Nathan: What changes other than equipment are required? Some of you mentioned more polish time, costs of maintenance etc. I’ve heard from several people that this is cheaper and faster than solvent, and I just can’t fathom how that would be possible, with the increase in compressed air system maintenance, increased time it takes to fix the basecoat imperfections, and so on.
John Kendricks: There’s definitely an increase. There’s no question about it, not only in your equipment but just the transition has been a to cost you, and all the soft costs that Robert was talking about. We tried to get into the waterborne system as intelligently as we could. As far as how fast it is, I believe we can do it as fast but it’s going to cost us more. The physical change over is pretty simple but it comes at a cost on top of the normal increases from your manufacturer. Now it’s time to recoup that cost and become better businessmen because we have no choice. I haven’t proven it to accelerate my productivity but I can tell you it’s costing me more to produce the same.
Rudy Romero: I agree with that. A lot of things we did not calculate were simple stuff, like we used to be able to use the green masking paper. When you’re spraying water over the green paper it’s kicking the fiber loose so we’re having to upgrade and use more of the gold paper which has a finer fiber in it and a little bit of wax, so we didn’t think about that. Those costs increase. We’re going through more toners, and the additional electricity for some of the installed fans.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a small shop or large shop, the shop that added fans, before you didn’t have fans, that’s pulling electricity. Also the maintenance – those little things we didn’t factor in – I’m sure we’re going to see those things when we start measuring bills. The hard things, the hard planning for the conversion so you don’t have a loss of production at is the main focus we had, and those little things slip through the cracks and I don’t think we could have put a calculator to that anyway.
Nathan: You mentioned more toners, why are you using more toners?
Rudy: The toners are coming in smaller packages, so we’re going through a little more. Our inventory hasn’t really increased but our usage has. We don’t have binders and balancers, right, so it’s basically taking your toner out, mixing it with water and shaking it. So we don’t have all those other things that fill the load of binders, balancers, and hardeners.
Nathan: So even though the toners are more concentrated, overall you think your overall base coat cost is greater than with the solvent?
Rudy: Yes, but the quality is a lot better. We’re finding the quality is just better. It’s laying down so smooth and so slick that we’re having to do less clean up after the fact. It made us need to be a little cleaner on the front side but we’re having a lot less cleanup on the backside and the texture is laying out almost like a factory, so there’s a some give and take in that area.
Greg: I mentioned earlier in regard to the waste disposal, that we now have another drum for the water waste, as opposed to just the solvent. So that has increased cost but with the support of BASF and our facility, they’ve been helping us.
Nathan: Are the solvents from waterborne recyclers hazardous? Do you use the waterborne recycler or just the waste drums?
Answer: Just the drums.
Jim Marko: Another soft cost is how well is your painter mixing the paint in the first place? 50% of us probably have a painter that overmixes or wants to mix a little bit more so that he can have something extra. That has to go. If that mentality goes into waterborne that’s a very big soft cost problem. We found that we have to be even better at mixing, but as managers we have to be sure we’re controlling that and make sure that the mixes are done correctly. If you were mixing poorly before, you’re going to feel it when you go to waterborne.
Nathan: Is it safe to say that you’re having to spray everything out?
Rudy Romero: Yes, we’re having to rebuild our own libraries from scratch. Even though the PPG variance deck is now actual spray-outs instead of just a printed color, they’re really, really close but you still have to spray out because you can only get so close, and nothing is a guarantee. If you don’t do a spray out and do your own color library and document the VIN, the manufacture date, and the color code, then you’re not doing yourself any justice in the future. (Audience Comment: Of course we did that with solvent too.)
Dan Schimpke: I watched a TV program on a tour of BMW’s plant in South Carolina. What was interesting were the arms with the bells on the end that they spray the cars with and it’s interesting because it looks nothing like a spray gun. Totally different deal.
One of my biggest disappointments has been color matching. I had expected, since we do a lot of highline German cars and we’re now spraying a German product on a German-factory car, that we would have very close to factory color matching — that’s been a big disappointment for us. I was a little disappointed that the color decks for swatches, where to go with the color for matching, have not been released for our line yet.
Our clear coat doesn’t seem to be setting up as well for polishing as it did for the solvent-based and we’re still playing with flash time and cure time. One of the interesting benefits of having the air movement system in the spray booth is we now, in effect, have a big convection oven with the blowers. It’s dramatically different with respect to how hot the product gets. It’s really something to think about. You have to rethink how to cure your base and your clear coat with respect to the use of heat and air movement.
We found that we had to turn the temperature of the booth down in the curing and the time as well, with solvent you can pop the clear very quickly and so there’s a huge benefit that’s going to come once we [learn how] to use the air and how to use the heat. We’ve only been into it for about two to three months now.
About metallics, we just love the metallics -- they look fabulous they really do. For us it’s just too soon to tell about costs because we’re just a couple months into it.
Nathan: Is there any way to only use the air movement for the base and not for the clear?
Dan: Sure, we have the AdvancedCure with our control panel and it’s interlocked. You can only use it for flash or cure, you cannot use it for spraying. You just use it at your discretion and I would urge – with caution.
Nathan: Because without spraying waterborne regularly, except for some Maserattis, we basically treated the base coat differently by assisting it with air guns but we treated the clear coat as if we were doing it with normal solvent curing.
Dan: Sure, whatever works, but for a reason we don’t understand yet, our clear coat -- according to my polisher -- is not as hard as it was with the solvent-based product. We don’t have all the answers.
Answer: We’ve seen a decrease (to the positive) in our flash times in our clear coat by using the air movement after you lay your clear out and you’re on your final coat, give it a couple minutes, let it settle and put your air back on, it actually does improve the cure time. But let it start laying down first before you put your air to it.
Answer: If you have dirt in your booth you going to move dirt around away; it doesn’t matter if you’re spraying water or solvent. If the booth is dirty and you’re bringing dirt into your booth it’s going to be there, it’s just going to be more prevalent in the water. You just have to prep right and be more careful.
Answer: I think with the solvent, you were basically allowed to get away with stuff because it was such a friendly product. The water forces you to do your homework understand how the booth works better and how the product works better and quite frankly I think once you do some of that stuff you will likely find some efficiencies that you could’ve had when you were shooting solvent.
Rudy: It’s more forgiving. We found out (with PPG and Envirobase) that if we make a mistake with the base coat in the booth you can nib it down right there and carry on like nothing happened. It’s way more forgiving than the solvent is. Way more forgiving. You can correct stuff on the fly, instead of having to go back all the way through the process again.
Nathan: It sounds like you (Rudy) are in the minority of the shops in Southern California in that you have a great setup which is actually enabling you to have equal production, no problems with denibbing base coats like other people are saying. Can we all get set up as ideally as you are and if not, what are our other options? You seem to have much less trouble than the rest of the group.
Answer: The paint’s a wash. Everyone has their preferences for manufacturers but for the most part it’s all a quality product. It is just a little bit more sensitive now. Everything is now under the microscope, you should not even have to think about it. The products were work little user here and there, but for the most part it’s your setup. What we’ve been talking about in the first few questions and how you approach it and looking back at our situations, there are a few things I would have done differently or at least ahead of time to be more effective sooner instead of the trial and error that we sometimes find ourselves in.
Benjamin Mercado: As far as the costs and materials, I don’t know, I’m not the owner [laughter]. We only use a big fan to do the jambs. For the undercoat colors, we still have problems. Before I can do it in 5 minutes, now it takes more like a half hour. [Some jesting with BASF ensued.]
Nathan: Is it no longer a possibility to use your eyeball and start from scratch for something like, say, an underhood color? If you just see an apron color, is that something you can match from scratch?
Benjamin: Yes, you can try, but you know water dries differently so you have to wait [for it] to dry to see accurate color.
Rudy: Yes, that’s one of the disadvantages. You used to be able to stick match – we just don’t see it anymore. Your painter used to be able to take a few toners out to the parking lot and put a stick up against the car and you can’t do that anymore. When you spray, it is one color, when it flashes it’s another color.
It’s different, but with the variant decks you don’t have to go in and look for 2007 Lexus LS 460, you can just take the variant deck out to the car and flip it open and get as close as you can to that color. Pull that one out and that’s what you’ll get when you mix out that formula.
[Some banter then ensued when someone admitted putting a BMW paint on a Corolla, and putting Corolla paint on a Bentley. “It’s just the color we’re going for. The car doesn’t know the difference.”]
Nathan: You tell your customers that? [laughter]. Did someone help you evaluate your shop before you converted, and if so, who?
Rudy: We utilized all our suppliers. I’ve had help from Scott Smith, our PPG rep. Cliff and his partner from Global for our paint booth conversion, and Rob Lecerte from Finishmaster was instrumental in getting more information that we needed and did a lot of shopping and training. Without all that we would have gone backwards.
Answer: Kevin James at Sikkens helped a lot. At my Santa Fe Springs shop, we got it all done in a day.
Answer: I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of friends in the business, especially Mike Manion at BASF, Mark D’Angelo and others have helped me out quite a bit.
Dan: In our process we had four of the paint companies represented here give us a lot of data to help evaluate paint and of course those paint companies and the equipment guys are out to sell equipment so they’re pretty aggressive in trying to help out. In the process we took their data and we did a lot of testing on our own.
We took their products and sprayed about side-by-side, and sprayed out the primer and a number of the colors to check the quality and how well they matched. We put clear coat on them. We did them side-by-side and sprayed them out one after the other to see how the clears performed one against the other.
You notice the data they give us, and everyone is going to have their own perspective. All the products were pretty good. The primers didn’t set anybody apart but we found in the colors there were some differences. Some covered more quickly. Some of them too quickly, so it made it a little difficult to get color matches.
Some of them were rather slow in their hiding and require a lot more material and when you put a lot more water on the dry time increases dramatically but that actually adds to the ease of application if it goes on thinner. There were some differences in the clear coats as far as how fast they tacked and how fast they built so we did quite a bit of testing, and the suppliers all helped, but that was pretty expensive in terms of doing that research.
We tried to make it faster, but it took about six months but we probably put in $30-$50,000 of our effort to make a decision to get right the first time and in the process we ended up learning a lot about we will we need to do to get it right.
Question: Who’d you go with?
Answer: We use Akzo.
Answer: We had our favorite rep come out, Carl Finley from Sherwin-Williams, and we just took his lead. We started talking about waterborne last year and we wanted some real application as soon as possible and we want some real information and we had a lot of prep from them and that we set out a game plan as to how we’re going to do it. We ran side-by-side with solvent for little bit, but we pretty much took Carl’s lead and they were very supportive. and we could’ve done without them. There’s no doubt about that. We’ve learned a lot and we’re still learning a lot.
Benjamin Mercado: I used 90-line (BASF) 10 years ago, and it was expensive at that time. I’ve got a lot of support, and have been using it again for one year. The only problem that we have is the jams, because we don’t have heat in the prep station.
Dan: I’ve always found in the body shop business that a lot of how you gain knowledge is in the own homework that you do. We started with the Nitrotherm system about 15 months ago awith Mark D’Angelo and we’re very happy with their support for that system. They brought some guys in to deal with us from Nitrotherm and it’s been very helpful. Jay Schuster, the engineer from DuPont was very enlightening. Max Hirsch from Maximum Technical has certainly helped us a lot with respect to the actual equipment in our booth. I visited training centers. I went to theSpies Hecker center. I went to the West Coast work facility and I was very happy with that. We watched water-based paint being sprayed at an extremely high rate, very high-quality, very impressive. Ken Wells from Sikkens helped a lot. [But despite that] I wouldn’t expect them to come to your shop and give you all the answers.
Nathan: Is there something you would definitely do differently or had done earlier?
Dan: I wish I’d paid more attention to the airflow a bit sooner it. When you’re pressed for cycle time, like the gentleman was saying earlier, if you’re spraying two cars a day – no big deal but if you limit it to one spray, the maintenance is very very helpful and managing the air and the proof is very helpful. I’m just blown away by how different it is.
Benjamin: Tell the painters to make sure, before you apply the paint, you don’t have any sand scratches because after you apply the paint and you see the sand scratches you’ve wasted time, so I tell all my helpers make sure to sand with 600.
Nathan: I think the consensus is if you take the time to set up your booth properly and your shop properly, not only will you have to be able to conquer waterborne, you’ll ultimately have a more efficient process, and better looking products. I think what we’ve heard today is if you have a problem with production it’s probably something you can solve with the help of the vendors here. Thanks to all the vendors in the room.