My focus this year was to cover the seminars which included waterborne technology, nitrogen welding, triage blueprinting, and managerial courses. I was especially curious on how they had been updated from last year. If you didn’t see my coverage of last year’s show it might be worth a quick review as several of the speakers drew upon their previous presentations. Check out my story at autobodynews.com, search ‘Northeast 2011’ (select exact phrase).
Shop Differentiation: How to Make Your Shop Stand Out, with Mark Olson
In a presentation geared for shop owners and managers on how to more successfully promote their facilities and to set their shop apart from local competitors, no one has more of the necessary experience and background than Mark Olson, COO of VeriFacts Automotive and a well-known industry speaker for a couple of decades. Olson is an accomplished expert in many specialties in collision repair but has particular expertise in vehicle damage assessment, proper repair methods and collision industry forensic analysis.
Starting with a reminder that shop owners will get no business if they do not remember to ‘ask for the car keys,’ Olson focused on the goal to obtain more business. With the decline in the number of industry shops, his seminar attempted to show shop owners and managers what it’s going to take to stay in business.
Beginning with the assumption that quality work will make a shop stand out, Olson admits that this comes with a price since standing out too much will make competitors try to knock you down. He notes that people will know a shop for two reasons: if they do something really great, or if they do something really bad.
Drawing on his seminar from last year, Olson reminded attendees that there are things that people know, things that they are aware they do not know, and then there are things that they are unaware that they don’t know. Addressing several attendees directly, he proved his point by showing that there are many rules in the industry that shop owners are not aware of since the rules change constantly. He stressed that this business is all about understanding the rules of collision repair.
An example Olson gave of auto body technicians being unaware of rules was the case of weld-through primers. Most weld-through primers state on their label not to weld through, and they must be dabbed on even though they come in a spray can. See last year’s coverage for more details.
Though the rules change constantly, technicians are held accountable to the current rules, so they need to stay up-to-date. Shop owners or managers should acquire information from the vehicle manufacturers or an aftermarket service that acquires the information from the manufacturers on every car, for every repair. This is their responsibility since the manufacturers will not alert shop owners when they change their rules. While Olson admits that many mistakes result from shop owners and technicians being unaware of the current regulations, this can be aided by knowing everything about a car from the very beginning of the job, when they first write the estimate to ensure a quality repair.
“The goal of any repair is to put the vehicle back into the same state and shape as it was so it performs the same way in the next collision as it did in this collision and is cosmetically correct,” said Olson.
Switching topics to that of the counter culture of quality, Olson reinforced that a “quantity culture” is one in which shops focus on throughput, cycle time and profits, assuming quality will take care of itself. Asking questions such as “how soon?”, “how fast?” or “how much?” sends the message to technicians that quantity is more important than quality.
Olson believes it is necessary to establish a new culture with a balance between quantity and quality where there should be a shift from “going through the motions” to everyone being committed to the process. It is the responsibility of each employee to deliver a quality repair to the customer. Though he insists that everyone wants to do the right thing, doing so requires everyone knowing what the right thing is.
The four components to a positive repair experience are thorough damage assessment and customer communication, internal quality control stage checks and peer inspections, pre-delivery inspection and estimate review, and well-defined customer delivery protocol. Concerning customer communication, it is useful to learn the customer’s preference for communicating to best provide customer service; some customers might prefer a personal phone call while others find an email or text to be sufficient.
VeriFacts also suggests using a stage-check verification in which the technician and a peer inspector signs off at each step of the repair: Body, Refinish, Assembly, Sublet, Interior & Exterior Clean-up and Final Inspection. This will help reduce the number of unsatisfied customers and increase your CSI.
Olson put it simply: “this is about exposing your excellence.”. Some key ways to show the world that a particular shop is great is through word-of-mouth, Internet, especially social media, and advertising. It is also useful to give customers tours of the shop, just as giving an insurance company a tour to demonstrate flow, equipment, special certifications and so forth is helpful in convincing them to add your shop to their DRP and refer their business in your direction.
VeriFacts’ research finds that shops tend to improve in quality over time. The typical pattern shows an improvement in quality, followed by a drop before the shop finds a steady pattern. Olson emphasizes that it only takes a month to create a habit which is necessary for those looking for sustained change over time. The manager or owner drives this pattern, and if they enforce a particular behaviour for a solid month, employees are more likely to accept this as habit and continue adhering to it.
Discussing quality dimensions, Olson says the five key elements are repair planning, equipment, materials/parts, process consistency and repair quality. Repair planning means ensuring that the shop has the requisite systems, credentials and access to repair information, while the equipment aspect concerns making sure that essential equipment is well-maintained, accessible and working properly. Shops should make sure the correct materials and parts are being utilized also. Process consistency entails setting up and enforcing standard working procedures “to ensure consistency and sustainability of repair outcome,” and for repair quality, “the assessor will verify repair quality by observing in-process vehicles and technicians’ work to validate conformance to VQ standards.”
A process that Olson recommends implementing is working on cars using the OEM recommendations. It is necessary to follow manufacturers’ instructions by-the-book as they have reasons for their requirements, and disregarding their rules can lead to unsafe repairs. The fact that mistakes occur in this area is a failure of the process, not a failure of technicians, according to Olson. He claims that there needs to be consistency in the market for shop owners to expose their excellence.
OEM Procedures v. Repair Standards Decisions for Estimology: Part 1
OEM Repair Procedures vs. Repair Standards was a two part seminar, given by Larry Montanez III of P&L Consultants and IACDA, which addressed repair standards: where they are now and what’s likely in the future. Many OEM’s repair standards were covered, including discussion of the OEM positions, repair procedures and the potential development of repair standards within the industry. Montanez broke his seminar into two parts beginning with P&L’s mission statement: “Our training programs will assist the Collision and Insurance Industries to work together during all stages of a physical damage claim in a spirit of fairness, intelligence, cooperation and accuracy. This will help to serve a vehicle’s owner, the mutual customer, with fast, safe and pre-loss condition repairs that are fiscally reasonable under OEM and industry accepted practices.”
Montanez began with the OEM’s self interests: liability protection, component failure supported by testing, government regulations, consumer advocates, IIHS crash testing and NHTSA investigations, lawsuits and court decisions, and warrantee/defects attributed to design flaws. OEM position statements were created for the purposes of or because of OEM liability protection, components failures supported by case studies, lawsuits and court decisions, re-engineering design flaws, ensuring safe repairs and product, copyright and trademark protection.
Getting specific with OEM guidelines from several manufacturers:
Montanez illustrated that Acura/Honda forbids the use of aftermarket or alternative components as well as the replacement of structural components. They forbid the use of salvaged airbags or other components, as well as sectioning frame components, bonding, and steel or aluminum wheel repairs.
Audi dictates which spot welders and bench systems can be used as well as specific repair equipment, specific training for ASF and steel, specific welding, and repair procedures and parts. They also specify the use of OEM components and wheels and define structural repair.
BMW specifies the use of spot welders, bench systems, repair equipment, rivet-bonding, steering gear damage, and other repair procedures and parts. They also demand certain training for steel and dictate the use of OEM components and wheels, a specific body filler thickness and PDF requirements.
Chrysler/Jeep’s OEM guidelines require certain weld bonding procedures, structural component usage, and the use of heat during repairs while prohibiting reconditioned wheels and salvaged air bags. General Motors forbids the use of salvaged airbags and reconditioned wheels, but they allow recycled OEM components. They specify panel bonding procedures, clipping procedures and PDF procedures.
Montanez discussed the OEM guidelines of several additional manufacturers, but most were some variation of the above. More importantly, he advised where to find the repair procedures. In addition to OEM websites, shop owners or managers can go to i-car.com or nastf.org. Both provide links to OEM websites, or they can go to ALLDATA collision’s website which provides access to approximately 95% of OEM information on-line. Montanez emphasizes the importance of acquiring OEM information for each repair made in a shop.
Noting that “repair standards are made up by people who are trying to appease a different group of people who have no business being involved in collision repair, and who are just looking to save money on it”, Montanez noted that if repair standards are created, they should be decided scientifically by a group including repair specialists, engineers, and so forth. He specifies that creating repair standards are only a good idea where none exist and the manufacturer refuses to release any. OEM repair standards cannot be rewritten to save money because, as Montanez reminded his audience, “when you start playing around for money, you’re risking people’s lives.”
OEM Procedures v. Repair Standards Decisions for Estimology: Part 2
Continuing his seminar on OEM and repair standards, Larry Montanez III of P&L Consultants and IACDA focused his second session on the pros and cons of developing General Repair Standards, as well as the legal issues involved, how they should be developed and who should develop them.
Opening with the topic of who wants repair standards, Montanez explained that collision repairers want them because they are untrained and too lazy to search for them on OEM websites. MLO shop owners want them to make insurance “partners” happy, since insurers desire repair standards because they are greedy and covet savings. Aftermarket suppliers are also driven by greed and the desire to make sales, while many industry associations are influenced by insurers. However, Montanez insists that the idea of creating repair standards is not completely wrong.
The pros of creating repair standards are as follows: more available procedures, lower insurer costs, lower severity, fewer totaled vehicles, more repaired vehicles, better insurer relations, more use of used parts, more sectioning procedures and more parts options. Meanwhile, Montanez listed the cons as: more improper repairs, more liability exposure, more fatalities, more injuries, more diminished value lawsuits, more shop lawsuits, dangerous to motorists and more bad business decisions.
If repair standards were created, Montanez insisted that it should begin with the formation of an independent group comprised of OEM representatives, collision repairers, engineers, physicists, metallurgists, industry experts and I-CAR Tech Center’s Jason Bartanen and Steve Marks. Additionally, repair standards should only be created where none currently exist and only after a request letter to the OEM has failed. They should also be supported by crash testing and computer animated drawings, and they should be reviewable every six months. Montanez points out that this process should not include insurance companies because “no one cares what the insurance companies think.”
Using a case study of a business decision, Montanez talked about a 2006 Nissan 350z which was sold after chroming the factory rims. One month later, in October 2006, the owner was driving northbound on Rt. 405 in Los Angeles while an LAPD motorcycle traveled southbound when wheel separation occurred, causing the wheel to hop the median and hit the police officer, throwing him 150 feet from the point of contact. When the car’s owner purchased the vehicle at a local dealership, he was offered a chrome rim package, and the job was sublet. (Search ‘Nagel’ at autobodynews.com for this story from 2011.)
Unfortunately, Nissan has prohibited chroming on their rims since the mid-1990s since they noted a change in metallurgical properties which caused problems with holding strength. The dealership paid $2.75 million between the salesman, the owner and the technician, while the $20 million case against the sublet jobber, owner, technician and even driver is still pending. Montanez claimed that every shop that uses an outside rim source promotes improper repairs.
In the case of improper repairs, liability falls on the repair facility, the owner personally, the technician (in some states) and sublet jobbers. The supplier can also be sued, but the insurer will never be in the courtroom for an improper repair. In the instance of liability, safety factors are important, so only the OEM guidelines matter.
OEM procedures are derived using the scientific method which includes research, experiments, analysis and so forth. Their engineering design process works as follows: define the problem, brainstorm, background research, specify criteria or protocols, create alternative solutions, choose the best solution, develop a design proposal, build a prototype or mode, test and evaluate or redesign, refine and retest, create or produce, and finally, communicate the results. The goal behind these engineering principles is to keep the occupants safe, therefore it is very important not to change the parameters of OEM guidelines. Shops should also heed manufacturers’ repair areas.
In closing, Montanez defined the cost of business, specifying that materials are not a cost of the shop. These should be paid by the insurance company or customer, so shops should never ignore OEM procedures to cut costs as this could lead to unsafe repairs which could result in injuries or deaths to the occupants as well as potential claims against the shop. P&L Consultants can be found at pnLEstimology.com.
Drying Waterborne: What You Need to Know NOW
Taught by Tom Beck, CEO of Future Care, the seminar about Drying Waterborne taught many important principles concerning how to properly dry waterborne paints. Since Beck has been involved in the conversion to waterborne since 2003, his goal in this seminar was to teach attendees about the realities of converting to waterborne in an attempt to best prepare them for the transition.
Beck began by showing that friction slows down the air touching the surface, thus there is a small area surrounding a car in a paint booth where air velocity is decreased. This is the friction micro barrier which extends two to three inches around the car where the air is pulled in tight. In order to dry waterborne paint, it is necessary to open up this micro barrier.
Laminar air flow is air that moves in one direction, and though this is what is used in spray booths, it is the enemy of waterborne which needs a multi-directional air flow in order to dry efficiently and effectively. Though air velocity is more important than temperature, increasing air velocity and temperature is even better.
When researching how to best dry waterborne, Beck found that while increasing the amount of air, cubic feet per minute, by adding fans will reduce dry time, it increases energy consumption, thus costing more money. Switching tactics, he investigated the effectiveness of increasing the speed of the air, linear feet per minute, and found that it is a very useful method in drying waterborne, even more so if the temperature is also increased. By offering a system with multiple nozzles, he is able to accelerate speed and increase the temperature of the air simultaneously.
An issue with waterborne paints is the rate of evaporation as water dries slower than solvent-based paints, evaporating chemically at its own pace. Humidity is the enemy of waterborne paint, as is the dew point which is the point at which the air cannot hold any more moisture. Thus, it becomes necessary to condition the air to accepting more moisture in order to dry waterborne paints more effectively.
Warm air is less dense than cold air and is thus able to absorb more 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, 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.
Accelerated Drying Systems can reduce flashoff and energy costs because they increase productivity by allowing more cars to be processed through the booth. 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.
Jun-Air’s Quick Accelerated Drying Systems (QADS) provide twice the velocity of a booth pod, plus they increase the air temperature by thirty degrees by redirecting the hottest possible air from the plenum down to the car. 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 sinks and warm air settle on top of it, 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. By bringing air from the plenum through ducts on the side of the booth, the QADS 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. Since static electricity is the enemy in the spray booth, the QADS system disperses positive and negative ions in the air, allowing flake to orient properly so that the paint will look the same in all places. The system can be retrofitted with AFC, Accudraft, Blowtherm, Future Cure, Omia, SprayBake, Sunkiss and Welbuilt, among others.
Painting With Blended Nitrogen
Michael Haydell, President of Haydell Industries, taught the seminar on painting with blended nitrogen to teach the secrets of painting with nitrogen technology instead of compressed air, claiming that it will cause a significant drop in the use of wet materials, a dramatic increase in booth through-put and a large decrease in the cost of booth exhaust filters.
During the seminar, Haydell discussed his company’s nitrogen technologies compared to general compressed air spraying systems. Because of moisture, temperature and static changes, the viscosity of painting material changes each time it is sprayed, and it is therefore not repeatable in every instance. Additionally, a typical air compressor builds static, and colder, dry air is more statically charged which results in the material separating once applied to the substrate.
According to Haydell, “static is making the material do what it wants it to do, not what the painter wants it to do.” He adds that this is the case regardless of whether the reducer is solvent-based or waterborne.
Showing two videos to compare spraying with compressed air and with nitrogen, Haydell demonstrated that with compressed air, some parts of the substrate were never touched by the paint, even after three coats. Meanwhile, the substrate was fully covered in only two coats when applied with Haydell Industries’ perfect fluid carrier.
As another means of showing the perfect covering technique of his fluid carrier, Haydell suggests putting optical enhancers in the primer and using black lights in the booth to see the spots that were missed. Likewise, if UV blockers are added to the base, it is easy to see where the optical enhancers are not covered under a black light, thus showing the ability to completely cover the substrate in only two coats when using nitrogen technology.
Haydell Industries separates impurities at a gas level by temporarily separating the gases to redirect air’s properties. They also control temperature through their hose, allowing them to control viscosity by controlling temperature. By using less material, shops can release less VOCs into the atmosphere as well. Haydell also claims that his system is very low maintenance as long as the hose is not damaged by being run over.
Overall, Haydell insists that by reducing coats and materials by 30–50%, shops can also save 20–30% in material costs by using nitrogen technology.