Technology and process are helping shops deliver quality results, every time
Colour mixing and matching have come a long way in the last few decades.
Today, collision centres are routinely able to match even the most complex finishes, resulting in a vehicle that is literally repaired to pre-crash condition.
To ensure the paint finish is replicated as accurately as possible and repairs are performed efficiently and consistently, there are several considerations.
For Steve Celli, who owns and operates MAACO Newmarket, in Newmarket, Ont., a prime consideration is ensuring that toners are always in stock.
“You don’t want a position where you see a greater number of rare toners come through and you don’t have enough to complete the job,” explains Celli.
As a result, at MAACO Newmarket, the team has taken steps to ensure there’s a backup for each toner to avoid these kinds of situations.
“Especially for today’s colours, a toner can be specific to only one type of colour,” says Celli, “so ensuring you have the right toner in stock is essential for correct colour matching.”
Having the right tools is also essential.
For Celli, the use of a device such as 3M’s Sun Gun or SATA’s trueSun is a prerequisite for proper colour matching.
“The sun gun is an incredible tool that shops should invest in,” he explains.
“This matches the colour correctly, so you have an accurate depiction of the final finish. You never want to be in a position where the panel you repaired is different from the original and the sun gun can help you avoid this inaccuracy.”
Celli also notes that investing in UV primers has delivered big benefits.
“UV primers get cured with a light and you don’t have to worry about it sinking. You go over the primer with the light and you can basically sand it within minutes. It’s been a worthwhile investment for our facility.”
Jeff Fujita, who owns and operates CSN Kustom in Coaldale, Alta., says having a digital camera to document pre and post-repair conditions is essential.
The shop also takes steps to ensure its colour library is up to date to stay current with what’s being used in the market.
“Some of the other things that have been very successful for us are the AkzoNobel Spray Outs and the Mix-It cloud that have really helped to streamline the process for our technicians,” says Fujita.
Guy Trottier, Field Conversion Manager, Quebec, for Simplicity Car Care, notes that robust relationships with refinish partners and shop suppliers are also essential when it comes to colour matching and consistently delivering top-quality finishes.
When significant changes occur in the industry, such as a pandemic or the adoption of water-based paint, those relationships are worth their weight in gold.
“We have all the support we need to ensure our technicians can properly colour match and mix,” says Trottier.
At the network level, it’s also important to have standardized processes, using a single refinish partner to ensure product and equipment are readily supplied, technicians are properly trained to follow procedures and the results are consistent from location to location.
Trottier himself is a certified automotive painter and so he understands the nuances of the mixing and refinish process.
At a network level, he stresses the importance of open and frequent communication between the corporate team and the individual franchise locations, since, for collision shop operators, time is money.
The faster a potential issue is identified, the faster it can be dealt with and the less impact it has on production flow.
Space and design
Mixing room design and layout also factor in. You always need enough space to work with,” says Jeff Fujita.
“Being crammed or crowded is a recipe for mistakes.”
He also explains the importance of effective lighting so you can truly see the progress being made and the finished product as well.
The latter is important as the shop wants to make sure that when the vehicle is delivered back to the customer, the finish of the repair properly matches the rest of the vehicle.
When it comes to layout, Fujita says that “one thing that can get overlooked is the proximity to the booth. You want to make sure you have the right layout for your technicians and staff in other departments. Mixing scales are another good way to make sure you’re measuring accurately and finally; you always want to make sure you stay up to date when it comes to technology.”
While the collision repair industry has seen its fair share of disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it comes to colour matching and mixing, those we interviewed for this article said that in terms of supply, there haven’t been any major issues.
Our paint partner has been very reliable throughout all of the pandemic challenges,” says Steve Celli.
“We know the supply chain has been impacted, but we’re very fortunate because they have worked so hard to ensure we didn’t feel its effects. If for some reason we can’t get a specific toner that we know we need, we always ask the customer at the point of the estimate to come back once we have it in stock. Customers have been understanding because every industry is facing these same challenges.”
Guy Trottier says that as far as Simplicity Car Care is concerned; the network’s refinish partner and distributor relationships have also resulted in minimal disruption when it comes to supplies.
Yet if there is one thing that shops need to consider going forward, it is the cost of materials.
With higher inflation, Trottier says it’s important for shops to be continually monitoring costs as pricier materials and equipment will impact repair margins.
Ultimately, successfully navigating through this and other challenges boils down to effective communication and collaboration among all collision industry stakeholders, as well as diligent repair planning and staff training.