Shop Life Innovations

Building a Better Paint Rack

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The Inspiration:

Dave Ludwig says he is constantly designing and building solutions for the staff at his shop, Prestige Auto Body in Manchester, N.H.

“If they have a need, I come up with solutions,” he says. “I like to design and make things. Every really good auto body technician is a craftsman by nature.”

So when his painters began telling him they needed a way to paint parts in the position the part sits on the vehicle, he says the wheels in his head started turning.

“The most important thing is that you get all of the information up front,” he says. “I needed to manage the exact expectation of the painters. What do they want to accomplish? Once you have the information, you figure out what’s the simplest way to achieve that.”

What It Does:

For Ludwig and his staff, the simplest solution was to create their own paint racks for various parts, including fenders, doors and hoods. The fender rack, for example, allows the painter to spray the fender sitting up right, the same way it would sit on the vehicle.

“If the fender is in the right position, it not only allows them to see it and paint the edges as if it were sitting on the car, but it also comes down to speed,” he says. “When you’re working on the side of the car versus the top of the car … the paint will lay differently on a flat surface versus a vertical surface.”

Ludwig designed the racks to be very simple with little to no set-up time. He says painters are able to simply take the part, set it on the rack created specifically for that part, and paint the part in the exact position it would sit on the car.

“Some racks are overly complicated and have a lot of set-up time,” he says of traditional racks. “If they just use one of those open-up racks and take a part and lay it down, it becomes inconsistent.”

Ludwig says the racks also help prevent color deviation and help to create a more consistent product that doesn’t require a second pass.

How It’s Made:

The racks are made from one-inch electrical conduit, which Ludwig says is available at hardware stores or The Home Depot. Ludwig builds the racks himself in the shop by simply bending the conduit and welding it into place.

“The development is the biggest part of it,” he says. “Once I develop a picture or a plan, I think and think and think and then I put it down on paper and make it.”

Ludwig has designed racks for four or five different parts and makes a dozen racks per particular style.

The Cost:

$25 for a fender rack

The ROI:

Ludwig says the ROI for the racks is connected directly to the goal of painting the parts one time. He says that the racks have helped create a more consistent paint job and speed up the painting process.

“If you can help the painter achieve an environment that allows them to produce [jobs] quickly and right the first time, that’s optimal,” he says. “Obviously in the long run, there is a big return. When you start to eliminate all of the facts that could possibly go wrong, you’re going to get a more consistent product in a more streamlined fashion.” 

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