Buying a paint booth is like buying a new car, except to a body shop it’s more important than that. It’s a major investment and, like a vehicle, owners want their booths to perform at a high level while requiring nothing more than standard maintenance. That’s the mindset body shop owners and managers are in when they’re looking a paint booth or, in this case, several.
To say that Darren Huggins bought “several” paint booths is a gross understatement. Huggins is the National Collision Director for the Van Tuyl Auto Group, an enormous dealership group that manages more privately held automotive dealerships that any other company in the United States. With offices in Arizona, Kansas and Texas, the management group works with approximately 80 independently operated dealerships nationwide. Huggins oversees the operations of 34 collision repair facilities doing approximately $160 million in total annual sales, so when he buys paint booths, for instance, it’s usually a very large acquisition.
The Van Tuyl Auto Group bought more than 30 paint booths from Garmat in 2010, Huggins said. “We had a hodge-podge of different equipment in a lot of our facilities and we decided to do a company-wide upgrade. It was a large investment with Garmat, close to $1.8 million, but we feel confident in the decision, because the booths are proven and well-built. We looked at a lot of different paint booths, but in the end we selected Garmat.”
The Van Tuyl family has had a long history with the automotive industry, starting with Cecil Van Tuyl who began managing a Kansas City Chevrolet dealership in 1955. Joined by his son Larry in 1971, they have built a highly successful management company based on the principles they describe as “hiring the right people and giving our dealership clients the right tools, training and support that they need for success.”
What attracted Huggins and the Van Tuyl Auto Group to Garmat paint booths? “It’s fairly simple—they have a great product. I have a track record using their booths in other positions I’ve held within this industry, and so I am very familiar with their capabilities and features. Follow-through is also very important. Whenever Garmat’s people tell me something, it happens. I have developed a solid relationship with the General Manager, Johan Huwaert and they have given us some amazing support, so it’s been a sound business decision in every way.”
Longevity is the key with a paint booth, and if you don’t take care of it, it can end up being a money-draining expense rather than a sage investment, Huggins explained. “Treat it like a new car and it will perform for you. The biggest thing is how it will do 10-15 years from now. When I look at a paint booth, the first thing I want to know is how it’s built. Will it hold up for more than a decade? Next, I want to analyze the moving parts of the booth—how the heating elements and heaters engage and how quickly they get up to temperature. It’s all about cycle times in this industry right now, as we all know. When I take the car from the customer up until when I return it, the clock is running. The reality is this— the time we spend on a car has to be minimized in any way we can. In the past, 10–14 days was considered okay, but guess what—that doesn’t work now.
Consistency is another major concern with a paint booth’s performance, Huggins said.
“I need those paint booths to do what they’re supposed to every time. I need my ambient temperature to really climb quickly, and Garmat’s heating process and the way the whole flow of the booth works very well. The other part of the system features their Accele-Cure® air accelerator system, a drying component to aid in the waterborne procedures. We’ve converted 26 of our locations to waterborne and in the shops with older booths, I’ve installed Accele-Cure in all of them, and they do an outstanding job.”
The success they’ve achieved with their waterborne paint process relies heavily on Garmat’s Accele-Cure, Huggins explained. “With the waterborne, you can actually see the water dissipate on the panel and that’s how you know it’s time for the next coat. After you apply that initial coat, the fans up above and/or the handheld dryers will do the job effectively by providing the proper amount of air movement. The painter uses the handheld dryers just like a blow dryer and, between the two types of fans, it works great. Garmat’s accelerated drying system flashes waterborne paint better than anything we’ve used. The bottom line is that it directs higher volume of airflow directly at the vehicle, and that’s what we expect.”
Huggins has changed his facilities to waterborne for all the right reasons, he said. “That’s where the technology is going. It’s so much better for the environment, so it was a no-brainer for us. We use PPG Envirobase waterborne paint, and in conjunction with our partners at Garmat, it’s really elevated us to a higher level. Going waterborne was a huge move for us, and it’s already paid off. To do whatever we can do to help the planet is a big deal and as a large company, it’s even more important.”
The Van Tuyl Auto Group must be doing something right, because the company’s numbers are slightly up, during a rocky period for the collision repair industry overall, Huggins said.
“We’re very pleased, because our industry as a whole is off drastically, but our sales are up considerably compared to the market. That’s not a huge increase, but in a very down time, we’re very proud of that. And working with top vendors such as Garmat is definitely major part of that equation.”
Garmat USA was established in 1988 to provide quality refinish equipment to the North American Market. The company’s corporate offices, manufacturing facility, R&D and training facilities are located in Englewood, Colorado.
The company’s mission statement on their Web site tells it all. “Garmat USA’s mission is to provide innovative and cutting edge technologically advanced products that enhance your facility’s productivity and profitability, while providing an environmentally safe atmosphere for the refinish technician.”
“All Garmat USA cabins and mechanical units are designed and manufactured at our Englewood, Colorado facility. Each unit is built for your specific application. By manufacturing our own complete air handling systems, we can ensure consistent performance with leading edge technology, for a constantly changing industry. We strive to provide the best distributor network with the finest installation and service personnel throughout the industry and we pledge to stand behind our representatives and products.”