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So is sandpaper important? How much of your material budget do you spend on Abrasives? Do you know? We’ll get to the answer in a minute.

So why does our industry consume dizzying array of abrasives? What are the pros and cons of each type and how can your shop minimize cost without sacrificing quality?

Ok so the sandpaper gods have created every grit and attachment mechanism under the sun…its all around body shops every day. Sandpaper has a cost and a price. The price is what you pay and the cost is the net result of the effect the product has on your shops performance.

Sandpaper has been around since the ancients used shark skin or crushed shells bonded to papyrus with tree gum. The technology has made huge advancements, but the same limits still apply to all the products. The heat from friction is one of the main enemies of abrasive life. Heat is generated by clogged paper and excessive DA speed. Slow down a bit and wipe/smack your paper frequently to make it last longer. Pay attention to the “throw” of your DA orbit also. DA’s are available in orbits from 3/32″ to 1/2″ or more. The tool matters. I prefer a 5/16″ even on detail grits. Keep it cool, keep it clean.

Which one is right for your shop depends on the system you set up to use your abrasives.

Typically the average shops body technician is going to have his own open box of 80, 180, 240 or 320 grit da paper, duplicated grits of file paper and 24,36,50 grit Roloc and 5 inch grinding disk. Contrast that with the average paint shop that keeps DA AND/or flat paper grits of 240,320,400,600,800,1000,1200,1500, 3000 and now even 5000 grit finishing abrasives.

Can you see now why the average shop spends 9-10% of its material budget on abrasives? Following are a few steps you can take to choose a system and maximize your dollar for abrasives.

1. Streamline Inventory. Everyone likes different stuff, but all the techs in your shop can agree on a limited list of part numbers if you try. Example which roloc will you use?

Shops really don’t need 24,36,50 and now even 80# Roloc. You will find that finer grits like 50 and 80 cut faster than the 24 and 36 and leave far less collateral damage. Test this for yourself…i didn’t believe it either until my rep showed me.

Anything over 3 DA prep grits for paint is a luxury. If your painters need anything coarser than 320 then they are body men! Most shops have been able to get the range down to like 320, 600 and 800.

Take an inventory of the products in your shop. Once you make your list, get rid of everything else. Most of the customers Ive worked with say, “we will just use those others up”. It never happens. 3 months later when that odd grit is gone, your salesman will unknowingly reorder you more because he doesn’t know any better!

2. Build process carts – I have a client with 6 body techs who to date only has 1 Gallon of Bondo, 1 bottle of glaze, and 1 box of each grit of Body abrasive open. The cart is visually organized and stays centrally located to all the techs and rolls everything needed to fix dents right to the car. Why not put a dust free system on your cart? How much money does sanding dust cost? Ask your clean up guy, He catches all the evils created during the repair process. He is the unsung hero of your organization!

3. Pick a system. If you have a cart or another set up where techs can keep partially used abrasives then it makes sense to use velcro. Typically velcro will cost 20% more. Just like any other premium product, If its used correctly it is more than cost effective, it’s a no brainer.

Proper abrasive selection is very important to your material bill and executing consistent, quality repairs.

10 percent of the money you spend is on abrasives. It’s 4th on the list in cost priority yet many shops overlook its importance or default to the cheapest box they can buy. Consider all the cost and the end goal and you’ll find that abrasives are a cornerstone to your material profit goals.


The Color of Money.

Posted: January 29, 2015 in Uncategorized


I remember the day in 1999 when I first saw a color shift paint job. Everyone went crazy over it. I believe then it was $32 an ounce to buy…crazy right? Todays custom finishes have evolved further and more and more these colors are finding their way into OEM formulations.

Color is the number one highest material cost that body shops encounter and yet we focus on everything but that! I need a cheaper clear, cheaper tape, cheaper razor blades or cheaper sandpaper. Color is 30-35% of what you buy. Control color cost and you are well on the way to solid profitability on materials.

Specialty pigments are popping up everywhere and if you don’t charge for them you will loose a lot of money. Most of the paint companies have quick reference guides available that will help identify these colors containing specialty pigments. Pay close attention and you will see what we are talking about here.

Why do we pick colors in the paint shop? Why not do it when we write the estimate? Ive seen jobs that $30 an hour wouldn’t even cover the cost for the color, much less the rest of the paint and materials…Create a simple repair order invoice and the problem is solved.

Forget specialty colors for a minute…why do we edge parts with the “Prime/Standard” mix? Why not pick the variant and mix the right color to begin with? Chances are we throw away enough product to paint the whole part because we got in a hurry to edge a part for a body man to hang. Why is it so hard to mix paint once for a job? Waste paint is ok because it will get used eventually right? WRONG. It will sit in huge fire cabinets forever and just wait to be dumped out.

What’s wrong with dumping waste paint into similar color gallon cans and using it “base up” with? If you use every drop of color you mix, you will be well on your way to controlling your expenses.


Buffing Cart

Why is it so hard to keep things straight in our shops?

How much time do you waste looking for all the things you need to get cars done?

The example pictured above is a Buffing Cart.  It’s an example of a “point of use cart” that has been very effective in saving time and wasted materials. I’ve worked with a lot of customers to develop custom solutions for visual organization. Any time you work in a group of people with overlapping tasks, staying organized is a challenge. The true test of an organizational system is how long it stays that way!

Anyone can clean up a work area and increase the appearance of orderliness, but it takes thought to build a system that produces consistent results. Experience has led me to a few simple rules that will hopefully help you in your business.

1. Keep it simple.

What are you trying to accomplish? What are the steps to make that happen? What products will be involved? You need to know every product that could be involved, don’t leave anything out. List out the tools, consumables, personal protective equipment, etc. (Take note of all the duplicated products that each person in your business keeps. How many gallons of body filler do you have open at one time? Compound? Glaze? Rolls of Tape?)

2. Make it easy.

If you are trying to influence people to a shared vision, start by making the solution benefit each of them. After all, they will be the one to use the solution day in day out. If you involve the people in the creation of the solution, they will contribute and accept the final process as their own.

3. Optimize. Focus on the cost not the price.

Every process creates waste that effects another process. Example, if you are building a plastic filler cart, put a vacuum sanding system on it. Expensive? Yes, but cheap compared to the labor involved in cleaning bond dust out of a car or creating a dissatisfied customer. The buffing cart above has a plug in power supply for the cart that energizes a surge strip that feeds an electric DA, Flood Light, variable speed buffer and a radio. (DA never gets used for dirty prep work this way)

4. Make it Visual and Vertical.

Every product needs to be organized visually on the cart. Don’t leave any question as to the precise location of each product. If you have 3 boxes of sandpaper, cut square holes where they go and put a picture of the box in the bottom of the hole! Oversimplified? Yes. Effective? Absolutely. You will notice in the picture, we streamlined the products to 2 compound bottles, a trigger bottle of 50/50 alcohol and water (cool trick for final cleanup to make sure you didn’t just fill swirl marks instead of eliminating them), a trigger bottle of plain water, glass cleaner, and trim black. Notice that these round cutouts are on a flat surface? Every other surface is vertical with good reason. Its hard to pile trash on sloped surfaces. Notice the cutout for the dedicated detail DA? Its round like the pad so it says to everyone “the DA goes here”. The plastic box holds 4 microfiber towels, one for each step of cleanliness. Have you ever had a tech final wipe a car with a rag that had compound on it? What about buffing pads? They need to be ultra clean. Put them in a dedicated plastic box, again with a picture of the pad on the box. (How many times have you walked through your shop and seen a buffer laid on its back with a pad facing a sky full of flying dirt,metal and other nasty scratchy particles?)  Organize everything on the cart this way, use magnets, velcro strips, zip ties whatever it takes to make it easy and visual. If you want the cart to roll around the shop, rip those little 3″ plastic wheels off and put some 10″ 4X4 cushion tires on it.  Many shop owners I’ve worked with try to solve problems by adding rules that no one will follow after the boss gets tired of enforcing them! Don’t expect your people to use a solution that makes their job harder! Just make it easy and they will love it.

5. Don’t expect to just buy your solution on the internet. 

There is not a company out there that can offer your shop the perfect organization solution. Buy something that is 75% there and make the rest work for you. Home Improvement and Craft stores have lots of solutions, just keep your eyes open when your out. We found the DA pad boxes at Hobby Lobby! The Container Store is also a great place to find storage solutions.

primer cartPrimer Cart2Priming Cart

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Green Car

If you want to get paid, get organized!

Increased OEM competition has driven the complexity of our car color palette to a whole new level. New technology has our painters spraying more and more highly specialized colors that contain pigments can be crazy expensive. You may not realize this, but 30% of the materials you buy are toners. Color is one of the main components that makes or breaks a shops material profitability.

Today we are going to briefly explore a few points that will immediately change the game for your shop.

The Average Process:

So here is a scenario I’ve seen many times. A car comes in the shop. We rip it apart, order some parts and work on it typically 1.5 hours a day for 10 or 12 days. (another subject entirely) When parts come in and we send them to paint. Now the paint shop just wants to get the parts back to the bodyshop asap so they hunt up and mix a paint code. (Hopefully its on the part or we are going to waste 30 minutes hunting for the car and the code!) We then mix the main formula and “cut in” the part. Have you ever thought about this process? “Cut in” is the process where the painter edges the parts with sealer, color and clear so it can be hung on the car. The leftover catalyzed sealer and clear ends up in the waste drum and most likely the left over base coat goes into a big cabinet I like to call the “Color Graveyard”.

Lets evaluate the waste here.

1. No paint code supplied. How much time does that cost?

2. We guessed at the color variant to mix (this is good for later when we are tying up a booth matching the paint)

3. We had enough material left in the gun to seal, base and probably clear the entire part but because the body men don’t like to install painted sheet metal we only did the edge or underside.

4. This process guaranteed a second booth cycle. Have you ever calculated what a booth cycle cost your shop in time and money? In a month where you are not using a lot of building heat, take your gas bill and divide it by the number of cars you paint in a month. I’ve seen $30 a car or more and it gets worse if you don’t change booth filters often enough. (a topic for another day)


Take control of the job in the beginning. 

As a part of your disassembly process:

1. Identify the exact color that you need. Put the color chips in your tear down bay if you have to, but get the color picked early. Add a visual communication cue to the paint shop that a color needs to be picked in the body shop. It can be as simple as a colored bulb in the mixing room 3 way switched from the body shop. Whatever you can do to stop walking, make it happen. There is nothing wrong with preparing a spray out card at this point, changing the order of operations can save a lot of headache later.

2. Document the paint code visually wherever you decide, but put it in the same place every time. Many shops use the windshield.

3. Check with your paint manufacturer for their list of codes that contain specialty pigments. Cross reference your code with that list to determine if you need to add a supplement for materials. Use your paint computer to track your material cost on those jobs, print an invoice and you will get paid. Just a suggestion, don’t beat up your insurance guy for nickels. It only makes it tougher to get paid when it’s time to collect legitimate dollars. I got involved with a job that required a $1500.00 material supplement on a a Porsche. The car had color shift pigment in it and the shop owner told me that the major insurance company would never pay it. I called the adjuster myself and explained the situation. A phone call plus an invoice from PPG’s Paint Manager saved this job from being just painting practice. The shop didn’t lose money, in fact the supplement included a legitimate markup for materials.

In the Paint Shop:

1. Try to mix only what you need to do the job

2. Paint entire parts off the car. If they match and they don’t get damaged during assembly you just saved a booth cycle. If it gets damaged or doesn’t match perfect its ok, because its easier to spot or blend adjacent panels than to seal, base and clear entire panels.  Remember each coat of product applied in the booth takes on average 5 minutes. Painting parts up front complete eliminates a lot of booth time even if the car has to go in for a second cycle. Ideally the blend panels go in the booth at the same time as the part and the car never goes in the booth at all. This is a stretch for shops that are still paying techs to produce hours instead of cars, so I don’t talk about it a lot. Either way the goal is to improve booth utilization.

3. Control your inventory. Create a visual system that keeps mixed color only as long as its needed. (I’ve seen some shops come up with some cool ideas on this, we can talk about offline anytime.)

3. When you are sure the paint is not needed anymore, don’t dump it out! If you are not using catalyzed color, combine left over base coat into 6 or 7 gallon containers with with agitator lids installed. This way you can use your Whites, Blacks, Reds, Silvers, etc. as base colors for other jobs. The result, you won’t have to mix as much of the right color for the next job. Try not to ever waste color, its too expensive.

I hope this information was helpful. Please feel free to Comment, Share or Follow out little blog. We can all learn a lot from each other.


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If someone were to tell you that you they had documented damage under your home that you needed to pay to have repaired, you would want to see the evidence, right? The proof of the damage in a photo would have match with the money you would pay to fix the problem. So if your repair person came to you with dark inconclusive images of the damage they discovered, how likely are you to pay them to do the work?

Exactly. Yet every day body shops are sending up inconclusive evidence of subjective damage and complaining about the time that is paid on repairs. Now before some of you get upset, I'm not here to side with our insurance community or collision centers. In my time, I've come to realize that both parties have process issues. Agreement on labor time for subjective damage begins with clear, accurate pictures.
I invented "The Dent Viewer" to aide both the body shop and insurance company in agreeing on at least "the extent" of the damage.

The Dent Viewer is a waterproof pvc board with a printed reflective film that grabs the flash and casts light and a grid across the panel. The results are impressive.

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We are working hard to bring solutions to the Collision Industry. Also check out The Tape Thing

Please keep sending your comments and suggestions for new solutions or products!

Thanks tB


Why do we make things so hard? I’ve been fortunate to have observed technicians working all over North America for years, as a whole they are hardworking people who are driven to make ends meet. Generally paid when work is produced, they churn through as much work as possible daily for a paycheck on Friday.

What is getting in their way? …EVERYTHING!
Have you ever calculated what a minute of a technicians time is worth to your shop in gross sales? Do the math and you’ll see how much disorganization is costing your business. (Could be $2 a minute or more)

People (especially men) are visual, so organize that way. Where is the broom and dustpan? If the techs have to look for it, are they going to use it? “NOT!” The best solutions are the simplest. Put the tools at their “point of use” and store them in a way that makes it easy to visually verify that they are stored properly. We invented the cleaning station above to solve this very problem. The combination of numbers and shapes along with some thought on tool storage solved this problem nicely. The only true success test is if people actually use and maintain the solution presented to them. The 1 square contains the 1 trash can, the 1 detail broom, the 1 push broom, the 1 oil dry bucket, the 1 sweeping compound and the 1 dust pan. Yes this is over simplified, but very effective.

When one fixes a problem permanently the payback is ongoing. If the tech has easy access to the cleaning tools he is 100 times more likely to use them. A clean shop is the first step toward an organized shop. The easier you make to process the more likely you are to reach your goals.


For this and other solutions, contact us on the web at Collision Edge

Lets face it…production painting is hard work. Why make it harder?

My name is Tim Briggs. I have been standing and watching paint shops across North America run for years. During that time I’ve come to realize that getting cars done is all about the order and number of operations we perform. Cars don’t care how many times we touch them or how much time it takes to get them done.
Take the priming process for example. Lets assume we are priming a quarter panel with plastic filler just out of the body shop. How many times will we prep that car? You may have said “1”. I hope that is the case. Here is the reality. Many times we fail to plan the whole process because we are focused on the part of the job at hand. So here is how it goes…1. We check the filler for pinholes (a whole separate topic in itself). 2. We feather back the scratches around the filler. (Hopefully minor if the plastic process is right.) 3. We sand back to where we estimate the primer will end. 4. We soft line mask the primer area. 5. We clean and prime the car. 6. After dry time we unmask the car, block the primer, decide if we need to re prime (production killer) 7. We sand or scuff the rest of the quarter, sail, roof, etc. 8. We mask the car. 9. We catch any prep issues in the booth 10. We paint.

Sound pretty typical? Ok so here is the point. In this example alone, we turned one process into 3. Why do we sand for primer, sand for prep and sand to touch up in the booth. Its the same operation but it starts and stops 3 TIMES!

New process, 1. Check the filler. 2. Prep the entire job booth ready pay attention to detail. 3. Refine your scratches around the filler. 3. Do minimal masking, use short plastic instead of building tents out of 36″ green. Be smart with the way you prime, HVLP or even roll prime if the repair is small. 4. When the job is cured, block the primer and wrap up the car. 5. Paint.

Problems this solves.
1. If you have to go larger than you thought with the primer, there is no tear back from unprepared surface.
2. The sanding operation is done 1 time. (Hopefully from a prep cart so materials are handy and not wasted by throwing stuff on the floor between steps) less sandpaper used is important since 8-10% of a shops purchases are abrasives.
3. The bulk of the prep work is completed before the cure time wait. This gets the car in the booth faster once its dry.
4. Sanding the bulk of the job early reduces the sanding dust later in the process for cleaner paint jobs.
5. The biggest win…higher booth utilization. More cars, same effort, different order of (streamlined) operations.

Please feel free to comment and share as we all learn together.

Keep it simple

Posted: December 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

The time I’ve spent with customers has taught me that you can’t buy a “management system”. I mean, there are lots of computer programs that claim to be “that” but it doesn’t make it so! If you own or are looking to buy a management system consider this… you have to have a system to manage before you buy a computer program to wrap around it. Most management systems are like the human brain. You only use 10% of them and if you feed garbage in, that is what comes out!

If you cant work your process on paper, please don’t confuse your people with the dark corners of cyberspace. Consider this, every thing in your shop is a process. If you want to understand it, order pizza…get your people in a room (after hours!)…grab multi color sticky notes and a sharpie…make your own map. Each color is a different person in your shop. Start at the beginning…What happens first, then what, then what and so on. If you do this right, your first night you won’t even get out of the front office side of the process.  You will realize quickly that you have multiple people doing the same job and some that are actually doing things that are counterproductive to one another.

Once you have defined your process, make a form that follows jobs through your process. You will find that the process is easier than ever before and that you will continue to improve it as you go along. Just keep it simple!

If you are looking for some examples of these forms contact me at . We will be happy to assist you!


Why I started Collision Edge?

Posted: December 12, 2014 in Uncategorized


My name is Tim Briggs. My wife and I founded Collision Edge to seek out and solve problems for customers. This blog is an attempt to continue my work in a public way. Please feel to comment and share all you want; all Ill take from this is the satisfaction of knowing I’ve helped make life easier for a few more collision professionals.

We named our company Collision Edge because the body shop is not as easy a place to make money any more. The profits have all been pushed to the “edge” of our existence where fewer and fewer shops can perform “the old way”.

I’ve sat through thousands of hours of the same old training to help shops improve their business. Its like a weight loss program. Most of us know what we should be doing, very few of us are actually capable of leading the change in our local businesses. If you will follow me, we will try to uncover and solve problems together.