Using Paint Racks to Improve Efficiency
Collision repair thrives on efficiency. Grappone Collision Center, a Toyota dealership shop in Bow, N.H., felt the truth of that more than ever when it was forced out of its 13,000-square-foot facility and into one less than half that size.
Moe Gagnon, shop manager at Grappone, says Toyota wanted to expand the dealership’s service center, which meant the collision center had to move. The smaller facility was the only available option in the short time frame they had to find a new home.
Despite the downsize, the shop didn’t want to give up its volume. Gagnon, a lifelong painter, saw this as the perfect opportunity to experiment with an idea that had been swirling in his head for years. With just a few 20-foot pieces of steel—no drawings, no diagrams—he whipped up a new paint rack that has radically revamped the paint department.
—Moe Gagnon, manager, Grappone Collision Center
The patent-pending rack—called the Lean Line Refinishing System—hangs panels from the entire front-end of a vehicle on one stand in the same way they would appear on a car. The simple-but-remarkable improvement has made paint matching easier, reduced material usage and cut cycle time.
The market offers plenty of paint racks, and using one is nothing new. So what’s so innovative about Gagnon’s invention? It’s the fact that two fenders, deck lids, rear hatches, bumpers, doors a hood and a tailgate can all hang at the same time just as they do on the vehicle. That makes paint matching much easier.
“Many painters will kick and scream in order to get the panels left on the vehicle for the paint process,” Gagnon says. It’s tough for some painters to get a proper paint match when each part is sitting separately at a different angle—which is what you have to do with today’s traditional paint stands. That’s especially true when spraying with champagne or silver-colored paint because it’s easy to get a flip-flop in the metallics,he adds.
For example, Honda CR-Vs have high steps on the back of the fender. That part sits at an angle when using traditional paint stands, and has posed problems for getting a proper color match. But Gagnon’s system is adjustable, so those awkward fenders can be adjusted to sit square. And every other part can also be adjusted so everything lines up like usual, Gagnon says.
—Moe Gagnon, manager,
Grappone Collision Center, on using his rack
“You eliminate the fear of a bad color match when you’re able to paint panels the same way as if the whole car was in the booth,” Gagnon says.
There are four key benefits to removing panels from a vehicle:
• Reduced prep time Gagnon doesn’t have to spend time masking vehicles since the entire vehicle doesn’t go into the paint booth. Prep jobs that used to take at least an hour now get done in about 15 minutes, and the shop’s use of masking paper and tape has been cut in half.
• No overspray Even vehicles that are properly masked can have an overspray issue, Gagnon says, which sometimes takes 2 to 3 hours to clean off.
• Maximum booth efficiency Gagnon used to fit two small vehicles or one large vehicle in front of the paint booth. Now, he can fit up to four jobs in front of the booth at the same time, and bake two or three during the same cycle.
“That saves time and cuts down on energy usage,” Gagnon says (he hasn’t calculated energy savings).
• Improved quality Most of the dirt and dust in paint jobs comes from either the painter or the car, says Mike Anderson, founder of CollisionAdvice.com and the consultant who helped Gagnon find 10 shops to beta test the system. You have to worry about dirt coming out of the wheel well or from under the hood when cars are pulled into the paint booth. Clearly, you have much better chances of getting a cleaner job if the car isn’t there.
That limits the amount of time spent buffing and sanding small imperfections and dust particles out of the paint, Anderson adds. That can be a big time saver, shaving 30 minutes or more off a job.
Same Job, Same Time
Gagnon says his paint stand allows the paint and body departments to work on the same job at the same time, slashing cycle time.
Grappone recently had a job that had been hit hard in the front. Gagnon says it needed a new hood, left fender, bumper, and blend on the right fender, front door and rear door. The car also needed some framework and a new radiator support.
While the vehicle was on the frame rack, the rest of the sheet metal was hung on the paint rack and moving through the paint department, Gagnon says. That simultaneous process allows the shop to get 35- to 40-hour jobs done in about 1.5 days.
With Gagnon’s tiny facility, space became a hot commodity on the shop floor. His invention helped with that, too.
• Efficient on wheels. In the past, technicians were constantly shifting cars around to get jobs in and out of the paint booth. So Gagnon put his refinishing system on wheels. Now, up to three cars’ worth of panels can sit in front of the paint booth and can be rolled back and forth to make space for one another.
“That allows us to only move a rack of panels around the shop, and not entire cars,” Gagnon says. “That’s not only a benefit for space, but we’re also not filling the shop with exhaust.”
And it only takes one technician to move the stand around, Gagnon says. Traditional stands require two or three people.
• Cars sit outside. Since panels are removed from the vehicle, jobs waiting for paint no longer suck up space on the shop floor. Now the cars get bagged and just sit outside.
• Collapsible. Many stands stay on the shop floor after they’re put together, and take up space when they’re not being used. Gagnon’s system folds and stores on the wall.
Pricing for Gagnon’s stand is being worked out; it should be available for sale in the fourth quarter of this year. Call 603.226.8490 for more information on the system.
An Extra Step
Using a system like this does add an extra step to the repair process. The question is whether you’ll get paid for it.
—Mike Anderson, founder, CollisionAdvice.com
Some insurance companies might understand it’s worth paying you to remove the panels because it leads to a quicker and cleaner job, and the shop saves labor on masking time, Anderson says.
“Even if you don’t get paid for the removal process, it’s still beneficial because the system helps improve overall cycle time,” he says.
Gagnon agrees: Sometimes the shop gets reimbursed for the extra step, sometimes they don’t. He says it doesn’t matter either way because it only takes 15 minutes to remove the panels, and he makes that up on the other end with material savings and touch time.
Gagnon notes that 80 percent of jobs at his shop get disassembled anyway, so proper reimbursement isn’t often an issue.
“Sometimes, even if you don’t get reimbursed for the process, you just have to suck it up and move on because you need to look at the bigger picture,” Anderson says. “Panel removal might add a bit of labor time, but the improved overall process outweighs that cost.”