easiest problems to spot are those that are part of the actual
finishing process. Application techniques, material and
equipment information are all available through a variety of
sources, many of whom are your suppliers so you should already
have a business relationship with these people. If they can not
provide you the technical help that you need then consider an
outside source. For some the thought of a stranger trying to
help “fix” the company that you built is often hard to accept.
Get over it. A new pair of eyes can view things from a
perspective that you simply can not. There is no emotional
connection. They don’t accept the fact that this the way that it
was always done. It could very well be one the best moves that
you have ever made.
to go out and watch the finishing process and see where
bottlenecks occur and why. Look for double movements or
unproductive processes. Since we stated earlier that material
handling can consume more time than actual finishing it is
important to have the necessary racks, carts and dollies to get
the parts through the finish room.
the work flow through the booth. You need to develop a batch
mentality. The size of a batch is dependant not only upon the
size of the spray area but also dry times. The size of the batch
is then limited by the number of drying racks, saw horses,
dollies and carts that will accommodate the volume of material
you are going to put through the booth for a given drying cycle.
From the finishers standpoint, the bigger the batch the more
efficient the system since it will eliminate some material
As management this might be the hardest
part of the equation to fix. This is the area that you have
direct control of.
You probably know the week points in your
contracts. Take the time to fix them.
If your estimates don’t equal reality,
adjust your estimates. It is much harder to adjust reality.
Realize that this process is like
breathing, when you stop you wither away and die.
Each person in a shop should be responsible
for their own quality control. They should view the next person
after them in the manufacturing chain as their “customer”. Give
their customer too many headaches and the customer might demand
So much in the application of quality
assurance is attitude. People have to understand that their
livelihood/job and the livelihood/jobs of the other people they
work with depend on their actions. When quality goes down
usually sales go down and expenses go up. It is hard for a
company to operate like that for any length of time. It is easy
to blame others for a company’s problem, but the reality of it
is that it is everyone’s responsibility. There has to be a team
mentality. There are few organizations where everyone operates
independently and where an individual’s action affects no one
else. Attitudes are also the hardest thing to change. It is
often easier to train a new person than change a bad attitude.
Preventing mistakes is cheaper than fixing
As I have
stated before, the entire finishing process should be considered
a team process, so when it comes to developing a solution the
input of the team should be considered since the solution will
impact the team.
step in fixing a problem is the discovery process. This is the
learning process. Through it we find out what the problems in
our finishing process are and then how to correct them.
step is implementation. To get people to reach this level is
much harder. As the saying goes, “You can lead a finisher to
water, but you can’t make him drink”. Arguably most changes are
designed to make things better. The bad part is that they
require…change. People are creatures of habit and don’t react
well to things that require us to go outside of our comfort
zone. Finish reformulations that might make them safer often
require a change in the application process. When this happens
you hear people complain. It seams unfathomable that we complain
about something that will make us live longer just because we
have to change the way we sand wood, but it happens and is a
huge hurdle to overcome.
inevitable and to be successful you must embrace change. When
going thru the training process it is important to explain not
only what the processes are, but why they are important to the
person doing them. Some one is more likely to accept change when
they understand that it will have some benefit to them. Saying
that the wood requires less sanding or fewer coats of a higher
solids finish should translate to the finisher as less work and
less wear and tear on their bodies. Stress the work smarter not
harder concept. Demonstrate techniques and encourage feedback.
Make people part of the process; listen and react to their
comments and concerns. Show people that success is a group
effort and often it only requires small changes to receive major
your first changes carefully. Start with the things that will
make the most impact. This will not only be good for your bottom
line but it will be good for morale. Along the way you might
discover that some things do not work as planned. Be willing to
accept that and then change them. Your willingness to listen to
people and accept and implement their recommendations shows them
that you value their opinion and that they are part of the
process. Empower your people, do not micromanage. Communication
is the key. Don’t loose sight of the team.
Your Finish - The Best Thing That You Can Do.
the finish on your product is the first thing your customer sees
and feels. It’s also the part of the project that protects the
rest of their investment. A good finish will make you stand out,
so don’t hesitate to point out the quality of your finish work.
Highlight the quality of the materials that you use. Mentioning
that your finishes meet, or exceed current environmental
standards infers that you care about your people, the planet and
even your customers. Being a guardian of our environment is good
samples that you made can come in handy now by showing the range
of custom colors and finishes that you can do. Samples that
incorporate special effects are real eye catchers, even if the
project that the customer is discussing with you won’t
incorporate any of these techniques. They do show that your
range of skills goes beyond the ordinary and makes you an
“expert” when it comes to finishes. It’s the red convertible
that gets people into the showroom, even if they are only there
to buy the white minivan.
yourself. Most of you are proud of your work, so why aren’t you
showing other people what you can do. Get pictures of your work
and use them. Professional well lit photos are great, however
even average pictures are way better than nothing. There are
several inexpensive photo editing and publishing software
packages that would allow you to make a simple brochure. You
could print off small quantities on your own printer or have it
done by commercially by someone like Kinko’s. The point is, just
do it and get it out there. Don’t wait for perfection. Improve
as you go.
website if you don’t already have one. It is a 24/7 on-line
portfolio. View the internet as a communication tool, not
as a sales device. You don’t
need all of the fancy graphics and animations, just good
content. Once again if you don’t have it done professionally,
there is inexpensive software that can help you design your site
and there are a number of inexpensive website building services.
The most important thing you can do is get a web presence and
then promote it. Put your web address on your business cards;
attach stickers to your products, be creative but get the word
customer can guarantee that you are going to have a job.