Serving Since 1958

IN MANY COLLISION CENTERS THE PAINT SHOP, SPECIFICALLY THE PAINT BOOTH, IS THE CONSTRAINT OR “BOTTLNECK” OF THE SYSTEM. Since nearly every repair job has to flow through this resource, it can easily become backed up with excess inventory (jobs waiting in line to get painted).

Eli Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints teaches us that the system’s constraint is what dictates our overall throughput. In other words, the amount of money a shop can make is dependent upon how many repair orders run through your paint booth.

What amazes me is the amount of effort people put into making the other departments more efficient, when the added efficiency they create makes no contribution to allowing additional work to flow through the paint booth. This is the fundamental difference between “Lean Thinking” and Theory of Constraints.

Think of it like this:  If your paint booth is a constraint in a shop operating at $150,000 a month with one paint booth, the booth would be allowing $893 dollars an hour to flow through it during an 8 hour workday ($150,000 divided by 21 working days, divided by 8 hours equals $893).

So if your booth is broken, or a painter is taking a late lunch, or you’re re-spraying due to poor workmanship, it is costing your shop $893 an hour! How does $15 a minute sound? When you think of it in these terms, it really opens your eyes, doesn’t it? It makes you a little more protective of that resource!

What Theory of Constraints suggests is to Exploit, Subordinate, and Elevate the constraint in order to increase your throughput and profitability. Here’s a few examples on how to do it:
EXPLOITUse the paint booth as efficiently as possible.

  • Try to always keep a car ready to roll in the booth so it never sits empty.
  • Have a car prepped and ready to paint first thing in the morning.
  • Hours of operation.  Can you extend the hours the booth operates?
  • Regular booth maintenance to eliminate mechanical failures (done after hours if possible.)
  • Regular booth cleaning and filters replaced (done after hours if possible.)
SUBORDINATEEverybody in the shop knows the booth is to be catered to!
  • Never send flawed work to the paint shop.
  • Make sure the painter has the needed parts and paperwork so time isn’t wasted searching.
  • Make considerations that will keep the painter in the booth spraying such as –tinting outside the booth, mixing, masking, and ordering product.
  • Always have body men aware when they must have their work shipped to the paint department.

ELEVATE Make the department or resource bigger

  • Robotic drying equipment or other equipment to dry paint faster.  In some cases it may be preferable to add another booth or prep station.

Scheduling to the Constraint
The best way to exploit the opportunities in your paint booth is through your scheduling habits. Far too many collision repair shops continue to bring a majority of their repair jobs in on Monday, even though they know it is wrong! Most smooth running shops will paint close to the same number of vehicles every day. For our sample shop with sales of $150,000, that is equates to around 3-4 cars needing to be produced a day, which is a very achievable task for most shops with a single booth.

Due to poor scheduling habits many paint departments continue to do almost no cars on Monday, start prepping a couple on Tuesday, get completely overwhelmed on Wednesday afternoon, and on Thursday get ready for the big “Friday Push!” It’s no wonder so many painters think they need another paint booth and a faster paint system, when all they really need is for management to fix their scheduling habits.

This article uses the example of the paint booth as the constraint resource because it is very common in our industry. However, this is not always the case. In many collision centers, the office and blueprinting operations are commonly the bottleneck. So wherever your bottleneck is, you can still use the same thinking to make sure you optimize your collision center for throughput and profitability.

This IMPACT Collision Solutions TIP was written by industry expert DAVID LUEHR
Contact David for help growing your collision repair business the right way!
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