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Many collision repairers have been in partnership with their paint supplier for years. But that relationship shouldn’t be kept on autopilot. Repairers benefit when they periodically reassess whether their paint supplier is meeting their needs.

FenderBender’s Andrew Johnson talked to Guy Bargnes, vice president of sales and marketing for Taylor, Mich.-based Painters Supply and Equipment Co. With more than 30 years experience in the automotive paint sector, Bargnes offers advice on how collision repairers can choose the right paint supplier for their shop.

Repairers have to consider distribution as the key element in their decision-making process. Collision repairers making paint decisions have to look at the availability of local distribution and the resources that they can provide.

Paint company value-added services are primarily delivered through the distribution chain. Without substantial local distribution, those services can be promised but not properly delivered. There are several ways you can ensure that your supplier will deliver quality products and services:

• Identify your shop’s needs. Understand what services you’re looking for. For example, you may want help with training or a lean initiative. Look for distributors that have the ability to deliver those services.

• Interview company representatives. Bring the paint supplier and distributor representatives in to your shop and talk to them. Ask for a presentation of what products and services the distributor and the paint company collectively can offer.

• Check references. Any good paint company and distributor will be able to provide references. Repairers should contact all of them to discuss the quality of services offered by the supplier or distributor.

The implementation of service offerings is the biggest differentiator between paint suppliers. Most of the paint suppliers offer technical and business training, but how frequently they’re offered and whether they’re geographically convenient are critical elements to consider.

Repairers should search out education every three to five years. It’s important to periodically see if there are new services or products available in the marketplace. You might want to attend a trade show or initiate dialogue with another distributor or paint company in your market. Repairers have to consider what new products might be available—especially in times when technology is changing.

Paint suppliers and distributors should be a communication conduit to the industry. That communication and dialogue is a good indicator of whether or not your supplier is fitting your needs. Ask these questions to determine whether you’ve made the right choice:

• Is your distributor or supplier regularly bringing you new information?

• Are they keeping you abreast of what’s going on in the marketplace?

• Do they approach you with new products?

Your distributor and your paint manufacturer also need to have relationships with employees in your shop. They need to know the painter and be aware of the painter’s needs, and they need to have contact with people in your front office. It’s a good sign if your distributor has both front-end and back-end relationships in your shop.

Converting your paint line isn’t something you want to do often. Your production is likely to slip as you make a conversion. If your relationship is good with your paint supplier, and you’re getting new products, ideas, initiatives and capabilities, it probably doesn’t behoove you to make a change. But if you’re having serious product problems that are affecting your CSI or on-time deliveries, that’s something that requires immediate action.

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