Have a repair plan for the refinish department

May 12, 2015
The goal of every collision center is to create a consistent production rhythm throughout their shop that leads to a targeted throughput achievement. Don't let this rhythm become disrupted within the refinish department. 

Editor's note: This article was originally published May 12, 2015. Some of the information may no longer be relevant, so please use it at your discretion.

The goal of every collision center is to create a consistent production rhythm throughout their shop that leads to a targeted throughput achievement. In many shops, this rhythm becomes disrupted within the refinish department. The questions to ask are: Why do these disruptions exist? How do you correct them?

Some shops attempt to address refinish department deficiencies through investment. They throw money at additional equipment, more people and new technology. Instead of spending money or hiring extra techs, they must first take the time to address deficiencies within process.

For years, I have heard the refinish department referred to as the ‘bottleneck’ of the collision center. The term bottleneck may be appropriate if you understand what a bottleneck is really designed to do: a bottleneck is something designed to purposely reduce the flow. Typically, without a bottleneck, the contents of the bottle would simply pour out faster than what was desired – or could be controlled. This definition needs to be clear because what we see every day in collision centers is an unintended, restrictive bottleneck in the refinish department, which is oftentimes the shop’s own creation.

So, to open the bottleneck up to more flow, we need to remove restrictions. We must start by looking at the items that contribute to issues within the paint shop. I typically break these into three areas:

  1. Procedures before the booth
  2. In the booth
  3. After the booth.

The focus on this article is primarily before the booth operations.

A great way to start is to evaluate contributing factors by looking at redos or rework in the department and the sources of those redos. A redo is defined as doing something completed again in order to do it better.

In looking across a spectrum of shops, I have identified several areas of refinish redos that are common.

  • Color correctness: This is where a poor match is chosen and applied to parts.
  • Repair mapping: Repair needs are not properly defined, leading to items that are missed or additional operations completed that are not part of the job.
  • Parts management: Wrong parts painted, parts arriving at different times and painted in different cycles, parts damaged before or after refinish causing more work.

With these areas in mind, let’s share some strategies that address issues upstream that create redos and lead to bottlenecks in the refinish department. These items work in conjunction with a defined damage analysis and parts management process.

Damage analysis and parts management process

The following, suggested items do not take more time when a process is put in action, but may happen at a different time in the repair process than how your team presently implements them. The goal is to be proactive in preventing issues and allowing recovery time in the rare case an issue happens. If you notice below, we recommend that these areas all be addressed before an R.O. enters a booth (in fact many happen before the R.O. enters the refinish department.)

1. Color identification

The best practice in damage analysis is to have the assigned refinish technician come to the vehicle. In doing so, they should have the needed tools to verify an actual color for the vehicle.

  • Verify the type of finish (Single, Two or Three Stage).
  • Verify color code and vehicle VIN code.
  • Identify an actual match to vehicle. This involves verifying chips or spray outs to the actual vehicle. Complete the spray out or letdown panel if needed.
  • Do you need to blend color?
  • Identify clear coat that will be utilized and the actual color cost.
  • If vehicle is being driven until parts arrive, then look for the opportunity to get a sample to match.

2. Refinish repair mapping in damage analysis

The refinish technician is the most experienced person to map the refinish process.

  • Verify the repair needed. Panel paint, blend and how far it needs to be blended.
  • What parts need to be removed?
  • Define borders of repair area on repaired panels.
  • Correct hours reflected on R.O. This is the best time to discuss.
  • What dents, chips and scratches in blend panels will be fixed
  • Discuss any other customer commitments related to refinish.

3. Parts management

Errors in parts management are huge contributors to refinish bottlenecks.

  • Parts verified for correctness before entering refinish. Labeled on back with R.O. #.
  • Order of parts needed to be refinished complete before entering refinish.
  • Damaged panels repaired properly and verified before entering refinish.
  • Prep quality verified before refinish.
  • Repair of used parts correctly reflected on R.O.
  • Parts placed on correct refinish stands for refinish.
  • Parts refinished off car sprayed in the same orientation they will be installed.
  • Refinished panels are staged in a way that they don’t get damaged before reinstallation.

While this is not a complete list, it should get you started in the right path of being proactive in addressing restrictions in your refinish process. A defined process that allows you to be proactive in addressing the areas above will then allow the paint department to move their focus on to other areas of process improvement inside their own department. For optimum success, involve the technicians in discussing additional time wasting operations.

About the Author

Ted Williams | Business Consulting Manager, Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes

Ted Williams is Director of Business Solutions at Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes. Ted is a second-generation collision repairer and former multiple-time Skills USA/VICA Collision Repair Champion. This year, he celebrates 30 years of experience in the collision repair industry and works closely with some of the largest collision repairers in North America.

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