Color matching system speeds process, productivity

Aug. 13, 2015
Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes has released FormulaExpress 2.0, a web-based color retrieval tool.

Efficiency. Lean processes. Productivity. Streamlining. All are buzzwords used in shops across the country to do one main thing — increase profitability.

So if you could cut a process you use in the shop, sometimes 10s of times a day, from roughly 40 minutes to less than 10, it could mean some serious dollars for your business.

At least that is what Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes believes, and it is the driving force behind the launch of its FormulaExpress 2.0 Color Retrieval System, a web-based tool used to help paint technicians achieve the best color match in the shortest possible time, leading to improved profitability, cycle time and customer satisfaction.

SWAF Color System Manager John Ceglarek said the tool not only speeds the color matching process, but also makes a place in the paint department for younger, less experienced technicians. “Shops used to rely on the skills and knowledge of an expert painter with 30 years of experience,” Ceglarek said. “But these types of painters are now starting to retire and we need to make room for younger technicians. This tool is about improving process, lean and shop throughput. You can get it right the first time, and anyone can do it.”

With FormulaExpress 2.0, painters and technicians will spend much less time picking the right color for the job, and much more time delivering vehicles. The system intuitively sorts formulas by popularity instead of the “standard with alternates” method widely used by many existing color retrieval systems. Additionally, FormulaExpress 2.0 has a unique patent-pending Color Filter feature, which helps the painter select from a list of color variations by selecting a few, very simple, user-friendly filters — a first in the market.

The web-based platform was presented to select shops in early 2014 with a rudimentary design. The software developers then worked with shop owners and technicians in a fluid process to see how they utilized the software, their daily needs, and preferences to build the tool from the ground up, always with input from the end user, said Samantha Neff, Color System Data Analyst. “We built a system that simply worked. We didn’t guess at what the users wanted. We allowed them to use it and then we adapt the software based on their feedback so it works exactly how they want it to work,” she said.

The tool was first implemented in a shop in South Dakota, and has since been rolling out through the country. SWAF plans to complete rollout throughout the Americas, and then globally.

Designed to work with multiple platforms including tablets, smartphones and PCs, FormulaExpress 2.0 also provided simple storing, tracking and reporting. With access to more than 750,000 color formulas, the system is functional with every automotive finishes intermix and factory pack system Sherwin-Williams provides.

“Color produces a lot of anxiety,” Ceglarek says. “We are using every trick we can think of to make it as easy as possible."