Thursday, 24 March 2011 17:33

AASP/NJ’s Northeast™ 2011 Trade Show—A Wealth of Information for Shops

I had the recent pleasure of attending my first Northeast 2011 Trade Show at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ, on Friday and Saturday, March 18–19, 2011. For the benefit of those who were unable to attend I’ll do my best to summarize some of the presentations here, but all who are able should plan to attend next year. It’s a very worthwhile event and a great value for collision repairers.

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Waterborne Panel Sponsored by BASF
With pending regulations in the Northeast which will very likely mandate adopting waterborne paint to minimize VOCs, many shop owners have questions about converting to waterborne systems. Many of those regulations will come from the Ozone Transport Commission, a coalition of eleven East Coast states and the District of Columbia which advises the EPA on regional solutions to air pollution. The OTC has adopted a model rule, which is based on the recently adopted Delaware rule. Delaware, which is a member of the OTC, has already set the following allowable VOC content for various refinish products: Primer: 2.1 lbs./gal; Clear coating: 2.1; Base coat: 3.5; Multicolor coat: 5.7; Sealer: 5.4; Single-stage coat: 2.8.

The American Coatings Association’s Automotive Refinish Coalition has urged the OTC to move forward with adoption of the Delaware rule, which is based on the California mandates, for all its member states.

Anticipating this, BASF hosted a panel at Northeast to discuss waterborne paint and the cost of an effective transition to a waterborne paint system. Tom Hoerner, Strategic Initiatives for BASF Refinish, hosted the panel, directing questions to six individuals experienced with waterborne paint: Tom Elder of Compact Kars, Inc.; Tom Smetanka, the General Manager of Central Paint; Tom Beck, owner of Future Care; Kevin Hundt, sales representative for BASF; Luigi Zucchet of USI of North America, Inc.; and Bob Hickey, sales manager with SL Marketing Specialists.

Hoerner began by asking generally about today’s regulations for water-based paint. Hundt responded that there are no specific regulations in the northeast yet, or indeed anywhere other than in California, Europe and Canada which are 100% regulated. Although discussions during the past few years have yielded no exact date, moving to waterborne has become a strategic focus and will be mandated eventually.

Asked about the advisability of converting to waterborne systems early, before any mandates, Hundt pointed out waterborne systems are better for the environment, and offer many benefits to shop, such as providing easier coverage due to heavier pigment loads and being safer, but not completely safe for employees. Smetanka suggested that getting one’s shop converted before any mandates occur might provide shop owners with a better chance to get help from jobbers and manufacturers and give more time to understand and perfect usage of the product before the regulations are passed.

Beck explained that the most important need for a successful conversion is the support of one’s local jobber which is aided by converting early while jobbers have more time to spend with individual shops. Elder, Smetanka and Hundt all agreed that training and everyone in the shop buying into the change are the most important aspects when converting to waterborne. With regard to what improvements are needed in equipment, Hickey stressed the importance of ensuring an adequate clean air supply and a shops compressors’ CFM being able to handle the demands of the equipment, including the possibility of extra hand-held blowers. Smetanka cited the importance of keeping the shop clean to avoid dust being stirred by the increased velocity of the air, as waterborne is more sensitive than solvent to airborne contamination.

Concerning the importance of investing in extra air movement, Elder and Smetanka agreed that it is absolutely essential to increase the amount of clean, dry air movement over that required by solvent flashing when using waterborne paints. Beck emphasized the consistency that is made possible by robotic and standardized equipment in factory environments. Hundt and Hickey agreed on the importance of adjusting temperature and air flow while monitoring humidity, and Zucchet cited the the booth’s cleanliness as equal in importance to that of air flow and heat.

Hundt said that the education required to convert to waterborne is minimal, while Smetanka pointed out that the conversion is easier when switching from solvent to waterborne while using the same manufacturer since the shop will not need to learn a new system. Elder contributed that he has seen a decrease in the cost of his basecoat since switching to waterborne because it requires less paint to cover the vehicle, again due to the higher pigment loads of waterborne.

Elder and Smetanka praised the excellent color matches that waterborne paint offers, and Hundt said using waterborne systems can be faster than solvents when done correctly. In response to an internet question about the effect of contaminants in the air, Hundt stressed the need for clean air. Fisheye-type blemishes are common if oil droplet contamination, for example, gets into the air supply.

To make the conversion easier, Elder suggested total buy-in from all employees since processes change a bit and removing the solvent-based system as soon as the waterborne system is installed to avoid returning to the original system when problems arise. This is sometimes referred to as “Cold Turkey conversion” in California. There shops that tried to gradually transition from waterborne learned that it delayed conversion because painters sometimes reverted to spraying solvent when even minor problems arose. Hickey reiterated that proper education is important, and Smetanka emphasized the importance of making sure employees do not fall back to old habits. In conclusion, Hundt offered that converting to waterborne may be a little uncomfortable because it is a change, but it is not difficult in principle to switch to a waterborne painting system. Those that have done so do not regret the transition.

Requirements for Drying Waterborne
Have you ever wondered about drying waterborne compared to solvent-based paints in our not-always warm and sunny climate? Do you have to have a balmy Southern California climate to dry it successfully? The short answer is ‘no.’

Panelist Tom Beck, CEO of Future Care which manufactures spray booths, led a seminar titled Drying Waterborne: What You Need to Know. Explaining that drying water-based paint requires evaporation of the water within the substance, Beck investigated how evaporation occurs under specific conditions. By experimenting with a wet towel on a clothesline, Beck demonstrated that the velocity of air movement is more important than increased temperature when attempting to dry waterborne quickly; however, his goal is to increase both the velocity of air movement and temperature, especially in the wintertime.

Because waterborne paints are slower to flash than solvent-based paints due to the heavier water content, it was imperative for manufacturers to determine how to accelerate the speed of evaporation so as to avoid affecting flash-off time for shops using waterborne paints. The temperature and speed of air coming through booths must therefore be increased.

Warm air is less dense than cold air, allowing the air to absorb moisture. Unfortunately, cold air settles lower to the ground since it is more dense, and this leads to an ineffective method of drying paint when using a downdraft air flow which will push air down over the car in a “tenting” effect, causing the ends of the car to dry much faster as more air is being pushed through these small spaces between the vehicle and the walls of the booth. The hotter air picks up water molecules from the paint as it passes over the car.

Accelerated drying systems reduced flash-off time by up to 50% for waterborne paints, increasing productivity and reducing energy costs. Beck classifies systems that use compressed air, such as hand-held dryers, as stage one systems which consume a lot of energy. Stage two systems do not use compressed air. Such systems include ceiling fans, booth pods and Jun-Air QADS. The problem with ceiling fans, according to Beck, is that they generate static electricity and spread dust.

Booth pods take a large amount of air in through the top and output it through a smaller space, but they do not increase the temperature and do not eliminate static electricity. Jun-Air’s Quick Accelerated Drying Systems (QADS) push air through a smaller opening and warm the air by redirecting the hot air from the plenum through vents that redistribute the hot air to the level where most of the painting takes place.

Beck said the temperature will need to be greatly increased in a system that forces air downward in order to reach the goal of 140°F in bake mode, but since cold air molecules fall and warm air molecules settle on top of them, the lower surfaces of the car will still not reach the necessary temperatures for the paint to dry properly. This is critically important as the paint will move if a clear coat is applies before 100% of the water in the paint is evaporated.

The QADS, by bringing air from the plenum through ducts on the side of the booth, allow all surface areas on the vehicle to reach the necessary temperature to dry effectively. Additionally, the QADS contains a ionization bar which neutralizes static electricity within the booth.

Finding an Integrated Balance between Quantity and Quality in your Shop Culture: If you don’t have time to do it right, when are you going to have time to do it over?
“Facility Verification and Quality Processes: What It Means to You” was the title of the informative seminar given by Mark Olson, well-known quality control speaker and COO of VeriFacts Automotive.

Olson began by defining a “quantity culture” as being one in which shops focus on throughput, cycle time and profits, assuming quality will take care of itself. But this is a short-sighted strategy in managing productivity in your shop unless you also incorporate a balance of “quality” said the VeriFacts cofounder.

Olson believes the best culture for auto body shops is in finding a balance between quantity and quality. An effective shop culture needs standards that will hold people accountable while also empowering people to do the right thing.

Olson reminded his audience of the easily overlooked fact that if the job is not done correctly, it does not matter when it gets done. A bad job done soon is usually just a quicker way of getting to redo it. Constantly asking technicians questions such as “how soon,” “how fast,” “how much,” or even “when?”, sends the subtle message that quantity or speed is more important than quality. There needs to be a shift to a mindset of commitment to the process because it is every member of a shop’s responsibility to provide quality repair services to their customer.

Olson listed the components of a positive repair experience as follows: thorough damage assessment and customer communication, internal quality control stage checks and peer inspections, and pre-delivery inspection and estimate review.

Expanding on the concept of thorough damage assessment and customer communication, it is important to begin with complete and accurate estimate, said Olson, or the repair process becomes hurried and frantic at the end of the process. Without such an estimate, the probability of a comeback increases significantly.

Olson even specied that estimators should circle the car several times from various distances to fully assess all damage on the car before writing down a proper and complete first estimate. It is also very important to keep in communication with the customer so that shops can managed and exceed the customers expectations. As such, estimators should walk the floor a couple times each day so that they know what is going on with the customer’s car in case the customer calls to enquire.

Olson repeatedly stressed that quality control cannot be an afterthought. Everyone is responsible for the vehicle throughout the entire repair process. Peer inspections help reduce comebacks, and everyone should be willing to point out something not done correctly.

Olson reviewed VeriFacts’ Quality Measurement Program criteria for a set up and measurement, the vehicle must be secured in a level position and at least eight points (four in the midsection, two in the front and two in the rear) be measured. VeriFacts also suggests using a stage-check verification in which the technician and a peer inspector signs off at each step of the repair.

Concerning “pre-delivery protocol,” which Olson defines as a dress rehearsal for delivery to the customer, it is important to perform a final post-repair inspection, review the estimate, and then do a final test drive before preparing the vehicle to be returned to its owner. Olson went on in a second presentation to amplify his and VeriFacts’ ideas, delving into the area of “unknown unknowns.”

What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know
At the risk of reminding readers about former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous speech about “known knowns, unknown knowns, and known unknowns, not to mention unknown unknowns...” oh, fuggedabowdit....

Most people have run into a situation where they realized that they do not know something important about their industry, but the situation is even more unfortunate when one realizes they were unaware they were lacking this information (this would be the dreaded Rumsfeldian “unknown unknown.”) Mark Olson, COO of Verifacts Automotive, also taught a seminar entitled “Repair Quality: What You Don’t Know You Didn’t Know.”

Olson reminded attendees that customers want their vehicles repaired correctly because their cars are important to them. Explaining that while some shop owners provide service based on what they are paid to do by the insurance company or customer, other shop owners always do what is right for their customers.

Stressing the importance of quality collision repair and proper documentation, Olson began his overview of common repair problems and how they are easily solved. He clarified his statement that it both “is” and “is not” about the money by noting out that a business cannot prosper if customers are continually dissatisfied.

For most auto body shop owners, according to Olson, these deficiencies result from being unaware of what they do not know. Auto body workers must know everything about a car at the beginning of their work, and they must adhere to the current regulations which change so frequently that even quality shops may be unaware of their errors.

For example, most weld-through primers state on their label not to weld through, and they must be dabbed on although they come in a spray can. Luckily, they work well when used correctly. If the weld-through primers are used to weld through, they tend to cause air bubbles, while dabbing the primer onto the vehicle, instead of spraying it, preserves the original e-coat.

When it comes to corrosion protection, technicians must seam seal all welded joints, even those not sealed by the manufacturer. They should also use epoxy under the seam sealers, and it is important to use corrosion protection on all repair areas. Not properly applying corrosion protection builds failure into the repair as rusting will begin as soon as water touches it. It is necessary for welders to practice and destroy their welds and reinspect the quality of their welding. A quality control process is recommended to prevent such errors.

An area where many shops have problems is documentation. All operations must be documented, whether they are paid for or not. Shops must add non-charged items to the bill because, legally, it was not done if it is not documented. Post repair market value insurance claims can be avoided by maintaining proper documentation, communicating with the customer and making proper repairs. Anything that is paid for but not completed, improper documentation of procedures, and deviation from industry repair standards are all considered fraud; due to this, it is very important to properly document files, properly repair vehicles, correctly inform customers of repairs, listen to the customer and continually pursue education to stay up to date on procedural changes.

Protecting Your Shop Assets and your People from Risk
At the Northeast 2011 Trade Show on Saturday, March 19, Joseph Chiaravallo of Utica National Insurance presented a seminar entitled Risk Management for Collision and Mechanical Shops. Defining risk management as managing and protecting assets from all types of risk, Chiaravallo informed his audience that the highest claim frequency and the greatest percentage of insurance losses occur in the automotive property-casualty line. The most frequent causes of loss are theft, vandalism, burglary, wind damage and lightning and power surges.

Chiarvallo explained it is possible to minimize property loss from burglary and theft by installing a security system and good exterior lighting, as well as making sure never to leave cash on site. Minimizing vandalism entails similar procedures, such as installing security cameras and better exterior lighting and keeping the customers’ vehicles secured and locked within the facility. To minimize loss caused by wind, shops can remove clutter which could become wind-driven projectiles and install proper door supports. Lightning strikes can cause loss due to severe discharges or even just loss of power. Shops should install a lightning protection system and establish emergency procedures for storm or power outages.

The fifth most frequent cause of insurance loss accidents in the shop are due to damage to the customer’s car after being struck by equipment. This is often due to a technician’s lack of experience in moving customer vehicles. Luckily, this is easily remedied by providing the technicians with warnings and the necessary training.

Although the greatest frequency of insurance claims occur in the automotive industry, the highest average cost per claim occurs within the worker’s compensation line of business. The areas of worker’s compensation that produce loss most frequently are as follows: lifting, pulling and pushing, debris particles in eyes, misuse of hand tools, slips, trips and falls, and all manner of machinery mishaps.

To minimize injuries due to materials handling, shops must emphasize training and safety. It should be standard practice to talk with all staff about the common causes of injuries, observe the staff while they perform daily tasks, establish work rules, identify hazardous conditions, and develop a checklist of conditions that need ongoing attention. Decreasing the risk of eye injuries can be achieved by insisting on protective equipment usage, talking to staff about the common causes of injuries, observing staff as they work to monitor safety compliance, and identifying hazardous conditions in advance.

Shops can reduce slips, trips and falls by clearing walking surfaces and identifying hazardous conditions, and the dangers of hand tool injuries can be diminished by explaining the threat to employees, establishing rules, and when injuries do occur, finding the cause and effect and, of course, making the necessary changes.

The most common liability claims are for property in the car, custody and control, failure of work performed, injuries to the customers on the premises, falls, and customers and workers having contact with or being struck by objects.

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