32-year-old N.J. Body Shop Embraces PPG’s Envirobase® HP Waterborne Basecoat

32-year-old N.J. Body Shop Embraces PPG’s Envirobase®  HP Waterborne Basecoat

The conversion to waterborne paint in states like New Jersey is a reality for body shops throughout the Northeast, because by 2012 regulations will likely mandate the use of the new paint.

While some collision businesses are not enamored with the idea of changing the way they’ve been painting cars for decades, many are happy to say ‘goodbye’ to solvent and ‘hello’ to waterborne. Proactive shops that see the value in making the changeover before they’re forced to do so by law are jumping on the waterborne bandwagon right now.

One of these proactive shops is Andrews Auto Body in Brick, New Jersey; a shop that has embraced PPG Envirobase® High Performance waterborne paint in a big way.

If you live in or around Brick, you know the name Andrews. This second-generation body shop has been around since 1979, when Rich Andrews, Sr. started his small body shop and built a substantial customer base, many, many years before waterborne paint was even something to consider.

But growth dictates new procedures. In August of 2009, Rich, Sr., and his whole family moved to a new, 6,000 square-foot facility. I say they all “moved” there because the entire family works for the business. Mom (Linda) is the front office manager, her oldest son Keith, 36, is the shop’s manager; Rich Jr., 31, is the shop’s lead painter and their sister, Jennifer, is the shop’s assistant office manager. And dad is still there, watching his sons as they take their shop to a new level—which includes waterborne.

Since the move, Andrews has purchased a towing company and does a lot of work for the town of Brick, Keith Andrews said, which has provided a new source of revenue for the shop. Simultaneously, Andrews Auto Body made the changeover to PPG Envirobase®  HP basecoat in their new, larger facility. The moves have paid off in a big way, because the shop is hitting better numbers than ever.

“We’ve tripled our revenue since moving here and now we’re repairing 50–60 vehicles per month,” Keith said. “Switching to the PPG waterborne paint has played a big part of it. This year, we’re on track to do $1.4 million, which is very encouraging news, especially since we’re still in a recession and all the snow this winter didn’t help us either. We switched over to waterborne to stay ahead of the game. We know we don’t have to do it until 2012, but we decided—since we’re moving—why not use the opportunity to do it now? The PPG rep convinced me that their Envirobase® HP waterborne would be a better way of doing things, so we made the move and we haven’t looked back. PPG Envirobase® HP is a great product and we’re happy with it for several reasons.”

As lead painter it was particularly important that Rich Andrews, Jr. was 100% onboard with the switchover to PPG waterborne, because he is the shop’s only painter and runs the company’s paint department from the mixing station all the way to the paint booth.

The whole changeover started with the training provided by PPG, both on-site and through their training center in Maryland. Rich, Jr. explained, “They trained me on the waterborne system in shop and then they sent me to Maryland for further training. Scott Pearson, from PPG was great and he made the transition painless. Our paint jobber, Albert Kemperle Paint and Body Equipment Inc., played a big role too. The PPG people were here several times and they stayed with us until we were totally comfortable with the paint and procedures. They walked us through the process until the result was perfect. We’d been using solvent since 1979, so this was a significant change, obviously.

“It was a huge change, so I admit I was a little reluctant at first,” Rich, Jr. said. “But I didn’t have to re-do one single car, to be completely honest. The color matches are spot-on and the finished product is better than solvent. There was a very small learning curve, but once I got into the groove on how to spray it and dry it, it was a pretty smooth transition.

Keith Andrews knows that PPG has been instrumental in improving his production system and he continues to be pleased by the company’s top-notch customer service. “PPG has done a great job in helping us be more productive in general,” said Keith. “Everyone with PPG has been excellent in every aspect of what they do for us. If I ask them or Albert Kemperle, my PPG jobber, I get it. They respond to me almost immediately in every case, which is great. That’s all you can ask from a paint company. PPG has played a very integral part in getting us to where we are now, so it’s been a great relationship.”

Now that he’s been using the waterborne basecoat for almost 18 months on a daily basis, what does Rich, Jr. think of waterborne in general? “It may slow you down for a few minutes, but in the end you won’t be re-doing jobs, because the color matches are perfect. With Envirobase® HP, the finished product is better, with zero comebacks or complaints. They make the simple matches so simple and it has pretty much eliminated spray outs. I’m now doing 3–4 cars a day, and I don’t have to do even one single spray out. I’ve reached a point where I can just trust it.”

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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