Dealership Collision Centers Find Increased Efficiency with Waterborne Refinish Coatings

September/October 2018 Featured in Fixed Ops Vol. 15, No. 5 - By Jason Crager, OEM Business Development Manager

Waterborne coatings are here to stay.  And they’re favored by more than two-thirds of the collision repair marketplace — independents, multi-shop operations and dealership shops — according to a new study commissioned by the Automotive Finishes division of Sherwin-Williams.

In a recent 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.

Of shop decision-makers who weren’t yet using waterbased refinish systems, 57 percent said they plan on looking into a waterborne system in the next 12 months.

The extensive survey revealed a number of trends and information regarding the use and increased acceptance of waterborne systems. For example, the research identified the five key considerations of dealership Fixed Ops Directors and Body Shop Managers and independent shop owners when choosing a new waterborne  system: first is color match, second is productivity and next was ease-of-system use.  Surprisingly, price and OEM approvals were also listed as factors, but they’re much further down the list of responses.

Of shop decision-makers who weren't yet using water-based refinish systems, 57 percent said they plan on looking into a waterborne system in the next 12 months.

Jason Crager

OEM Business Development Manager

The survey also revealed the key attributes that collision repair facilities use when it comes to selecting their waterborne refinish supplier:

  1. Color match
  2. Supplier brand reputation
  3. The system’s color retrieval capabilities
  4. Product speed/productivity
  5. Supplier services and training
  6. Product ease-of-use

The research revealed that when it comes to choosing a waterborne system, decision-makers at dealerships, independents and MSO shops say that there have been so many innovations with new systems — increased production, quality of paint matching, better application equipment and supplier training — that more collision repair facilities need to make the switch.

While the dealership business has been trending toward consolidation and larger networks for quite some time, Central Chevrolet in West Springfield, Massachusetts, has maintained single ownership for over half a century. Since 1966, the same family has served its surrounding community, with ownership passed down from generation to generation. Keeping the business in the family has ensured that, while technology evolves and industry trends come and go, Central’s values remain consistent. The company points to this as a primary reason why it can call itself the area’s number one volume Chevrolet dealer.

“The focus has always been on taking care of customers and taking care of employees,” said Garrett O’Keefe, Fixed Operations Manager. “We pride ourselves on doing good work and getting it right the first time and that comes from supporting employees so they can deliver best-in-class service."

As one of the last single-point stores in the area, O’Keefe says that Central Chevrolet is deliberate and precise when making decisions on business partners and products.

When the company adopted an entirely new  paintsystem, it was after two full years of testing products and attending training sessions.

“In the Collision Department it’s all about turnaround,” said O’Keefe. “We’re always  looking for better ways to get cars in and out efficiently.  That’s what insurance companies are looking for and that’s what we’re looking for.  We want to do things right the first time in fewer steps.  That will to free us up to take on more work and  increase profits."

O’Keefe says Central Chevrolet initially switched from solvent because waterborne is better for the environment and the common perception at the time was that regulations would mandate adoption of waterborne systems.

“We found that it’s more efficient and cleaner, with better color matching and less waste,” says O’Keefe. “And our Technicians have taken to the change to waterborne whole-heartedly."

Said Edwin Morales, one of the painters at Central Chevrolet, “Color-wise, it’s  amazing — especially with finishes on the newer cars.  It was a little different from what we were spraying before, but it didn’t take long at all to pick up on it with training.”

“Our painters love the color match and dry times,” said O’Keefe. “They can lay down base coat in one-and-a-half steps. They see increased efficiency, cutting production time down, which lets them get to the next job.”

“The transition was seamless,” said O’Keefe.  “There was minimal adjustment needed.  We use fewer coats and actually dry faster while achieving better color match. It won us over pretty quickly." As O’Keefe puts it, even though Central Chevrolet is a small dealership, it’s always trying to grow and expand markets by learning from industry best practices and adopting innovative products. And in his words, “Oh yeah — water is here to stay.”

Jason Crager is OEM Business Development Manager at Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes. He’s  responsible for helping North American dealership collision centers achieve success through the teamwork, adaptability and innovation utilizing the materials, training and services provided by Sherwin-Williams.


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