by Mark Johnson
NACE Online Daily News Contributor
There's your big, beautiful, well-maintained paint booth. The most expensive piece of equipment in your shop and one of the most necessary. It's also the single biggest bottleneck you have and it's the biggest source of inefficiency in your shop.
Fortunately the solutions to the problem are fairly simple, as outlined by Jimmy Castillo and Mark Mann of BASF during their Wednesday presentation, "Paint Shop Productivity," which is derived from a two-day course the two instructors present across the country.
The first thing you need to do when trying to make your paint shop more productive is to understand your output versus capacity ratio. If you are trying to paint more cars than your shop can handle - whether it's due to employee skill levels, shop layout, your paint booth - you are always going to have bottlenecks. You can either run fewer cars through your shop or increase capacity, say Mann and Castillo.
Once you balance the output and capacity equation you need to deal with your workflow - what are your bottlenecks and what causes them? "A lot of times when cars are being brought through the prep department they are actually doing things that should have been taken care of before that point," says Castillo. "You might have a technician that is qualified to paint cars - making a certain amount of money - taking emblems off of a car, for example. We want to make sure that when a car gets to the painter it's ready to go."
Removing obstacles like that can put one more car a day through the paint booth, they say, which can significantly improve profits and cycle times.
Another example offered in the presentation was timing paint matching. "Sometimes you see a body shop that has a car in the booth and they are trying to match the color in the booth. That's something that should be done way before that stage, because once the car goes in the booth you want to paint it, bake it and send in the next car," says Castillo. "If you can keep your technician painting you will get his productivity way up."
One of the simplest suggestions presented during the seminar was to always have three cars ready to go into the paint booth. "In our program we show that you want to have at least two or three cars in the prepping stage and the reason is that out of those three or four there will always be one ready to paint. In a lot of shops they are concentrating on one particular car and if something happens where it needs to return to the body technician, what do you do? That was the only car you were working on," says Castillo. By having several vehicles ready for paint, if a painter rejects a car he or she has another to paint instead of standing around waiting for the next one.
The key to having a number of cars ready to go into the paint booth is having qualified people doing the right jobs, say the presenters. "In order to get productivity donāt ask someone to do more than they can do, you need well-trained, qualified people," says Castillo.
Mark Johnson is senior editor for ABRN.