techdirections - March 2017

The Value Of Continuing Education In Automotive Refinishing

Randy Cremeans 2017-03-04 00:52:42

GIVEN the ever-present focus on getting customer vehicles out the door, it’s never easy for collision shop owners and managers to keep pace with the changes required to compete in a constantly evolving business climate. This especially applies to training and the challenge of ensuring technicians are up-to-date with the latest products, information, and skills required to perform their roles at their competitive best. We all know that proper training is key to a profitable, productive business, yet it can be difficult for busy shop owners and managers to prioritize technician training. Combating the technician Shortage If you were to ask body shop owners or managers what issue keeps them up at night, the number-one likely answer would be the decrease in skilled technicians, including experienced painters. It’s a fact that despite the decrease in the number of collision repair centers, our industry has not been able to keep up with the demand for technicians. It is estimated that more than 180,000 repair-related positions will need to be filled in the next few years. Paint manufacturers and other industry suppliers also share this concern, and, as a result, have been increasing their support of vocational programs across the country, both at the secondary and college level. PPG’s Partners in Education program is a collaborative initiative between PPG and technical schools to develop skilled, entry-level technicians for employment with PPG customers. Recently, PPG Automotive Refinish helped launch a groundbreaking associate degree program in collision repair and refinishing technology at Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) in Fayetteville, N.C. Located next to Fort Bragg, FTCC is an educational partner of the military base and its 60,000 personnel. Veterans or National Guard members make up 60% of FTCC’s student body. These individuals will now have access to a new career path option in their transition to civilian life. The new collision center and educational program brings the repair industry in line with the innovative processes, advanced materials, and sophisticated computer engineering that automotive manufacturers are using. Students are instructed by repair industry professionals and work in a real-world environment with PPG paint products, newer cars, and some new equipment not yet found in many collision centers in North America. As your shop continues its technician recruitment efforts, look forward to expanding vocational education programs and increased support of paint suppliers and other industry partners. Grow your own Given the shortage of skilled paint technicians, consider implementing a refinish training initiative for your shop’s less-skilled workers. After a year of painting experience, send trainees to attend your paint manufacturer’s initial certification course. These hands-on courses for the paint system your shop uses will cover everything from sanding, surface preparation, spray gun application techniques, overall refinishing, spot repair, and blending procedures. By taking this step, the trainee builds a good foundation to become a valuable asset for your company. The Need Never Ends The growing complexity of vehicles and sophisticated new OEM finishes, combined with new products, tools, and methodologies, give credence to the fact that even the most skilled technician can never have enough training. Each year at PPG Automotive Refinish, we introduce a minimum of four to five new products for each of our collision brands. Some are specially designed to enhance throughput and reduce cycle time, while others can add to the quality of refinish work or improve ease of use. Providing technicians with hands-on experience and instruction with these products is critical. Recertification is Essential One way to ensure technicians are up-to-speed and familiar with the advantages of new products and their proper application is through the recertification classes offered by the paint suppliers at their training facilities. Generally, refinish painters are required to be recertified every two years in order to maintain the collision center’s certification and to continue to offer a manufacturer-backed paint guarantee. Yet not every shop takes advantage of the painter recertification opportunity. Some may feel it’s unnecessary, while other shop managers resist taking an employee out from a busy workflow. Still others simply overlook the need. From my point of view, the benefits of recertification are definitely worth the investment—not only for the overall performance improvement it can bring to the paint operation, but also to the employee’s growth and sense of professionalism. Five levels exist in PPG’s Technician Certification Program: Blue, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Master levels. As a painter attends training every two years, he or she will advance to the next level and further enhance his or her sense of pride and achievement, while the shop gains in employee loyalty. On-Site vs. off-Site training There's a preference among many shop owners and managers that refinish training be conducted on-site, which is understandable. It can provide an evaluation of product performance under real-world shop conditions, while keeping technicians on the job earning their paycheck. However, there’s a better case for taking advantage of off-site training whenever possible. Simply put, you can expect a much higher level of retention when training is conducted at a professional training facility. Training “on the fly”, on-site, can be disruptive, and often does not command the full attention of the technicians placed in a multi-tasking situation. On the other hand, taking technicians out of their normal work environment and placing them in a professional learning setting enables them to give their full, undivided attention to the subject matter at hand while learning from experienced, specialized trainers. The setting is correct. The curriculum is correct. Plus there's plenty of opportunity for questions as well as networking with other technicians for an exchange of ideas and tips. Off-site training is especially essential whenever a collision center is transitioning to a completely new refinishing system. At PPG, we know this to be true based on our customer surveys. Product satisfaction levels consistently rated higher in those shops that sent their technicians to a PPG training center for hands-on instruction compared to those opting for on-site training only. Elevate Color-Matching Prowess All major refinish manufacturers offer a variety of specialized courses that enable painters to up their game. Taking advantage of one course subject in particular can immediately make a significant difference in paint operation productivity—and that’s the advanced instruction available for color-matching OEM finishes. Getting a color match right the first time is important for paint booth productivity, so it makes sense to ensure your painters have the latest knowledge and skills for matching difficult colors. The in-depth color courses offered by paint manufacturers drill down using classroom teaching and hands-on exercises. PPG’s color adjustment courses, for example, cover such important areas as plotting, flop adjustment, tint charts, and blending techniques for single-stage, basecoat, and tri-coat finishes. Expand your Customer Base In the competitive industry of collision repair, it’s vital that owners and managers continue to look for ways to expand their source of work. One area to explore for new business is the refinishing of commercial vehicles, such as Class 8 trucks and trailers. There’s a wealth of beginner and advanced commercial refinishing training available from paint manufacturers to assist shops wanting entry into this potentially lucrative business. Standing Still is Moving Backward In today's demanding business climate, where constantly improving customer satisfaction and improved cycle times are necessary to gain work, it’s sufficient to say that staying on top of your shop’s refinish training needs is essential to ensuring quality work and maintaining a competitive advantage. Randy Cremeans has worked in the automotive paint industry in a number of areas. In his latest role, he oversees key training initiatives for PPG distributors and body shops. This story was first published in ABRN.

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