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  Collision Feature

Blending Within a Repaired Panel

Posted 2/4/2008
By Leona Dalavai Scott

The concept of blend within panel is not new. What is new, however, is that advancements in technology and skill set have also advanced the process, which requires repairers to be educated and savvy in addressing time and material concerns with insurance companies.

Last fall, the Collision Division of the Automotive Service Association (ASA) asked major paint manufacturers in the collision repair industry for their procedures on blend within panel. Denise Caspersen, manager of ASA's Collision Division, received responses from Akzo Nobel Sikkens Car Refinishes, BASF, DuPont Performance Coatings, PPG Industries and Sherwin-Williams (see related sidebar on page 25). At the core of the blend within panel issue that collision repairers are concerned about is whether it takes more time and more materials to do a blend on a repaired panel versus a new panel.

The document submitted by some of the paint companies revealed specific instructions on proper blend within panel techniques while others gave a general overview of recommended blending procedures.

In addition to gathering the recommended paint procedures, one year earlier, ASA created a trio of fliers to help collision repairers communicate with their local insurance representatives about the correct procedures involved with blending. The paint manufacturer procedure statements coincide with the ASA fliers.

The focus and attention of ASA's Collision Division on the topic of blend within panel has been extensive - which reflects the demand and need for the proper information regarding the blending within panel issue.

Caspersen said the Collision Division has made this issue a priority because it's something that affects the bottom line of repairers.

"The concept of blend within panel has existed for years," said Caspersen. "Just as technology and vehicles have advanced, so has this process. Blend within should be recognized as a highly technical color matching process, which repairers should be compensated for accordingly."

Dan Stander, Jerry Stander's Collision Works, Littleton, Colo., chairman of the refinish subcommittee, which is an extension of the Collision Division Operations Committee, has found that the fliers ASA has created have met their intended purpose.

"Before these fliers, there was no simple way to explain why we needed more time to paint repaired panels," he said. "These are simple forms that explain the additional procedures at a glance."

Stander said anyone working in his shop - from an estimator to technician to a manager - can use the fliers to easily explain the differences in the procedures of a new panel versus a repaired panel.

Michael Pellett, a regional training center manager for Sherwin-Williams, has worked in the collision repair industry for 35 years. Like ASA, he, too, sets out to educate the collision repair industry and insurance companies about the blend within panel issue.

He said collision repair professionals must be prepared to explain in a clear manner why a blending within panel job requires as much or more refinish time as a repaired panel full refinish.

Pellett said it's very important to be educated about this issue. If shops don't educate themselves, Pellett said, they are at a disadvantage. If collision repair shops are not fully compensated for the refinish time, which can be a huge drain on a shop's resources.

"I think the shops that are learning to educate the insurance company providers are more successful," said Pellett.

Mike West, a collision repair instructor and ASA member, operates Southtowne Auto Rebuild Inc. in Tukwila, Wash. A collision industry veteran of 44 years, he said he draws a strong line in the sand on the blend within panel issue and does not cross it.

"We don't have DRP [direct repairer program] relationships with the companies that reduce paint times on blending within panel," West said. "It's a non-negotiable item for us."

West advises collision repair shops to align themselves with business partners that recognize the appropriate time involved with blending within panels. Stander said that in addition to using the fliers as educational tools, his shop uses them to explain that what is contained in the fliers is shop procedure.

"We will again give the adjuster the ASA flier and explain that this is our shop policy and here it is in writing," Stander said. "No one, whether it be the paint companies, paint suppliers, insurance companies, etc., are able to tell us how to refinish a repaired panel in a portion of the time with a portion of materials."

In addition to the fliers describing the refinish steps, ASA also offers a Refinish Flier Worksheet where repairers can enter their own time for each operation of the repaired panel refinish. Said Stander, "We are not trying to get paid for something we are not doing. We are trying to get paid for something we have to do every time we repair a panel."

Caspersen said she is proud of all of the tools that ASA has made available to the collision repair industry on the blend within panel issue and even prouder of the fact that the tools are being used.

"Since we have introduced the fliers, there have been hundreds of downloads of these documents by members and nonmembers alike," she said. "With that kind of access, it shows that we are meeting a need for information and education on this important issue."

As ASA collision repairers continue to educate their insurance representives about the proper procedures and times required in blending within panel, the collision division of ASA encourages other repair professionals to get in the game as well.

"If you think someone else is going to fix the industry problems for you, maybe you are not the right person for this industry," Stander said. "Educate yourself, your employees, your co-workers; be professional, be courteous and get involved!"

Question of Time? Do a Demo

If your shop is having a difficult time explaining to an adjuster why a particular procedure requires a certain amount of time, Dan Stander, refinish subcommittee chairman, and owner of Jerry Stander's Collision Works, Littleton, Colo., recommends doing a demonstration to explain the process in detail.

"We have done several demos for insurances companies. This is a side-by-side comparison of a new panel (e-coated) versus a repaired panel (a panel with raw body plastic) and simply going through the procedures to refinish both panels. We tend not to discuss how much time it takes but rather focus on the additional procedures on the repaired panel," said Stander.

It is amazing to see, Stander said, how many veteran adjusters have never seen new and/or repaired panels painted before. "They are educated from the corporate insurance perspective - not necessarily reality," he said.

Paint Manufacturer Responses Shed Light on Blend Within Panel Issue

As a result of many months of hard work and follow up, the ASA Collision Division Operations Committee was successful in gathering responses from some of the major automotive paint manufacturers to have a better understanding of their blend within panel procedures.

The responses are available in the Members Only section of ASA's Web site at www.ASAshop.org. To enter the Members Only area, members must enter their six-digit member number, found on the mailing label of AutoInc.

The following is a brief summary of the responses from five paint manufacturers:

  • Akzo Nobel Sikkens Refinish - Answering on behalf of Akzo, Virgil Wilson, covered in detail the steps involved in blending a panel from preparing the panel to blending the clearcoat. He concluded that as a result of all of the steps involved, "the painting of a blend panel is much more time consuming and critical."

  • BASF - Answering on behalf of BASF, Joseph Skurka, manager of OEM & Industry Relations, said the time involved in blending on a repaired panel [versus a new panel] "may take slightly more basecoat color to cover the primer spot and perhaps one extra coat of basecoat to achieve hiding over the primer." He also offered ASA collision repairers a PDF document of BASF's Refinish Process Guidelines to understand their procedures better, which addresses 10 common repair questions.

  • DuPont Performance Coatings - Answering on behalf of DuPont Performance Coatings, Fred Wisseman, refinish brand manager, provided details on the blending of a basecoat, which is the recommended way to achieve the appropriate color match. DuPont does not endorse or warrant the practice of blending clearcoat and explains its reasons as to why.

  • PPG Industries - On behalf of PPG Industries, Bill Troyer, manager of training, perhaps gave the greatest detail in addressing the blending issue. He provided ASA with a PDF of PPG's Standard Process Documents, which provides a step-by-step overview of the procedures and products that are needed to properly refinish either type of panel - damaged or undamaged.

  • Sherwin-Williams - Answering on behalf of Sherwin-Williams, Michael Pellett, training center manager for the Dallas Automotive Training branch, provided a detailed study of the necessary refinish times on a repaired blend within panel or a partial refinish panel. The study was a result of much feedback from their customers on the questions surrounding blend within panel issue.


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