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CAA to Recommend ‘Blend Within Panel’ to Database Providers

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According to its latest newsletter, the California Autobody Association (CAA) will be requesting that estimating software providers make “blend within panel” an automatic notation for repaired panels in future software releases.

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The CAA stated that a time study shows that basecoat application is only 19 percent of the entire basecoat operation in the collision repair industry. When a body panel is partially damaged (but still repairable), it’s common practice to refinish that damage by using a process called “blend within panel."

In explaining “blend within panel,” the CAA expressed to its membership that its purpose is to keep the basecoat (i.e., color coat) away from adjacent panels to avoid either unacceptable color match, or blending color into those adjacent panels at additional cost. An example it cited was a dent in the front of a door. After the door panel is repaired, feather-edged, primed, blocked and re-primed, it may be possible to use the “blend within panel” technique if the primed area is still at least 18 inches from the back of the door. This technique entails color-coating the primed area, blending the color into the remaining undamaged portion of the door and then clearcoating the entire door.

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The CAA said that some insurers see this aforementioned process as a “partial refinish," which they believe allows them to take a deduction from the estimating software’s allowed basecoat refinish labor, commonly referred to as "basecoat reduction." According to the CAA, this has been expressed to repairers by adjusters who say, “You’re only painting half the door, we’re only going to pay half the labor.”

The CAA believes the problem with this logic is that the basecoat refinish labor time includes many operations other than the basecoat application itself. It cited the following MOTOR data as an approximate breakdown of basecoat refinish labor time:

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1. Panel prep/clean/wash: 27 percent
2. Primer/sealer: 7 percent
3. Color coat application: 19 percent
4. Sanding operations combined: 47 percent
5. Clearcoat:
 
a. First major panel – Add 40 percent to refinish time
 
b. Each additional panel – Add 20 percent to refinish time
 
c. Maximum time allocation – 2.5 hours

Analyzing this breakdown, the CAA pointed out that basecoat application is only 19 percent of the total basecoat refinish labor allowed. All other operations listed must be performed whether or not the panel is partially or fully basecoated, as the entire panel will be subject to full clearcoat.

Using the aforementioned door panel example, the CAA stated that the database allows 2.5 hours for the entire basecoat refinish operation (items 1 to 4 above). When performing a “blend within panel” (or “partial refinish”) on this door, the only operation that may be subject to reduction is no. 3, the time allotted for applying (i.e. spraying) the basecoat. The calculation is: 19 percent of 2.5 hours is 0.48 hours, so the actual basecoat application time for the door example is less than 0.5 hours.

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The CAA claimed that some insurers regularly reduce the estimating software’s basecoat time by at least 0.5 hours and sometimes as high as 1.5 hours. The CAA believes that any reduction that’s greater than the actual time allowed is not only unreasonable but baseless.

The CAA also noted that the refinish time study doesn’t mention “blending,” a special technique used to apply basecoat so that it “blends” new color into old color that may include additional steps such as viscosity adjustment, the application of blending promoters and “finessing” the new paint into the old so the change is undetectable. Since these are not included operations when refinishing an entire panel, the CAA stated, additional labor may be required.

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In the example where only half the door is being basecoated, the CAA said that the greatest reduction that should ever be considered is 0.2 hours. Also, that adding back additional labor to compensate for the “blend within panel” operation may make the required labor actually higher than the original basecoat time.

The CAA emphasized that it’s important that written estimates allow customers to recognize this procedure. Also, other than those estimate line items designated as “blend," each refinish line in an estimate that may represent a partial basecoat must be noted as such. Suggested line explanations include “partial basecoat with full clearcoat” or “blend within panel."

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For more information on the CAA, visit www.calautobody.com.

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