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June 22, 2024

Tips to get the most from your collision repair paint booth

Match colors before the booth is loaded

Painters should verify the color match before the booth is loaded, Winters says.
“Yes, there’s color-corrected lighting. Yes, we pride ourselves on being able to see in the booth, but if you’re matching color in the booth, it’s too late. If you have other cars lined up and this car is giving you a problem matching the color, don’t ever pull it into the booth. You can tape it up and have it sitting, ready to go. But pull it to the side and keep cars coming through so you can work on getting the production done. In between, you can be working on matching that color.”

Consider a switch to waterborne

Compared to traditional solvent-based paint systems, waterborne systems offer faster color matching, quicker drying times, and improved turnaround, albeit at higher product cost and the need to upgrade equipment.

“Dry times for water vs. solvent, especially for two-tones even for basic collision repair jobs, are astronomically faster,” Winters says. “Yes, there is the upfront cost of adding blowers, the fan systems, handheld blower stands, and whatnot; there’s a bunch of different options for it, along with retrofitting spray guns, if the shop is supplying spray guns to the painters. But water has a lot of advantages of being able to speed up the cycle time.”
Winters says one can expect to cut 30 minutes of time needed for application and color-match on each job.

“Let’s say you do four rounds through the booth every day. That’s two hours that gets added onto the end of the cycle that you now gain. If you were doing four rounds in a booth as a solvent painter, now maybe you’re doing five rounds. That’s one extra job a day, one extra flow of parts.”
At the end of the year, the numbers in that example add up to an additional 240 jobs moved through the booth. So, it’s easy to see what the potential is, Winters says, but an owner or operator should examine what improvements may be needed before pulling the trigger on a new booth purchase.

“If they’re tapped out – if they’re already using water, they know they have good painters, and they can see the metrics on that and they need to improve and they’re just busting at the seams and they cannot do any more, yeah; it’s time to add a booth.”
A shop may also not need to add another painter to its staff, Winters points out, even when installing an additional booth.

“One thing I enjoyed about having two booths is I could offset things and keep going. I could seal this one and get this one into color, and while this one is flashing, I could jump over to the next booth because my prepper already had the car taped up. I wiped it down and then threw it into sealer. Now, I go over here and clear this, and that one’s ready to go.”

It’s a constant back-and-forth to keep the work flowing, Winters says, noting that Accudraft offers double booths that offer a smaller footprint than two separate booths but a larger cabin workspace for parts-off overall refinishing or multiple jobs, with custom options for height and mechanicals such as where the air makeup unit is installed.

When an investment in new technology makes sense

Owners or operators often expect a 20 or 30-year-old booth being used every day to still produce as it did the first year it was installed. But Winters likens them to a car with 250,000-300,000 miles on it.

“We’re dealing with stuff that’s mechanical, and at the end of the day, it’s not if it’s going to break; it’s when it’s going to break. Even with inspections, once stuff gets the miles on it, it’s going to go down. If you’re spending more time having to fix things, if problems arise and you’re having a harder time accessing parts, those need to be considered.”

Recalling what Garfoot advised about parts placement and added time needed for non-downdraft booths, some booth purchases can be pennywise and pound-foolish.

“There are a lot of companies that make good-quality booths; it’s just making sure you’re buying the right one for your shop. Don’t hurt your production. Body shop owners, if they haven’t painted before or very much, should get the input of the painter when they’re making that buying decision. Saving $80,000 up front may cost you $250,000 to $1 million a year in production.”


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