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A Painter for Life

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When he got the quote, he couldn’t believe it.

“Two thousand dollars to do a paint job on a truck?!” Jeremy Winters said to himself 13 years ago. “Ain’t no way—it can't be that hard.”

While he’s worked in the collision industry for 13 years, Winters’ passion for painting goes back much further—all the way to the age of 5. Growing up helping perform the painting in his parent’s woodworking shop, the now 31-year-old carried that passion over to vehicles after choosing to avoid the $2,000 bill and paint the truck himself.

And while his numbers prove just how impressive of a painter he is, Winters says it’s his detail-focused personality that helps his paint department average a 34 percent gross profit on paint and materials. Just earlier this year, his team achieved a record-high month of $424,000 in sales. His painting ritual has virtually eliminated comebacks, which he is now passing on to his team as paint shop foreman for Harrison’s Body Shop in Macon, Ga.

First thing in the morning, I go over our schedule for the day. We have a weekly list that gets updated as needed from the owner. Normally, we paint anywhere from six to eight cars each day. In the paint shop, we have myself, another painter, and two preppers.

We are paid hourly, and we are focused on quality over quantity. I know the stereotype is: If you pay hourly, people won’t work as hard. But the main thing is that you have to love what you’re doing. If you don’t love what you’re doing, if you don’t have a passion for it, then it doesn’t matter if you're paid hourly or salary. I’ve worked for those people, and I refuse to be someone who becomes a cancer to the shop. If you can keep an upbeat attitude, you’ll be able to keep that morale going throughout your department.

So it doesn’t matter to us if this car has 18 hours and there’s a bumper job up next that takes three. There’s no jealousy on who’s getting more work. We’re all on the same page in getting the cars out. We see what’s got to go, I coordinate with our preppers, and they make sure those cars are coming through in order and that they’re lined up out of the booth as they get them taped up.

In the morning, and usually with any downtime I have throughout the day, I do my color matching. If the car is in the body shop and there is an estimate on the dash, I go ahead and get the RO, the name, the car, the color, the parts we’re painting on it, grab the color code, and then I go over to my sprayout library. I’ll find the cards I’ve made for that color, match it, and make note of it right there on the paint line on an Excel spreadsheet. I’ll label it on the car with a marker and move on to the next one. That way, it’s matched and done, and I don’t have to see that car until it comes down.

TEAM FOCUS: One of four painters at Harrison’s Body Shop, Jeremy Winters says passion is the key to high efficiency—not pay structure. The team operates on hourly wages, and he says it creates a camaraderie among the painters.Moving into the paint shop foreman position has been a learning curve. Cars don’t always flow through the way you plan and then you have to coordinate. Doors get scratched, hoods get burned through on buffing. Things happen. If you’ve got a car that needs to get delivered by 3 p.m. and it gets scratched, you’ve got to stop what you’re doing to go and address it.

In the paint shop, we just try to keep the morale up. Over the years, I’ve found the biggest cancer in this industry to be a bad attitude. That will ruin everything. If everybody stays upbeat, if everybody stays motivated, if everybody stays in a good mood, then we hardly have any issues. Nine times out of 10, we’ll run completely smooth like we need it to. If a problem ever arises and one of us gets stressed, we’re right there for each other: What’s going on? What can we do? Do you need a hand? Are you getting backed up on something?

PROPER PREPARATION: Painter Jeremy Winters’ detailed process incorporates all the tools Harrison’s Body Shop has at its disposal. Clear organization in the mixing room, cleanliness in the booth, and a thorough color library all set Winters up for success.I have a really good crew. If they have downtime, they let me know they’re caught up and I can run through the shop and see if there’s anything I can get them working on, whether it’s trimming out parts or priming.

The rest of the day is just working on the cars that flow through. I’m a painter by trade. I’ve got my own tricks and rituals I do just like any other painters. Personally, I’ll blow off the car outside before it comes in the booth, look everything over, make sure they didn’t miss any chips or anything like that.

Then once it comes in the booth, we pull plastic, tape it down, and I go over the entire car that I’m painting and blow it all off again inside the creases and the jams. I’ll wipe down the grease, apply alcohol, and then just go to town. I like to spray down alcohol as a last step because it kills the static, especially on raw bumpers. You can just spray it on the bumper and let it sit. As long as you don’t touch it, you’re not creating any static.

Our shop is made up of three sections: We have the paint and body shop on one end, and then we have the detail/buffing area, and then a big, open area where we keep an old spray booth. Once a car comes out of the booth, I’ll bring it up to that third section and park it so it’s out of the way. It can sit there and finish drying. I’ll label when the car came out, when it’ll be ready to move outside or back to the body man. Normally I let them sit 1.5 to 2 hours. That way by the time they get it, it’s not fingerprinting and they won’t have any issues.

Then I check all the jams, make sure there’s not going to be any trim-out. I just make notes of everything on the car, right there on the windshield. I make sure to label everything, that way whenever I move it out onto our car line that we have outside, or whether I move it down to the body man, they know if it’s going to need any additional work, when it was painted, etc.

The more information everybody has, the less they have to stop and ask questions. If you’ve got to stop and go find somebody to ask a question, that’s wasted time. You could be doing something else. I’ve found that a lot of people don’t like taking the five minutes it takes just to look over a car after you get done painting it. It looks one way in the booth, but if you take a look at everything and make sure all your edges are covered, you might discover something you missed. It ends up saving a lot of time.

At the end of the day, I like to get an idea of what cars we have left down here, what cars we have coming down from the body shop. Then we just restart the whole process the next day.

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