Dealer Shop Improves Profit, Productivity with New Waterborne Coatings

Featured in Fixed Ops Vol. 16, No. 1 - January/February 2019

For dealer-based auto collision shops, navigating a continually changing auto repair industry is all part of the territory. After more than 40 years serving north central Maryland, the collision shop at Jeff Barnes Chevrolet has seen enough to know how to make the most of each opportunity to stay ahead of the curve.

Jeff Barnes Chevrolet is a family-owned business. The collision shop, with a staff of nine, completes repairs on 40-60 vehicles each month. When the dealership chose to build a new standalone collision shop, manager Steve Owings seized an opportunity to adopt waterborne coatings as much as possible to stay ahead of what was seen as an inevitable industry shift.

As time would tell, Owings’ decision to adopt waterborne coatings is on point. In a recent Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes survey of more than 250 U.S.-based body shop owners and managers, more than 64 percent indicated that they have used waterborne coatings within the past 12 months.

The biggest reason they said they used them was quality: color match was the leading feature, cited for what a waterborne coating should offer their facility. Color match was also by far the leading reason cited for picking a coatings supplier.

Owings says that although Jeff Barnes initially switched from solvent coatings because regulations would soon mandate adoption of waterborne systems, his painters are thrilled with the innovative products featured in the segment making their lives easier.

Mike Schofield, painter at Jeff Barnes Chevrolet, says the prior system was user-friendly enough, but had a few issues that could not be corrected after a number of attempted solutions.

“It’s like night and day compared to other systems,” says Schofield. For Schofield, it all came down to speed and color match. “We’ve cut our time in half,” says Schofield. “We’re doing two coats back-to-back, with coverage on the first coat and then the orientation coat. If humidity is under control, both coats are flashing off just as fast as it takes one coat with other systems.”

Even in high humidity situations, today's waterborne coatings can be managed for optimal performance.

Mike Schofield

Painter at Jeff Barnes Chevrolet


Even in high humidity situations, according to Schofield, today’s waterborne coatings can be managed for optimal performance. 

“It was 97 degrees and humid in the booth a few weeks ago and it was still laying out perfectly,” says Schofield. 

“The color match is working out great, especially on newer cars,” says Schofield. “When you do a spray out, the chips match perfectly and the camera is the best I’ve ever worked with. It gives a reliable reading every single time.”

 “I was leery at first about the 10 percent reduction,” says Schofield. “I thought the viscosity was going to be slow. But it ended up being around 21 seconds, exactly what I’ve been used to. The coverage…you can go over a light gray with a dark blue or dark green and with one coat you are covered. I’ve never had a light edge. The metallic control, pearls – across the board it’s unbelievable.”

Importantly, says Owings, transitioning a high-volume shop to a new system is not nearly as painful as it once was.

“When we were going through the switch, updating our shop, our paint reps were on top of everything,” says Owings. “The first day they brought it in we were up and running.”

As for the follow-up on the new product installation, Owings says his shop has benefitted from a handful of training offerings, including Estimating for Profit and Parts Correctness. The Estimating for Profit course is designed to help the front end operations of body shops enhance customer experience and build customer loyalty, while the Parts Correctness course outlines methods to drive down shop cycle time.


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