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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.

 

Collision repair management 101: Part 4 – Invest smart.

In this post, I will try to address a very important issue for every bodyshop, regardless of its size or location – the issue of investment. In “Collision repair management 101” series I have stressed my vision that any collision repair workshop must follow general rules of business management. It is a big mistake to think that spraying cars is kind of special and unique trade, which has nothing in common with the rest of the business world. As it was discussed in the previous posts, whether we talk about fixed or variable costs and cash flow, a bodyshop manager should apply the same methods of management as bank or travel agency. This is why, when it comes to growth of a given bodyshop, its owner will come up with a question when to invest hard earned bucks into equipment, relocation or human resources, and, most importantly, why to invest.

Types of investments in a collision repair shop.

The first thing that might come up to your mind when thinking about investment in a collision repair industry would be a new spray booth or other equipment. While investing in equipment and tools is definitely a significant issue, it is not the only area where your money can be invested. For example, moving to a new or bigger location or the renovation of the existing place, is, no doubts, a wise investment. Another very important aspect I would like to refer is training of personnel. With new car body materials, VOC regulations, innovative materials and tools, training of your staff can hardly be overestimated.

return-on-investment

Return on investment

Perhaps many of you associate return on investment (ROI) as a term for stocks or bonds market. However, in plain English, return on investment is a number, which in measurable way shows us what will be the benefit per each dollar spent on it. Let me bring you some examples.

Imagine a medium-size bodyshop with one painter and two prep guys. The shop is very busy and the owner estimates that he loses about 25% of extra revenue due to the limited capacity. Therefore, he is considering investing in a second spray booth. Sounds logical up to now. Now let’s consider the costs of the investment as total. The cost of a spray booth with installation is 35.000 Euro (or USD), then at least one painter and one prep person must be hired with a total yearly cost of about 40.000 Euro. Now the bodyshop’s turnover is 500.000 Euro and expected additional business due to higher capacity is expected to be 125.000 Euro annually. With an average operating profit of 35%, the investment will bring about 43.750 Euro net profit.  It may look attractive in the beginning, if we do not consider additional salary costs. Yet, if we take into consideration that every year the additional business of 125.000 Euro will need also 40.000 Euro salary expenses, the pay off period for the investment will be about 7 years. It is crucial to calculate all the related costs. Is the period of 7 years good enough? Can we increase the turnover with other means (infrared lamps, for example)? Is our prediction of increase in turnover by 25% well justified?

Let me bring to your attention another investment example, of a much smaller case. For example, a painter in bodyshop X wants to buy a new model of premium quality spray gun for basecoat application. He expects that the new spray gun will save about on average 15% of a material sprayed. The cost for this spray gun is 450 Euro. On average, the painter is spraying 2 liters of paint every day with the cost on 1L about 45 Euro. The new spray gun will save to the painter 13.5 Euro from the cost of the paint each day (2L x 45 Euro x 15%), therefore in a month of 23 working days the bodyshop will save 310.5 Euro, meaning that in about 45 days the cost of the purchase will fully covered by the savings in paint. Not bad at all, taking into account that the new spray gun will also improve colour matching and overall quality of spraying. From my experience, investing in the new spraying equipment usually has the highest and quickest return on investment in any bodyshop.

I hope that it is vital for car body repair professionals to invest their time for budgeting, planning and management tasks. Office work is as important as repairing cars. Benjamin Franklin once said: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” I couldn’t agree more.

 

 

 

Ultimate guide for the time management in a bodyshop. 7+1 tips.

Since early age we have been told that, time is precious, that it is an asset. As we grow, we also learn that time is money. In fact, if you rephrase, wasting time means losing money. And, of course, nobody likes losing money, especially business owners and managers of all levels. Numerous books have been written on time management, dozens of apps and project management software are available, courses are attended where we learn how to manage the precious and limited resource, called time.

As a business owner, I try very hard to optimize my time and to train my team to use their time with maximum output. This subject is too big for just one article; yet, I would like to share with you, my valued reader, some no no-nonsense tips, which, if applied, will save you time and money. Guaranteed, or your money back. Oh, my blog is free. Then satisfaction guaranteed or your time is back.

  1. Prioritizing is the key. Being busy and having things done are not the same thing. You can always put things-to-do into four categories as in the below matrix. Always start from the tasks, which are both important and urgent, dedicate some time everyday to the important, but not urgent staff, do quickly urgent unimportant jobs and ignore unimportant and not urgent things.

matrix

  1. Create meaningful plan of actions for the next day. The best timing for making to-do-list is in the end of each working day. The most important assignments put first in your list. Be very specific. If you need to make some orders for spare parts and consumables, do it first thing you enter the bodyshop in the morning. For many of us it is difficult to jump in work early in the morning (I am the best example of that type of people), but if you have had your plan crafted before, it will be much easier to optimize your time.
  2. Keep tools in designated places. Have you ever met this super busy prep guy, who is always in hectic motion trying to find masking tape, a putty spreader or a box of gloves? Never leave the working place without sorting out your tools and materials; everything must have its place in a bodyshop.
  3. No customers on the working place. Period. Your receptionist is your bodyguard. Otherwise, workers will have to choose whether they should get stuff painted or to keep meaningless polite conversation with a curious customer.
  4. Learn to say no to things and jobs, which won’t benefit your business. Read a separate article on this subject “The art of saying NO applied to car body repair business”.
  5. Stop multitasking. Even if you think that doing prep job with one hand, and mixing paint with another, will speed up your work, do not be misleaded. Chances are you get poor results in both tasks with a result of expensive re-spray and re-work.
  6. Stop procrastinating important chores. Another useful post about procrastination “5 things to stop procrastinating in a bodyshop”. To be short, if you postpone changing filters in the spray booth or cleaning up the workshop, you will spend precious time later on when removing dust nibs or searching for tools.

Yet, the most important advice I can give is to know your limits. Business owners’, especially those who run a start-up, biggest challenge is not to burn out. Take breaks, learn to slow down and devote enough time for your loved ones.

time-management

How to avoid 50% of the paint defects in a bodyshop?

 

One of the most interesting parts of my job is visiting car manufacturers in different countries. I always enjoy this feeling of an accurate, well-managed producing machine. It gives you a clear vision, a benchmark, of how things must work in a regular bodyshop. A paint shop in OEM plant is a special place. It is very-very clean. Everything is done in order to prevent dust and dirt from coming to the painted surface. However, even in the car plants with all the measures taken, on average, about 4-5 dust nibs are usually revealed during the inspection process. And this happens under conditions close to an operating room in a hospital! Thus, it is not difficult to understand why more than 50% of car defects in a regular bodyshop, are mere dust inclusions in the basecoat/clearcoat film. I think you would agree with me that majority of the body paint shops are anything but neat and tidy.

What is a dust nib?

Actually we call this type of paint defects with different names. Dirt contamination, spikes, grits, nibs, seeds, grains, specks, bits… Yet, no matter how you call them, the meaning is simple; those are foreign particles, which are not supposed to be there. They are projecting from the paint film, undermining your overall job and effort.

Dust nibs could be of a different origin:

– Simple air-borne dust

– Human hair

– Lint from wiping materials

– Abrasive grains

– Cloth fibers

– Dried overspray

– Airline dirt (parts rubber air hose, for example)

– Fibers from the spray booth filters etc

Dust nib removal

How to prevent dust contaminations?

It is always better and easier to prevent a problem rather than remedy. So, what shall we do in order to avoid the costly and time consuming re-works?

1. The most important way to keep your paint job free from dust inclusions is to preserve the working area and spray booth clean and tidy.

2. Wear anti-static tear-proof working overalls while spraying.

3. Regularly check and maintain air supply system. Worn-out air hose will throw small rubber particles in the compressed air line.

4. Change and clean routinely air filters.

5. Clean thoroughly your spray guns and blowing guns.

6. Protect spray booth walls from overspray by applying booth mask tacky coating or special film. Dried overspray on the walls can easily get into the air circulating in the booth and stick to the wet painted surface.

7. According to the European laws sine 1991, a spray booth must be running at negative pressure, in order to prevent airborne hazardous paint mist escaping the cabin. This means that if we open frequently the doors of spray booth or if wall panels are not properly fit, seams with improper insulation, gaskets worn-off etc, the dust from outside will be attracted inside the spraying area. Inspect systematically your spray booth condition for leakage. I have to add that in practice many paint sprayers tune their spray booths create excess pressure inside to avoid dust to get in.

8. Always wash a vehicle before even starting preparation jobs.

9. Air blow the vehicle before entering a spray booth.

10. Use anti-static wipes on plastic car parts prior paint application. Plastic attracts air-borne dust. Pay attention to bumpers, plastic rims, mirrors etc

11. Use high-quality dedicated, preferably non-woven wipes with degreaser and anti-silicon cleaner.

12. Clean routinely all the surface to be painted with a high quality tack rag.

13. Use only dedicated masking film with corona treatment. This film is designed to hold overspray, avoiding peel-off of dry paint.

14. Use high quality Kraft masking paper. Newspapers or other types of paper are made of recycled raw material. Such masking paper is full of fibers on its edges, which will fly over the place as soon as air from a spray gun will hit the surface of the car.

Remedy

Usually dust nibs within a clearcoat film can be removed by microabrasives P1500-P2000 and subsequent polishing. However, dust inclusions within basecoat film must be re-sprayed. What is important to remember that removing a dust nib can be done only after the clearcoat is fully cured.

Dust nib

5 things to stop procrastinating in a bodyshop

Procrastination 2

According to Wikipedia, procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the "last minute" before the deadline.

Procrastination 1

Well, procrastination is something we face in our personal and home choirs. We simply tend to postpone these things for later. They are kind of not so urgent or, at least, we want to believe so. However, procrastination in your working life may have far more serious consequences. I think we can identify 5 things we often procrastinate in a bodyshop, while we shouldn’t.

Procrastinate now and panic later

  1. Changing filters in a spray booth.

In one of Etalon recent newsletters I wrote about the most frequent paint defect – dust inclusions in a clear coat. Clean spray booth filters will significantly decrease this type of paint problem, so, please, make sure you keep your filters in a good condition.

Ceiling filter etalon

      2. Cleaning up the place.

I will never stop saying that a clean working environment in car refinishing job is extremely vital. Think of it. How much time do you waste every day just because you can’t find some tool? How many customers may leave your place simply because they don’t like how your shop looks? How much dust is in the air causing you all those nasty dust nibs in the paint? Spend one weekend to clean the mess and you will enjoy the rewards. Guaranteed.

Clean it up

        3. Replace the old ugly sign of your shop.

I always wonder why many collision repair shops don’t change their signs regularly. It undoubtedly puts you off when you see old phone number, faded letters and invalid contact details on a weatherworn dusty sign. Change it, put a new one, spend a few bucks on it, and it will definitely pay back.

Old sign 2

      4. Creating a webpage.

Well, this is my favourite. A huge number of car paint shops have no website whatsoever. We all know it is important; not having a website is like not having a phone number or email in our days. Webpage is a window to the outer world. Any marketing effort will be undermined if your ad doesn’t have a website on it. Majority of potential customers won’t bother to call you. Find a local web designer, call him and proceed. No more excuses.

Website

    5. Re-fresh your wall paint

Greyish walls inside and outside your bodyshop, rusty doors and faded interior will turn off your customers as much as the mess and litter around. A simple face-lift of your place will boost your self-esteem; make you a little bit happier while you spend hours and hours there. Remember that you must paint your walls first if you want to paint cars!

  Paint walls

 

 

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