Spending Less Can Cost More - BodyShop Business

Spending Less Can Cost More

Our jobber meant well, but when he said we could save $100 per gallon on a cheaper clear, we actually ended up losing $2 per gallon.

Representatives from our paint supplier (jobber) recently met with our shop’s owner to give him ideas as to how we could save money on materials and increase profit. They suggested to him that we start using a clear that we’d previously used but disliked, due to difficult buff ability and lack of speed. Their reason why we should use it anyway? Because it was $100 a gallon cheaper than the clear we were currently using.

Of course, our boss believed the reps and thought he could save $100 on every gallon of clear we bought. But because I just couldn’t believe the savings could be that extravagant, I decided to do some figuring.

While the discoveries I made didn’t require rocket science and are actually just common sense, they’re factors that can be overlooked, especially when we trust information given to us by a jobber sales rep – who may not be quite as knowledgeable with the big picture or may be trying to give us a quick, easy solution to a problem every shop has: material profit.
I honestly don’t think the rep realized that his numbers were nothing more than a sticker price, but nonetheless, he had my boss convinced. That got me wondering how many other shops out there were believing him without really checking the numbers?

While the clear itself may be $100 cheaper per raw gallon than the clear we were using, because of reduction ratios, his figures were wrong on the amount of money we’d save. To show you what I discovered (without giving the name of the product we use), I’ll refer to the clears as Clear A and Clear B.

I will say this, though: both clears are manufactured and sold under the same name. They even have the same logo on the cans. And yes, it’s one of the biggest names in paint. The clears just have different part numbers.

First off, I have to tell you that the price of clears, activators and reducers as they roll in the door are irrelevant to my calculations. I use a smart scale to mix everything. And one advantage to using this system is it can tell me the list price of everything I mix as a ready to spray price.

The difference of $210.29 and $145.97 for ready-to-spray gallon is actually $64.32, not $100 as quoted to us by the rep. Now keep in mind, most shops get a discount that can be anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. So if you calculate in a 15 percent discount because the price on the smart scale is a list price, the difference is only $54.86.

So we’re already pretty far off that $100 per gallon savings, and we still have other calculations to take into account.

Clear A gets 619.1 square foot of coverage to Clear B’s 604.0 square foot – a difference of 15.1 square feet. It’s not a lot, but 15.1 square feet might be two coats of clear on a door and a quarter panel. In addition, the square foot cost for Clear B is slightly less efficient.

You also have to take into consideration that each shop is different, that we all have different standards, different equipment and different circumstances. In the shop I work at, for instance, I don’t have a bake booth. I have two old crossdraft spraybooths. Although they work quite well, there are times a bake cycle would come in handy. But you use what you have, right?

This is why we have to understand what might work for one shop might not work for another – and why we need to scrutinize what’s told to us by a young, inexperienced rep to make sure it’ll work for us in our particular shop.

Another thing to consider is that a fast clear might only be efficient if you have another car to roll into the booth. (If you do have another car to roll in, the quicker clear can be the difference of four to eight jobs per day.)

We also need to consider what we expect of the clear after the job rolls out of the booth. Where I work, we concentrate on the highest level of quality possible, so we cut and buff everything whether it needs it or not. Let’s face it, this takes time – time that’s not on
the estimate.

So let’s just say that we use 14 ounces to put two coats of clear on a hood. Clear A would cost us approximately $22.96, and Clear B would cost about $15.96, leaving a savings of $7. That’s not too shabby. But again, these are off-the-shelf prices; with a shop discount of 15 percent, we only saved $5.95.

So the job is done and we’ve saved $5.95, right? Not exactly. Now we drive the car out of the booth and begin the process of cutting and buffing. As I mentioned earlier, Clear A buffs very easily and Clear B is much harder to buff. Unfortunately, we don’t get paid to cut and buff, so if we have to spend more time cutting and buffing Clear B, it costs techs time – and time is money.

What kind of time and money are we talking about? Our labor rate is $40 per hour, which means every tenth of an hour is $4. A tenth of an hour is six minutes. So if we have to spend 12 minutes more to cut and buff Clear B, the cost to the shop in lost production is $8, all to save $5.95. So the shop actually lost $2.05.

Another funny aspect to all this is that even though I didn’t believe the savings as it was quoted to us from our jobber, I had switched over to Clear B because my boss wanted me to. The understanding I have with my boss is that he pays me to do what he asks, not to agree with him. (If he wants me to agree with him, he’ll have to pay me more!)

So after about a month or so of using Clear B, he asked me why we ordered 50 percent more clear for the month than usual to book the same amount of paint hours. The reason was simple: Clear B requires no reducer. Clear A is reduced 30 percent. That in itself increased my clear consumption by 30 percent for the month, not to mention that I was still stocking our other two clears – my production clear for small rush jobs, and my overall clear or clear “A” for larger jobs – in addition to Clear A, so I was now stocking three clears instead of two. That made another increase in clear consumption even though it was only on paper. I guess the old saying still applies: “If something sounds too good to be true, it
probably is.”

By the way, we’re now back to using Clear A.

Writer Frank Hauf began his career in the auto body industry in a combo shop more than 20 years ago in the northern suburbs of Chicago. For the last eight years, he’s been living on the Alabama Gulf Coast and working as a painter.

Reductions For A Sprayable Gallon

Clear: Clear A 3:1:30%

2111.9 grams

Clear B (supposedly $100/gallon cheaper)
2680.8 grams
Activator: 741.5 grams 973.0 grams
Reducer: 742.2 grams
Theoretical coverage per ready-to-spray gallon: 619.1 sq. ft. 604.0 sq. ft.
At 1.8-2.2 mils in: 2 coats 2 coats
Time to handle (assemble): 4-6 hours Overnight
Actual list cost: $210.29 $145.97
Cost per sq. ft.: .33 cents .24 cents
Cost per sprayable ounce: $1.64 $1.14

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