There is a growing trend within the commercial vehicle repair industry to offer a body repair and refinishing service in order to stay competitive. To provide readers with a little more insight into the sector, CVW took a trip to PPG Refinish UK’s training and manufacturing facilities.
On the banks of the River Gipping, just outside the small town of Stowmarket, lies the UK headquarters for PPG Refinish. Part of the PPG Global group, the UK branch sells, markets and delivers coatings for automotive refinish, commercial transport and light industrial markets. Customer segments include collision repair, refurbishment, light industrial, and, most importantly of course, commercial transport operators, repairers and bodyshops.
Leading refinish brands relevant to the commercial sector include PPG and Nexa Autocolor, while the company also owns Pinetree and Brown Brothers distribution networks, in an effort to provide a full service offering to its customers.
Education, education, education
On first impression, it was difficult not to be overawed by the size of the Stowmarket operation. The marketing, customer service and training centre teams are all based here, as well as half the manufacturing operations for Europe, which is split with a factory in Milan.
The training centre is a key part of PPG’s commitment to its customers. Naomi Collett, Marketing Communications Manager, explained, “We work hard to ensure the people who use and buy our products fully understand how best to apply them. We offer dedicated workshops and training that can be tailored to the needs of your business, so that you can reduce the cost per job, to maximise efficiency by building your employees’ confidence and skills levels.”
While focused bodyshops make up much of the business’ customer base, the company is happy to provide all the training necessary to help CV workshops add to their business offering. “We’ve seen an increasing number of workshops looking to provide body repair and refinish services in addition to their repair operations, and here at PPG, we can provide a variety of technical training courses to cover everything from the basics, to the more advanced,” added Naomi.
It quickly becomes clear how hands-on the training can be. As we walked through the facilities, which encompass three, fully equipped spray booths, a modern workshop, and mixing room and classrooms, a session was in full flow. Generally speaking, the training participants are split into smaller groups to ensure that each person receives plenty of help and attention. PPG believes this is a key factor in its quality training offerings, as applying any body repair, refinish or paint products often requires a careful technique.
Additional support for workshops also involves PPG’s colour solutions programme, whereby the company can provide a colour matching service to accurately identify the closest matched colour needed for the given job.
Naomi continued, “Without seeing it first hand, it is sometimes difficult to understand the subtle differences in colours. Two trucks finished in red, will at first glance, both look the same. Yet, if examined under a different light, or seen at different times of the day, these subtle differences can become far more distinct. Unless the composition of the paint is matched properly, workshops could end up with a vastly different colour to initially requested, upsetting their customer. It is errors such as these that we can help prevent.”
The research facility at Stowmarket works to ensure the company can provide solutions to all the latest trends. In addition, its technicians help to support workshops when they’re unable to identify the exact colour needed. Put under the microscope, the team turns colour-matching into a science, and analyses the composition that makes up each unique colour.
For those who already provide a body repair and refinish service, workshops can also invest in their own colour-matching facilities from PPG. The RapidMatch Go unit, for instance, combines a five-angle spectrophotometer with a scientifically developed algorithm, customised for the automotive coating industry, while there is also a variety of tools and online services to quickly retrieve the target formula.
The company’s recent launch of its Turbo Vision range under its Nexa Autocolor brand is set to keep the PPG team busy for much of 2019. Research from the team suggests that the newly developed formula offers shorter baking times and less re-work for technicians, resulting in a 10-15% material saving and 25% bake time reduction.
“Turbo Vision is the next generation of topcoat for commercial transport applications, which has been designed to reach improved levels of performance, process optimisation and colour excellence,” concluded Naomi. “We will continue to push this new, premium range throughout 2019, and feedback from early users has been exceptional.”