be a supplier, not the technical characteristics. Invest your money having in mind the proximity of the supplier, his experience, technical stuff and spare parts availability. Trust me, you don’t want a supplier of a spraybooth, who can not fix any problem within 24 hours. Ask your colleagues who have different brands of spraybooths installed. Are they happy with it? Are they satisfied with the after sales service?

Additional reading links:

https://www.dtc-uk.com/spray-booths/choosing-the-right-spray-booth/

https://www.pfonline.com/articles/7-steps-to-make-buying-a-paint-booth-easier

https://www.autobodytoolmart.com/paint-booth-size-guide-t.aspx

Bench

If your workshop will perform also the complicated panel beating works then you must decide on the purchase of a bench. Straightening benches are also expensive and require good market research.

Advice 3

Make sure that you understand the insurance companies’ policies on severely damaged vehicles. In many countries, insurers prefer to scrap a vehicle with serious structural damage rather than fix it. Once you know what will be the majority of insurance jobs, you will be able to choose the right equipment without overpaying for the unnecessary options.

Additional reading link:

https://www.bodyshopbusiness.com/frame-rack-or-bench-which-is-right-for-your-shop/

Compressor

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the air supply in any bodyshop. Spray guns and airtools are all essential to the efficiency in any collision repair shop. Before deciding what capacity of the air supply your shop should have, you must study carefully the technical characteristics of the spray guns and pneumatic tools to be used. Place, where the compressor will be, piston or rotary technology, length of the air supply network and potential air losses – all these crucial parameters must be carefully calculated.

Advice 4

Allocate adequate funds for the compressor to cater for all the needs and exceeding the estimated air supply capacity for this workshop at least by 15-20%. Compressor is not a piece of equipment to save money on. Consider a secondary backup compressor in case of the breakdown of the primary compressor. Choose a supplier who has the experience with paint shop needs. Keep in mind that air purity, absence of water and oil in the air system are important in the bodyshops like in no other workshop.

Additional reading links:

https://www.bodyshopbusiness.com/buying-tips-air-compressors/

https://www.bodyshopbusiness.com/air-compressors-what-to-consider-when-buying/

https://www.thecompressedairblog.com/compressed-air-application-automotive-paint-body-shop

Paint and consumables supply

Likewise, choosing the paint and consumables supplier is not an easy task. Probably the two most common mistakes I see in the market are choosing a potential supplier based on price or on “freebies”. Both decisions patterns may seriously affect negatively the future of the business.

Advice 5

Do not choose your paint supplier based on the price alone. First, the price and the cost are not the same things. Cheap may be very costly when it comes to the productivity. Initial “sweetness” of low price will fade out quickly when quality issues appear or/and due to the bad service a “cheap” supplier provides.

Another common trap is when a potential paint supplier offers expensive “gifts” in order to get your business. “Free” spray guns, tools or even a spraybooth, are actually always included in the future bills. The cost of those “freebies” is disguised, but you will always pay them back with a high interest rate. No suppliers, especially multinational paint companies, are charitable organizations.

Additional reading link:

http://etalon.gr/blog/2017/08/27/buying-bodyshops-business-paint-companies-sustainable/

Sum up

If you are in the process of the new bodyshop set up, please do not rush your decisions. A great number of businesses are doomed to failure before even opening their doors. You might be tempted to speed up the whole process to start working as soon as possible. However, a few weeks delay, spent on the meticulous preparations and research, will save you tones of money and put the solid bases for the future success.

 

Fake news, fake watches, fake guns (spray guns)

I would like to share with you some thoughts about one encounter I had recently with one painter in Greece. While we were talking about usual stuff in his paint mixing room, I spotted a new box of Devilbiss GTI Pro Lite Spray gun. I am selling this well-known brand for more than 15 years, and I am always happy to see painters using this excellent piece of engineering. “Good choice”, I said. “Yes, and very cheap too, only 130£ on Ebay”, he replied. “That is unusually cheap, indeed”, I thought, while taking the box in my hands. I asked if I could open it, and took the gun in my hands. From that very moment I realized that it’s not a genuine spray gun, it just didn’t sit well in my hand. “It is Devilbiss from China”, the painter replied seeing my obvious confusion and with a slight sign of guilt in his eyes.

I don’t want to bore you with the entire discussion I had with this painter. He knew it was fake, but, for some reason, just because it had the brand on it, he thought he got a good deal. The truth is, he was ripped off. The painter paid 130£ for a below average Chinese gun, which normally should be around 25£ max. Yes, it still sprays the paint, but it isn’t even close to a genuine Devilbiss product.

To be honest, I hate fake things. Whether it is feelings, news, a gadget or a watch. Well, for me, especially watches, since I love these small pieces of mechanical engineering in our digital world. If you want to buy a Swiss watch regardless of a price tag, you probably value the craftsmanship and work and time spent on making it. Nobody needs to buy a watch now just to see what time is it. You exchange your hard-earned money on something of a profound value for you; on something, which reminds you about your own achievements and hard work. If you buy a fake Rolex, for example, you deceive mainly yourself, not others.

It is not in my intention to make in-depth comparison between the real thing and the fake. There are too many points. I think Devilbiss managers should do it instead. In fact, I don’t understand why Ebay UK allows to sell fake products undisturbed? However, I strongly believe that sprayers should respect their work and be tidy with everything they use in their job. In the end of the day, the one who is fooled around is your pride and self-esteem.

 

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