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One Big Paint Job

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Johnny Mock, owner of Johnny Mock’s Auto Body Shop in Turtle Creek, Pa., knew his company wouldn’t make a profit in 2007 while it underwent $500,000 of renovations to the paint department. But the change was critical: Johnny Mock’s had been operating with only one paint booth, which caused back-ups.

So Mock decided to renovate with the idea of making his shop more efficient. From February to October, three-quarters of the shop was shut down. Sure enough, it was 32 percent off budgeted sales for 2007. But Mock says the pay-off in increased productivity, efficiency and decreased waste from his newly streamlined shop puts one tough year in perspective.

Mock credits Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes Corp. of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, with helping him plan and execute the renovations. Sherwin-Williams acts as a consultant to repair shop owners planning overhauls. What might be surprising is that the $8 billion paint giant is in on everything from the front office to the back door, says Judy Lynch, manager of Sherwin’s Collision Repair Design Service (CRDS).

CRDS consults with 75 to 100 facilities per year, all over the world. Consultants visit each location in person if possible, and they work with everyone from equipment suppliers to local contractors to make sure the shop gets what it needs, for a one-time fee of $895. For extra fees, CRDS also organizes services such as training seminars.

GETTING ON THE SAME PAGE

“We’re the consultant that makes sure the architects and the owner and the supplier are all speaking the same language,” Lynch says. Local construction contractors, for instance, aren’t always familiar with the automotive industry. CRDS can help contractors with code restrictions and advise how to lay out a productive auto body shop.

CRDS also negotiates with suppliers to get good prices on equipment. Mock was particularly impressed with the price the CRDS equipment specialists got him on two extended paint booths.

 “That’s the kind of clout Sherwin-Williams brings [to the negotiation.] They did a stellar job,” Mock says.

While it’s common practice for paint suppliers to sign contracts with auto body shops stipulating exclusive use of their products, Sherwin-Williams does not require such a contract.

GOING LEAN

Throughout the redesign process, CRDS aims to help shop management learn and implement Toyota’s Lean Manufacturing procedures to streamline their workflow. For Mock’s shop, this meant loosening the bottleneck created by a paint department that was too small and inefficient to deal with the shop’s growing needs.

“Whenever you have cars waiting, you have a hard time getting a good flow through the shop,” Mock says. “We showed Judy what we had, and she gave us some ideas to get to where we are now.”

Mock installed a second paint booth, updated their equipment and created a more efficient paint mixing line. While the shop was moving a daily average of 6.3 cars through the paint department before the renovations, they now can move up to 16 cars per day.

Mock says he can’t yet say how much more profitable his business is, because his shop has only been truly running at full capacity since January. His 2007 renovation-year revenues were down to $2.1 million from $2.6 million in 2006, and he projects revenues for 2008 to be $3 million. The 22,000 square-foot shop has 21 full-time employees. 

GROWTH CHART

Both Lynch and Mock acknowledge that not all shops will show immediate returns on renovations. There are so many variables in shop size, layout and market that each shop owner must consider their redesign carefully.

“If you use our service, you can increase your business,” Lynch says, careful not to make promises about growth. She estimates that shops that underwent streamlining renovations with CRDS grew their businesses by 10 to 11 percent, with some growing almost 18 percent.
Lynch says it’s important that a shop owner step back and look over their whole business—learning, for example, to identify waste in their production. Growing a business and making decisions about renovations is a learning process, she says. “This is not just one thing you do and you’re fine forever.”

Mock says that since he took over his shop in 1976, he’s expanded eight times, including this last large renovation. He says it’s important that shop owners considering a paint department renovation plan beyond their current size so that future expansions don’t box you in.

GREENING UP

Mock estimates his shop will be solely using waterborne paint products by mid-summer, and that this renovation will help him make that evolution.

Waterborne paints are only mandated in Canada and California right now, and Lynch says that most customers aren’t equipped to work with them. However, she tries to emphasize to her clients they should take waterborne products into consideration when they’re updating their equipment.

INSIDE PERSPECTIVE

Mock has a few other tips for owners considering paint department renovations:

•Make sure you can afford the renovation, and get financial guidance. At the recommendation of his accountant, Mock paid for his revamp mostly through bank loans, with about 10 percent coming from his own pocket. “There are ways you can pay for these things that can be beneficial tax-wise,” Mock says.

•In your new design, create an “escape route” that allows you to direct an emergency job in front of waiting cars. Mock added a side entrance for that reason.

•Consider extended paint booths to allow for more maneuverability during the paint mixing process.
•Invite employee input when considering the redesign. “Your employees are the ones who can identify the necessary steps,” Lynch says. “They’re the ones who can make the process better, faster, more efficient.” 

FORM AND FUNCTION

These kinds of services, along with the logistical help in the redesign, are why Mock recommends hiring a consultant like CRDS to help.

“Just because you think [a renovation] will look good doesn’t mean it’s going to work,” Mock says. “If you haven’t gone through the process of seeing how it’s going to flow, you never really know. And once it’s installed, you’re stuck with trying to change something that’s not working. We’re not engineers. We’re not design gurus. When you’re looking at a major investment, it’s good to have a professional set of eyes look at it.”


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To learn more about Sherwin-Williams’ shop design consulting, call (216) 332-8895, or visit www.sherwin-automotive.com and search for Collision Repair Design Services.

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