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MTM - Man, Tools & Materials

Your Finishers

Every finishing operation require 3 basic system components: Man, Tools and Materials (MTM) so we will look at these three elements and evaluate their impact on the finishing process.

Man is the foremost element in the finishing system. The physical act of finishing wood is almost more of an art than a science. It relies heavily on the physical skills of hand-eye coordination, color recognition and physical agility. These attributes are very expensive to replace with any kind of mechanical or digital technology and only high volume production can normally justify those costs.

When assessing the man part of the MTM system you will need to look at:

  • Physical skill level

  • Technical skill level

  • Organizational skill level

Physical skill level describes the workers ability to properly move and control his tool over his target. Look for things like poor gun techniques such as arcing, improper gun triggering or application speed. You would also look at their approach to spraying casework or other 3 dimensional objects. Sanding techniques are also critical to the finishing system.

Technical skill level covers a much broader area. Depending on the size of your finish department there may be people with different levels of technical skills assigned to different jobs. For instance, someone who sands casework all day probably wonít know the reduction schedules of the various finishes, but the person assigned to spraying them should. The person in charge of the finish department should know it all.

Organizational skill level is easy to evaluate. One of the best indicators is to simply look at the work area. The most effective finishers have clean uncluttered work areas because they know how important these attributes are to the overall finishing process. This is not to say that a sloppy finisher canít produce a great finish, but my guess is that,  in the long run, it is costing you money. Sloppy is inefficient, it ruins equipment and is potentially dangerous.

A good finisher knows the value of developing a flow of work through the booth. They employ feed forward techniques when it comes to their work. They look forward a step or two to help determine what they are going to do right now. This technique creates an efficient work flow through the finish room. Getting the pieces in the booth and spraying them is only part of the process. You still have to figure out  the best way to group them, move them and then figure out what you are going to do with them while they are still wet. A good work flow will accommodate dry times and reduce the risk of damaging or even getting overspray on completed pieces. You will never see a good finisher sitting around waiting for paint to dry. A good finisher understands how to make their job easier and faster. They can be a great resource for input on how to improve the system, all you have to do is ask.

The person judging the finisher must know how to finish.


By Ron Bryze at