SCRS research concludes blend time is greater than full refinish
Blending a panel takes more than 30% more time than a full refinish of the same panel, on average, rather than the 50% less time allocated in the three estimating systems, a week-long research project organized by the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) has determined.
The results, reached in collaboration with the five primary North American coatings companies and presented Tuesday at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) quarterly meeting in Las Vegas, confirm what collision repair professionals have long contended: Blending a panel takes much more skill and time to achieve an invisible transition than the existing formulas reflect.
“The overall average when looking at all colors, all companies, all variations, was 31.59% greater than the full refinish value. That’s certainly different than 50% less than” the full refinish value, said Aaron Schulenburg, executive director of SCRS and chair of the CIC Parts & Materials Committee. “These results very clearly establish that performing the processes necessary to blend a panel does not take less labor than the processes to fully refinish a panel.”
The full Blend Study Report: A comparative analysis between full refinish and blend operations can be downloaded at www.scrs.com/blendstudy.
Blending is defined as the application of color to a portion of an undamaged adjacent panel for the purpose of facilitating the appearance of color match into the area, followed by an application of clearcoat to the entire blended panel.
The estimating databases produced by Audatex, Mitchell, and CCC (MOTOR) establish unique refinish values for collision parts. All three estimating products identify a formula for blending outer surfaces as 50%, or 0.5 per refinish hour, of the unique full refinish operation value they have developed on panels using two-stage paint.
Because the information providers [IPs] express the operation of blending as a percentage of the estimated refinish time assigned to a component, SCRS organized its research as a “comparative analysis between the two operations, rather than a refinish time study seeking to refute or validate the published refinish time established by each company,” the Society said in its white paper.
Schulenburg emphasized that the choices made in the research were data-driven. Body panels from the Ford F-150 were chosen because the F-150 is the most frequently appraised truck in 2021, according to CCC Intelligent Solutions. Similarly, the choice of three different finishes — a white solid, a silver metallic, and a white tri-coat — was based on the most popular colors for the F-150.
Ford Motor Co. agreed to donate new hoods, right fenders and right front door shells for the study. Those panels were chosen because, according to data from Mitchell, these are the most common blend panels. The largest refinish companies in North America — AkzoNobel Vehicle Refinishes, Axalta Coating Systems, BASF Automotive Refinish, PPG Industries, and Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes — supplied the paint materials, as well as the expert technicians who applied them.
The research was carried out in August at the Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) Center for Excellence in Osseo, Wisconsin, monitored and audited by DEKRA North America, the world’s largest unlisted expert organization in the TIC (testing, inspection, certification) industry.
At the conclusion of the test, the 45 parts donated by Ford, the 10 part stands donated by 3M and SCRS, and miscellaneous materials from the research project were all donated to the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC), in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Schulenburg said the organizers were “looking for credible data. So that is the synopsis of what we identified. We identified that from our test, with 45 different parts and five different companies and three different colors, replicating the processes expected by the paint companies, that the blending operation was 31.59% greater than full refinish.”
He remarked on the consistency of the results: Among the five participating companies, there was a difference of just six percentage points.
The separate results for the three colors ranged from 24.60% above full refinish for white platinum tri-coat, 29.61% for solid white, and 42.69% for silver metallic.
Nick Saltamanikas, collision operations manager with DEKRA, confirmed the accuracy of the results. “I can confirm all the data here today has been validated by us … throughout the whole process I was there, from the minute they started until the minute they finished, and everything is accurate,” Saltamanikas said.
Robb Power, the senior manager for auto refinish solutions for PPG, said the overall results were similar to those produced by research PPG had conducted earlier.
“Some of the elements of the study — the way that it was conducted, the fact that we all use the same exact panels, we all spray with our own brands, the same exact colors — those actually create a control. That helps us get more consistent results,” Power said. “What’s remarkable to me with all the different companies and some different processes, how close the deltas are between each of the companies … to me, that adds validity to what we see in those results.”
Gary Kilby, curriculum designer for Sherwin-Williams, said he suspected that blending would take more time, based on his 20 years as a painter in a shop. “But when I started listing our SOPs to prepare my panel, the light bulb went off,” he said. “I said, ‘This is going to be a lot more than full refinish.’”
Responding to an audience member’s question, Schulenburg said all three IPs were invited to send representatives to observe the research, and that none did so. Other interested parties, including insurers and OEMs, were not invited.
Kilby said Sherwin-Williams chose to participate in the study because “it’s very important for our customers to make sure they’re getting adequately compensated for what they do…. To actually get involved as a member, and actually doing some studies that yield real-time data, we’re extremely excited and we look forward to helping you anytime we can.”
SCRS Chairman Bruce Halcro said his shop, Capital Collision Center of Helena, Montana, does blends every day. “Unless we’re just doing a simple bumper, we’re blending, and so it’s a constant,” Halcro said. “I think we’re at a point where we need to look at this seriously and make some corrective adjustments.”
CIC members applauded the study, and wondered at what next steps could be taken.
“That was incredible, great piece of work, and it’s been something that’s been talked about as long as I can remember,” said 2021-2022 CIC Chairman Darrell Amberson. He praised the study’s “precision and independence.”
“The preparation, the presentation and cooperation by all of the paint manufacturers is something that we have looked for for the past 40 years at CIC,” said Chuck Sulkala, the retired former executive director of the National Auto Body Council (NABC). He called the session “the most outstanding presentation that I have seen at CIC.”
In response to an audience member’s question, Schulenburg said he does not consider the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG) to be the appropriate mechanism for addressing the issue. “This is not a vehicle-specific issue. This is a macro issue because it is a standardized formula across the board, which is why the association performed the study rather than the DEG performing the study,” he said.
Addressing next steps, “I won’t speak for CIC,” Schulenburg said. “I do believe that if the Parts & Materials Committee wish to continue the conversation, that would be an appropriate place to do so.
“I can tell you that from an association standpoint, from SCRS’s perspective, I think we are certainly interested in engaging in continued conversations about how we take this data and what we do with it on behalf of our members to help reevaluate what we’re doing in the field. That was the goal from the onset, to capture credible data, to have real conversation that helps motivate positive change in the industry.”