The collision repair industry is constantly being flooded with new technology — all intended to improve quality and increase throughput. Adding new technology to your automotive body shop can create the potential for additional profit, however, you must first select the right equipment for your shop to reach these goals.
Different types of equipment can have varying impacts on the number of paint booth cycles a shop is capable of performing, which can directly affect a body shop’s bottom line. For instance, production levels in a downdraft spray booth will typically be higher than in a semi-downdraft spray booth. By selecting the right equipment — along with streamlining the layout of your shop and providing flexibility to accommodate evolving technology — your body shop can increase throughput without adding labor.
Downdraft vs. Semi-Downdraft Paint Booths
When selecting a paint booth for your body shop, it is important to evaluate the different airflow options. In a semi-downdraft paint booth, a standard collision repair facility can put through three to five vehicles in an eight-hour shift. Finishing five vehicles in one day with a semi-downdraft booth, however, requires precise use of space and offers little-to-no room for error. Meanwhile, shops with a downdraft paint booth can produce four to six vehicles a day, with fewer headaches for painters, better quality for customers, and more growth opportunities for shop owners.
Paint and prep cycle time is also much longer in a semi-downdraft spray booth than in a downdraft spray booth. In order to withstand the airflow in a semi-downdraft spray booth, plastic must be taped around the entire vehicle before painting. In a downdraft spray booth, technicians can simply place the plastic — they don’t need to tape it around the entire vehicle since the airflow will draw the plastic tight to the vehicle.
Painters must also be more conscious of overspray in a semi-downdraft paint booth. If you are painting in the front of a semi-downdraft spray booth, overspray will drift over the vehicle to the exhaust filters at the rear of the paint booth. Parts in the paint booth have a higher risk to be contaminated with overspray. Also, if your booth is full, you may not be able to spray more than one color at a time.
Downdraft paint booths, on the other hand, provide excellent overspray and contamination control for cleaner paint jobs, and are ideal for high-production body shops in Texas. Regardless of where you paint in a downdraft spray booth, overspray is directed downward through the exhaust pit in the floor. This makes it easier to spray multiple colors and offers more upgrade options, including an expanded exhaust pit to enhance airflow.
In restoration shops, a paint booth with semi-downdraft airflow may be the best option. Since these shops do not typically operate on tight deadlines, a high-end downdraft paint booth may be more of a luxury than a necessity. Oftentimes, restoration shops will paint full bodies of vehicles — including roofs of trucks and vans. In these cases, an oversized paint booth may be necessary to provide the vertical height needed for larger jobs.
Equipment to Improve Efficiency
By processing just one more vehicle per week, body shops can significantly increase their bottom line revenue. An American body shop’s average work order is around $3,000, which translates to $1,200 of gross profit per vehicle when factored at an industry standard of 40 percent. At that rate, processing one additional vehicle per week equates to $4,800 more per month or $62,400 more per year of gross profit. Increasing production by one additional vehicle per week is possible when selecting the right equipment and accessories designed to improve efficiency.
For instance, body shops trying to avoid a backlog could consider a side-load system. In side-load systems, vehicles move quickly between work bays on an integrated track and dolly system — improving productivity and maximizing shop space. Since vehicles do not need to be driven into a paint booth that is part of a side-load system, all masking can be done outside the booth, saving 15 to 30 minutes per booth cycle. A downdraft booth with a side-load system should be capable of processing six vehicles per day. If a shop is firing on all cylinders, it could process as many as seven or eight vehicles per day with a side-load system.
In addition to increasing production, adding a side-load system to a downdraft paint booth is considerably cheaper than purchasing a second paint booth and saves valuable floor space. Side-load systems are especially useful for businesses performing a high volume of light repairs, such as shops with quick lane service models and used car refurbishment centers.
Maximizing Your Current Facility
If your shop wants to get more vehicles through but does not have the room to expand, upgrading your equipment or modifying your shop’s layout may be the answer. Adding a drive-thru configuration to your paint booth is a great way to increase efficiency at minimal expense and with only minor changes to your shop’s layout. If your shop is set up efficiently, a vehicle can be staged while another is being painted.
The type of curing equipment your shop uses is also important. If you are spraying solvent-based, it will dry relatively quickly on its own. Waterborne paint, on the other hand, requires accelerated curing via infrared lamps, or extra heat or blowers.
To maximize efficiency, shops often use accelerated drying systems, such as AdvanceCure® Accelerated Airflow Systems from Global Finishing Solutions® (GFS). The AdvanceCure System introduces turbulent airflow into the paint booth, dramatically improving the transfer of heat from the air to the painted panels. One of the biggest benefits of an accelerated drying system is the fast basecoat application. Using a wet-on-wet basecoat system, most shops have to wait 20 to 30 minutes for the paint to dry. With an accelerated drying system, that time is cut in half. The AdvanceCure System can be added to a new GFS paint booth or retrofitted into most brands and models of paint booths.
Another proven way to increase paint shop throughput without increasing your shop’s footprint is to add infrared curing systems, such as REVO Accelerated Curing Systems. Using short wave electric infrared technology, REVO Systems quickly cure filler and coatings from the inside out, reducing curing time to only minutes. Most shops with REVO Systems, one prep station and one paint booth can process 6 to 10 vehicles a day, with some shops processing as many as 12 vehicles a day.
Establishing a Growth Plan
If your shop envisions growth a few years down the road but cannot currently accommodate a large volume, another option is to purchase a top-of-the-line downdraft Ultra XR Paint Booth without the integrated REVO Systems. This premium paint booth features an extended interior height to accommodate REVO Speed or Rapid units, which can be added, along with pressured power rails, when the time is right for a shop.
Small- and medium-sized shops trying to stay within budget for new equipment may consider purchasing a non-heated paint booth, such as a Performer ES Paint Booth from GFS. This booth offers a reliable, all-in-one painting environment with the flexibility to add a heater at a later time.
The equipment you purchase today will position your shop for growth tomorrow. A shop can typically recoup its investment in equipment in less than a year by processing just one more vehicle per week. Once the equipment has paid for itself, year two and beyond offer the opportunity for additional profit. Now is the time for body shop owners in Texas to invest in better equipment to position themselves for a more efficient and profitable future.