Track Clearcoat Usage More Efficiently

Jan. 1, 2017
Robert Rodriguez conceived a way of measuring clearcoat that has significantly lessened Able Body Shop’s waste

WHAT IT IS: A way of keeping tabs on the paint department’s clear coat usage by noting paint hours on cans.

THE INSPIRATION: At Able Body Shop, a  three-shop MSO in Anchorage, Alaska, lead painter Robert Rodriguez, a key cog at the shop for eight years now, is especially enamored with stats.

“We love looking at numbers, and anything that we can put a physical number attached to,” Rodriguez says.

On that note, roughly two years ago, Rodriguez and a co-worker were contemplating the best ways to curtail clear coat overuse. They sought a way to definitively gauge the use of a gallon of clear. In essence, they wanted to ensure they were making the most of each gallon.

“We decided that keeping track of our actual paint hours on the physical can” was best, Rodriguez recalls. “That way, we can also share it with other shops, and compare it and figure out, as a group, how we’re going to do better on clear coat usage.”

WHAT IT DOES: The crew at Able Body has discovered that its current way of measuring clear coat usage has helped its entire workforce become more focused on making incremental improvements in efficiency.     “It helps with shops that have multiple locations,” says Rodriguez, who works out of Able Body’s location in downtown Anchorage. “That way, they can get kind of a competition between each other, to say ‘Oh, I did 200 hours on a gallon; you guys only did 175.’ And then they’ll get a spirit of competition going.”

Additionally, Able Body’s relatively new process of monitoring clear coat usage also helps Rodriguez and his co-workers better visualize just how much they’re using—and, in rare cases, how much they waste.

“It also helps when you’re physically mixing clear, that you see ‘Oh, I wasted four ounces mixing this; maybe next time when I have this similar job in here, I’ll do three less ounces,’” Rodriguez explains. “Just being able to physically keep track of all that, it helps out the shop.”

HOW IT’S MADE: Rodriguez and the crew in Able Body’s paint department simply take a piece of half-inch masking tape and apply it vertically to a can of clear. Then, using a marker, the crew notes how many paint hours are on a specific repair order. Once a can is completely empty, the crew totals up those numbers, takes a picture of the overall total with a smartphone, and then sends that photo out to other Able Body workers via text message.

THE COST: Next to nothing, other than the negligible costs of tape and a few Sharpies, supplies that are already lying around most shop offices. Rodriguez says Able Body also devoted a couple hour-long meetings to the matter, to get all pertinent parties on board, including estimators.

THE RETURN: “It just helps everybody down the line,” Rodriguez insists. “If you get the car out faster and cleaner, with very few or no defects whatsoever, the car gets back together quickly and gets back to the customer faster.”

Adds Able Body owner Ryan Cropper: “What we’ve found is it’s amazing how [painters] can drive each paint can to get more and more hours out of it with just healthy competition. … We were able to drive more paint hours per RO, because we’re very conscious on that.”

Members of Able Body’s staff also say they haven’t had a paint cap put on them by insurance companies in over a year.