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Did Advanced Paint Drying Really Catch On?

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Leading-edge collision repairers a half decade ago were brimming with excitement about advanced paint-drying equipment.

Able to reduce time-consuming procedures to matters of minutes and even seconds, technologies like gas catalytic drying and electric infrared drying were expected to drastically reduce body shops' cycle times and boost profitability. The technology should have taken the collision repair industry by storm.

It didn’t play out like that.

According to collision repair industry survey information last year compiled by ADAPT’s sister publication, FenderBender, only 54 percent of responding shops said they had invested in such equipment.

Still, one would expect those shops, just more than half, to report having shorter cycle times than the other half, right?

Perhaps counterintuitively, shops without advanced paint-drying equipment reported slightly faster cycle times overall than the shops that have it. 

When it came down to the most represented average cycle time, five to seven days, 39 percent of shops without the equipment reported it as their average, while 31 percent of shops with the equipment reported it as their average.

For longer cycle times, eight days or more, that was the reported average of 27 percent of the shops without advanced paint-drying equipment; 40 percent of equipped shops reported the longer cycle time. The shortest average cycle time, two to four days, was reported by 20 percent of shops without the tech, and 20 without it.

Though the survey lacked questions that could offer a clear reason why shops with advanced paint-drying equipment reported longer cycle times, it could come down to paint drying being just one part of the collision repair process—speeding it up just shifts production bottlenecks elsewhere. 

Patrick O’Neill, managing partner at San Diego’s Bodyshop Express and formerly involved with Bodyshop Revolution, a robotic drying system supplier, says as much.   

O’Neill says many shop owners and technicians aren’t ready for the change of pace the technology can bring. Shops would need to drastically change their operations for the drying technology to be impactful, and as many in the collision repair industry know, he says, change can be difficult.

A factor that could create an opening for advanced paint-drying equipment, though, is the proliferation of computing power in new vehicles. Advanced paint-drying equipment’s targeted drying could soon become a necessity, whether or not it speeds up cycle times, since it’s bad business to fry components.

“There’s some vehicles right now that you can’t put in the paint booth and get above 130 degrees,” says O’Neill.

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