3M Offering Specialized Products, Training, Support to Collision Repair Shops to Help Drive Profit Efficiencies

3M Product Offerings

With the pandemic halting mobility over the last two years and accidents falling sharply, the collision repair industry has been impacted worldwide.

As a result, 3M has focused its efforts on offering specialized products, training and support to the collision repair industry to help it be more efficient, productive and profitable in the future, said Dave Gunderson, 3M’s president and general manager of the Automotive Aftermarket Division (AAD).

Dave Gunderson

Celebrating his 34th year with 3M, the industry veteran recently shared major trends in 2022 related to collision repair and the ways 3M AAD businesses are focusing on supporting their customers.

Gunderson pointed to statistics from an Apple Mobility Trends Report, one of the tools 3M uses to understand driving behaviors, demonstrating driving has increased 100% in the U.S. and is returning to pre-pandemic levels.

“The positive news is that driving trends are moving more toward an endemic phase, and I look forward to seeing an improving business as we go through the course of 2022,” he said.

3M Focused on New Products to Help Shops

3M launched two new solutions during the pandemic to assist shops with their productivity and efficiency in collision repair: the 3M™ Performance Spray Gun and the 3M™ Cubitron™ II Net Abrasives.

With the current raw materials shortage, paint companies, like all companies, have had to raise costs. Gunderson said the industry is starting to think long-term and focus on solutions that help offset the rising costs with product solutions that aid with shop productivity and eliminate some of the concerns.

“We have been in the industry for a long time and our job is to bring innovation and solutions to problems to the market,” said Gunderson.

The lightweight, versatile 3M™ Performance Spray Gun was created as a cost-effective and easy-to-use product for shops. Designed to deliver a consistent and professional paint job every time, 3M’s spray gun has demonstrated positive benefits for shops with the high paint transfer efficiency on repaired parts.

Since being introduced to the industry, many customers have realized an average savings of 10% to 20% in paint mix costs.

3M™ Performance Spray Gun

In addition, the paint gun has positive benefits for the environment because fewer solvents are used through the cleaning process.

“It’s a win-win-win, and we couldn’t be prouder bringing this innovative product to market,” he said.

The company also introduced 3M™ Cubitron II™ Net Abrasives during the pandemic. Although net abrasives have been previously used in the industry, Gunderson said the 3M™ Cubitron II™ Net Abrasives use 3M’s patented precision-shaped grain material, which allows the solution to cut twice as fast and last twice as long as other net abrasives families. In addition, it captures more than 97% of the dust created when sanding in a shop.

“With a shortage of technicians and competition for labor, employees want a clean, safe environment to work,” said Gunderson. “Our customers understand that dust extraction allows for a much cleaner body shop and paired with long-lasting abrasives, the productivity in sanding can also be met with fewer discs.”

3M™ Cubitron II™ Net Abrasives

Supporting Body Shops

Gunderson shared three distinctive ways 3M currently supports body shops: training and education, community and industry engagement, and increasing shop productivity and engagement.

With training innovation facilities in more than 40 countries, Gunderson said helping educate the next generation of technicians is a priority to 3M. During the pandemic, 3M scaled up the virtual component of its 3M Collision Repair Academy.

“Anyone can go online and get training on proper repair procedures,” said Gunderson. “That has been very successful. Last year, we trained over 40,000 technicians.”

Training is also available for vocational-technical schools and includes information about OEM standards and specifications. In addition, 3M partners with I-CAR and OEMs to offer customized in-person and virtual training.

An important goal for 3M in 2022 is to advance their training and curriculum offerings for aspiring and current technicians. This includes opening an approximately 20,000-square foot training facility in St. Paul, MN.

“Our employees could not be more thrilled,” said Gunderson. “Our team loves working with and advancing the collision trade, and having a brand-new facility with the right equipment and full-size classrooms will allow even more shops and technicians access to the teams of subject matter experts at 3M."

3M also takes pride in its community and industry engagement efforts. For instance, the 3M team will participate in paint finish competitions at SkillsUSA in June in Atlanta, GA. The St. Paul-based application engineering team makes it a priority to support bringing technicians into the trade.

Finally, similar to the medical industry, Gunderson said collision repairers often spend as much time on the administration side of the business as on the operational side. The third area of focus is around the support and digital tool integration for body shops.

“Our goal is to simplify shops’ day-to-day administrative tasks,” he said. “A lot of materials that are used in repair shops don’t get accounted for on a repair order… some of these are critical, like structural adhesives.”

To help shops account for materials, 3M introduced the 3M™ Collision Repair Materials Planner tool, known as CRiMP, about five years ago. The tool enables shops create a repair invoice to account for materials used on an order, reduce supplements and fully account for materials used during a collision repair job.

“There are a number of different required materials on a repair order that shops tend to overlook when writing and submitting a repair order,” he said.

Gunderson offered the example of using seam sealer on a vehicle. By using CRiMP, it allows a shop to specify how much of the tube was used during the repair and then creates an invoice attached to the repair order. “This helps enhance the profitability of the shop,” he said.

A second tool he discussed is Performance Analytics, currently being used in about 350 shops, which aims to help shops manage performance.

“You can track shop data and determine where you are and aren’t making money and where you are losing or gaining productivity,” he explained.

Owners and managers can benchmark performance against industry standards, receive recommendations on areas of improvement, and have access to two-way integration with body shop management systems and real-time tracking.

Both of these standalone programs are being integrated into 3M™ RepairStack™ Performance Solutions, a digital suite of products that allows technicians to scan materials being used on the repair order to track inventory and performance analytics in one system.

“We’ve had a very good reaction from the shops using it over the last nine months,” said Gunderson.

The Connected Body Shop Digital Solution

Looking ahead, Gunderson said 3M will continue to focus and offer customers not only high-value allied products but also a connected and integrated digital solution.

This can be done through the 3M™ RepairStack™ Performance Solutions, which aims to simplify order planning and automate delivery from distributors, as well as offer the capability to organize and track the use of both 3M and non-3M materials. This digital shop tool is currently in the beta phase and will add functionality with the technology asset acquisition of LeanTec. The goal is to increase the shops participating during the second half of 2022 and industry-wide in 2023.

During challenging times, Gunderson said 3M is committed to bringing the best end-to-end innovations to market and providing training opportunities to body shops and aspiring technicians.

Stacey Phillips Ronak

Stacey Phillips Ronak is an award-winning writer for the automotive industry and a regular columnist for Autobody News based in Southern California.

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