The spray booth is a topic we keep returning to, but as it remains the single largest investment for most body shops and the area where bottlenecks in the workshop keep recurring, it is a subject that is still intrinsic to the success or otherwise of every repairer in the country. But while finding out the very latest innovations in spray booth technology is crucial, there is a broader view that needs to be taken before that even comes into play.
That is because every business is different and the demands each will place on its spray booth will vary wildly, how can a body shop manager decide which particular spray booth will prove most effective and efficient if they don’t know exactly what it will be used for, and how often? From one sort to the next the types of repairs will vary, as will the number of jobs that move through the workshop and the time allocated for each job – even the painting processes may not be the same from one repair to the next.
Each of these factors will influence what type of spray booth is most appropriate. Each body shop needs to be treated as an individual as there is no one size fits all solutions. But most body shops quote throughput as key when they look into new spray booths. Some body shops benefit from drive-through longer length spray booths; when combined with a downdraught-type airflow these can accommodate more than one vehicle at once even if they are using different colours.
Others will benefit from a skate and rail system for loading, meaning cars can be prepped in advance, streamlining the workflow outside of the spray booth. So planning workflow should be a priority – working out how the vehicles should move through the body shop and loading the spray booth correctly to maximise its usage will ensure you have the best possible throughput.
Taking a more holistic view you cannot look at the spray booth in isolation without considering how it will fit into the business as a whole.
Whenever body shops are looking at getting the best value from their spray booth it helps to discuss the painting processes as a whole from the start. Getting the right spray booth to match the desired painting is as vital as the positioning of the spray booth and gaining the correct planning permission. A consultative approach allows for body shops to maximise both their productivity and their investments.
Once body shop managers have considered all these influencing factors, they will be in a far better position to decide what they want from a spray booth, and, with manufacturers constantly innovating to improve their products, the options available to them are numerous.
However, spray booth manufacturers are far from alone in recognising that speed and accuracy is critical to the flow of vehicles through a body shop. Paint manufacturers, too, have a massive influence on how quickly jobs can progress through a workshop and they are constantly evolving their products and processes to improve both speed and accuracy. Compact process paint systems have been developed to remove the need for a primer layer, cutting one step out of the process, and the introduction of low temperature curing is the next big focus. Ultimately, combining low temperature curing with compact processes is the end goal. Until then though, new innovations continue to be launched.
AkzoNobel said that Autoclear Aerodry, offer drying options that range from five minutes of curing at 60ºC for 45 minutes at ambient temperature. This saves on energy costs and gives body shops the flexibility to optimise how they utilise their spray booths.
They can now simply roll out the previous vehicle or panel after a five-minute flash-off or leave it to dry at an ambient temperature for 45 minutes. Or, if they’re meeting a tight deadline, they can opt for a five-minute cure at 60ºC. Mixing is also fast and error-free with the simplicity of a 100:100 ratio.
Other product innovations such as UV refinish lines can reduce process time to just 60-90 seconds per repair. There’s also minimal waste and, unlike conventional two-pack products which have a limited lifespan once they are mixed, Autosurfacer UV is a ready-to-spray product and good to use until it’s gone.
Paint manufacturers have also embraced digital technologies when it comes to colour matching, which eliminates human error and reduce colour-matching time by an average of 20%.
We all know how costly and time-consuming mistakes can be, so smart technology and efficient processes are key. This is where digital colour matching technology has really revolutionised the industry.
These time-saving, cost-efficient products and processes can then be tied neatly together with a digital producing management look, enabling body shop staff to quickly see where each vehicle is in the repair and refinish process. This helps body shops better communicate the repair status of vehicles to their customers while streamlining the flow of vehicles. As ever though, these efficiencies can only be maximised with effective training.
This is where the industry has benefited from a collaborative approach. Spray booth manufacturers and repair centres can consult paint manufacturers on the design and layout of body shops. New equipment installations need to be focused on building strong partnerships with other equipment suppliers to ensure that we fully maximise the full benefits of new, innovative paint technology, especially as body shops adapt to the industry’s changing needs.
But even if body shops have the correct equipment and know how to use it, they could still be losing out on profits by taking a short-term approach to service and maintenance. Spray booths aren’t working as effectively as they could be because they’ve not been looked after. When you ignore alerts to change filters for example is false economy, as the spray booth won’t run at its best and the quality of the finished paintwork could also be compromised.
Ultimately, it seems that knowledge is power and the more body shops know about their business, their customers and the products that are now available the more likely they are to make the right choices. But they don’t necessarily need to find all that out themselves, particularly when it comes to products and processes; there are enough friendly faces in the industry who have made it their job to fill in the gaps.