Written by Karyn Hendricks
It is one thing to know that change is coming and another to embrace the change and make it happen. Although legislation requiring transition to waterborne paint will not go into effect in the Bay area until January 2010, Aaron Lofrano, in charge of F. Lofrano and Son, San Rafael shop, saw this as a challenge has already introduced waterborne into his shop at 28 Harbor Street.
Why now? Acknowledging the fact that transition to waterborne will be legally required, Lofrano explained, “We wanted to be proactive. It made sense to convert to waterborne well in advance of the deadline to get the bugs out. We knew that if every shop waited until the last minute to change over, there would not be enough resources to go around. We were able to go one step at a time to accomplish our goal.”
Step one, which took place around the first of this year, was to require the body shop to use 240-grit sandpaper which results in deeper finishing. This put better habits in place for the transition.
Measurements were taken on the air flow compressor to determine the amount of air flow in the booth. The result of this research was to purchase a second compressor and four air movement devices in the top corner of the paint booth. It was important not to overwork the compressor.
Another device was purchased and installed to serve three purposes: removing oil from the lines into the paint booth, removing humidity inside the air line before entering the spraybooth, and monitoring the temperature of the air from the paint gun. Walcom performs these three processes before vehicles go into the spray booth as a proactive effort to remove problems before they arise.
“Two Nova Verta spray booths came with the business,” said Lofrano. “It is the Cadillac of spray booths, requiring little retrofitting to meet the new standards. We needed to change the collective mindset about things needing to be done.”
Working with the staff, meetings were held daily to convey the need for extra cleanliness across the shop. It is important for the vehicle to be vacuumed before going to the paint department and washed before painting. This makes it easier to prep the car and less polishing is necessary after painting.
Lofrano worked with the same DuPont Standox team that helped switch over some of the network shops in Southern California. Standox helped with the flow chart of the steps to get ready to convert. They provided resources and follow through.
“Our goal was not just to paint the same number of cars we do now, but to move forward with the new technology to paint more cars. So far we have not experienced any drop off,” continued Lofrano.
Lean management is the new buzz word of the industry and stands for synchronous flow. More than a management system, lean management is a philosophy – a cultural mindset that looks at business from a manufacturing standpoint. Basically it is to identify those processes that impede the movement of vehicles through the shop and correct the situation.
Lofrano reports that the body shop was found to be what Lean Management terminology calls a constraint, discovering what is preventing vehicles from moving through the shop.
While it is not necessarily the fault of the body men, logjams started at the very beginning of the repair process. The body techs had to deal with badly written estimates, waiting for the parts to put the vehicle back together, and may be out of the information loop.
“We needed to get everybody to buy into the idea that it is everyone’s job to keep the body department busy. The estimator has to write an accurate estimate in a timely manner. The parts department has to get parts in a timely manner and the paint department must keep on schedule to meet the promise date for the vehicle,” Lofrano went on.
“The result of this effort has been an average turnaround from the time the keys are turned over by the customer to the time the vehicle leaves the building going from a 14 day turnaround to 12 days and, for the last 9 months, 8.3 days.
“Furthermore, the shop is cleaner and a lot more organized. The staff knows what is expected of them and understands how important it is for them to meet those expectations since their part affects the entire process of getting the car delivered on time. Everyone contributes to the shop profitability.”
For shop owners who are interested in implementing Lean Management, Lofrano suggests contacting their paint manufacturer to see if the company is offering lean assistance programs. However, one doesn’t have to switch paint manufacturers to get into the process. Lean Management classes are also held at NACE.
Even with the information at hand, Lofrano recommends that owners not just jump into the system right away. He suggests backing away and evaluating whether the system is right for their businesses. The process does come with a price tag so it is important to do extensive research. Business owners need to make sure it is the right system for them. Lean Management is an option that can pay big dividends but it is not for everyone.”
The office staff have responded well to the change. “After all, at the end of the day, without the staff meeting and greeting each customer, we wouldn’t have cars in the shop to paint with waterborne or the Lean Management system,” explained Lofrano. “We are setting expectations for the production staff and the sales side on what we need to be able to give to the customer.
“Future plans include growing our people both personally and professionally. If we want to stay on top of the food chain, we need to grow the staff and continuously adapt our business to advancements in the industry.”
Lofrano concluded that it is important to open your mind and humble yourself to accept outside resources. Admit that you can’t do it alone. It can make things a lot easier if one spends the money on a consultant or takes help from the paint manufacturers. Success can come about much faster with outside help. Lean Management has worked for Lofrano & Son.