Jim's Auto Body Believes in USI Italia for All the Right Reasons
Jim's Auto Body, with three locations in Northern California's East Bay, has built a strong reputation since 1962 for embracing the finest tools, processes and equipment to repair more than 600 vehicles every month. By recently acquiring a USI Italia spray booth and integrating it into its production processes, Jim's has been saving time, money and energy while producing a high-quality finished product every time.
Using state-of-the-art equipment and consistently updating technical training for his staff, Jim's Auto Body is still thriving while hundreds of other Bay Area shops have come and gone. Its founder Jim Maltbie passed away several years ago and today, his wife Karen Cox runs the show, managing 99 employees and garnering top reviews for its exemplary work.
Operations Manager Darren Maltbie is looking at the bottom line with his USI booth and more than pleased with the results, he expalined. "Depending on the situation, we are now painting one or two more cars every day using the USI booth and the numbers are going up. The air movement with this booth is amazing and we can clearly see that it enables us to cut down on our cycle times. We can also speed up the process if we need to, like when we're jammed and trying to get out some cars, or bumpers or whatever we're painting. We never need to use blowers, because the system will provide more air when it's needed. Also, the curing time with the USI booth is around 45-65 minutes, depending on what we're painting, so we're saving a ton of time and energy right there. With our other booths, it takes roughly 80-90 minutes to get the job done, so the time savings is evident."
By running 24 paint cycles five days a week with a paint crew consisting of three refinish technicians and seven preppers; Jim's relies on its USI Italia booth more all the time. "Our Head Painter Osvaldo Perez has learned the ins and outs of working with the booth's EPS System that gives him the most efficient way of painting each vehicle in real-time and automatically controlling the airflow and everything else. The EPS allows us to do the job in the shortest time possible, so we are saving energy. It's like a microwave oven, you just set the parameters and then the painter can concentrate more on things like spraying and getting a precise color match."
After finding out about USI Italia and learning about their line of quality spray booths, Maltbie contacted the company and introduced them to their local rep. "Our local USI rep Rob Dolezal showed us what the booth can do and we were immediately impressed," he said. "We visited a shop in San Francisco that is using a USI booth and saw it in action. It's so advanced and well-built and has so many great features--I was pretty much sold right away."
USI Italia's Stefano Moretto played an integral role at Jim's Auto Body when it came to properly training Maltbie's crew, he said. "Stefano came here once and my painters were able to learn everything they needed. We know that with the USI Italia booth, we don't need to do anything manually anymore. Stefano clearly explained the different programs and it took some time to grasp them, but now our main painter Ozzie has really taken and run with it. Once our other painters start using it more and more, I'm confident that they will become comfortable with it and embrace the technology. They can do a better job using USI Italia's EPS System and save time by increasing productivity and efficiency."
Saving energy, cutting down on his cycle times and producing a quality product consistently, is a huge deal for a large, busy shop and that's why Maltbie is relying more on his USI Italia spray booth. "We paint a lot of sheet metal here, and with this system, we can bake the heck of it at 160 degrees and do it fast," he said. "Our other booths can't even come close to that."
Maintenance is also easy with his USI booth, Maltbie said. "We have our guys come in Saturday and wash down the booth and we are constantly monitoring the damper filters so that the air circulation is not being compromised. We change those every two weeks and the roof filters don't need to be replaced every 4-6 months, but that's it. Our USI booth doesn't need a lot of maintenance, which is huge for our paint department."
Darren Maltbie and the shop Owner's Karen Cox saw a great value in the USI Italia booth and are happy that they purchased it. "If we are going to stay ahead of the game in this business, we need to get the best products and equipment to do it, so investing in this equipment is a very smart move for us now and in the future."
F. Lofrano & Son Embraces USI Italia and Acquires Its Second Booth A third-generation business that opened back in 1974 has grown to five locations, with four in San Francisco and one in Marin County. F. Lofrano & Son was founded by Tony Lofrano after he learned the collision repair industry from his father Frank and today, Tony's sons Aaron and Josh manage locations for this family's multiple shop organization.
Area Manager Josh Lofrano started working for the business full-time right out of high school. By embracing the finest equipment, tools and processes, F. Lofrano & Son has been able to flourish in a very competitive city and establish a strong reputation for doing quality work.
Two years ago, Lofrano & Son bought a USI Italia after performing their due diligence and research first. "We heard about a new spray booth that was made in Italy and when we saw it in action, we were very impressed." Aaron said. "We spent one full day watching them paint four cars in the USI booth. We were pretty shocked when we saw the amount of airflow and impressed by all of its features. So we decided to order one and by the end of the year, we will have our second one in another one of our locations."
Currently, San Francisco's Mission District is the home of their Chronotech USI Italia spray booth. "It's in our overflow facility now, but later this year it will become a full-service shop," Lofrano said. "We're painting almost 500 vehicles every month, so we need a spray booth that won't break down for whatever reason."
When it comes to acquiring any new piece of equipment it has to fulfill three requirements, Josh said. "It has to improve our efficiency; make sense financially and fit into our production seamlessly before we even consider anything. We also value things like training and support, because we want to make sure that any vendor we're working with is responsive and that they can give us the right training so that our painters will be able to use it effectively, in this case."
Since the use of waterborne paint is mandated in California, Lofrano & Son wanted a booth that could best accommodate this product, Lofrano said. "We spray PPG Envirobase and our USI booth is ideal for curing the waterborne paints. The heat is recycled throughout the booth, so we can bake these cars rapidly and start working on them outside of the booth more quickly. We never have to use hand dryers ever. The temperature in the booth can ramp up fast and in some cases; we run it at around 180 degrees for 14-18 minutes on average. When these cars come out of the booth, they look incredible and our customers are often surprised by how good they look."
Another reason why Lofrano & Son is enamored with their USI Italia booth is the way it saves energy and improves the company's bottom line. "We estimate that by using this booth, we're cutting our usage by half overall. Just with the energy savings, we know that our Chronotech is going to pay for itself rather quickly."
The time savings associated with their USI Italia booth is also a big plus for Josh Lofrano and his crew. "We are saving 15 minutes per car and reducing flash times between coats, which means that we can paint at least one more vehicle every day that comes out to an additional 260 cars annually, which is obviously significant."
The head painter at Lofrano & Son's Mission location Carlos Nino has learned how to use the USI Italia's EPS System, thanks to training provided by the manufacturer. "We customized its parameters and created our own recipes that work well for us, and after some excellent training, Carlos is getting very good at it," Lofrano said. "All of our other eight painters and 16 preppers have gone through the training as well and used it and they all love it as well."
Their USI Italia booth hasn't encountered any issues since Lofrano & Son purchased a Chronotech two years ago, but if they do they know they're in good hands. "USI provides virtual support, so if and when something goes wrong, we can get feedback from them rapidly, Josh explained."In a busy shop environment, time is money and we can't be waiting around for a tech to come here to fix any issues that might exist. Things can happen from time to time, and when they do, we need a web-based system like this for a prompt response."
As Lofrano & Son enters a period of expansion in a very competitive market, top-tier equipment that performs well on a consistent basis will give his company a distinct advantage, Josh said. "Buying a USI Italia is one of the smartest investments we've ever made. We'll still be using these spray booths 25 years from now, which is what you want with any piece of equipment we acquire."
Kim's Auto Body Set Up for the Future with its USI Booth
Proactive body shop owners think about tomorrow and the next day rather than being stuck in yesterday or the day before. They consider the big picture and prepare for their next strategic move in the ever-changing world of collision repair. They are entrepreneurs instead of being technicians or managers and that's why they pursue things like training, education and top-tier equipment that will enable them to do a better job than the shop down the street.
In this case, James Kim, the owner at Kim's Auto Body in Santa Clara, CA acquired a USI Italia spray booth in order to be ready for when his business reaches its pinnacle. With his shop growing exponentially every year, Kim is doing everything he can to adapt and continue to provide an exemplary finished product. USI Italia is playing a major role as he pursues his goals, as he anticipates $3 million in sales this year out of a 12,000 square foot facility with a team of 10 employees.
Kim, 36, had no plans to take over the family's shop, but when his late father Keene got cancer, he had to step in and begin running the business back in 2006. It was a trial by fire scenario, but by working hard and learning from wherever he could, he was able to grow sales 500% in the first 5 years.
Part of his plan was to obtain the finest equipment and tools available in the collision repair industry and train his crew about how to use them efficiently, Kim said. "I'm not afraid to invest in the best equipment out there on the market, because I know it will pay off over time. When I was first introduced to the USI Italia spray booths and saw the Chronotech, it was definitely something different. It was definitely a more advanced booth built with a lot of modern technology. So, we sat down with Rob Dolezal, from Last Call Marketing and he outlined all of the booth's features for us. We were very impressed by its capabilities that we decided to move forward with them."
After integrating the USI booth into his production, Kim could quickly see the myriad benefits associated with the booth and how it would make the lives of his painter and prepper easier overall. "Our painter was a little reluctant at first, because he is a veteran painter and was comfortable with our old booth," Kim said. "But once he realized the booth was able to cure our water based paint without blowers he was sold. We are using PPG Envirobase and with the airflow and EPS system we are able to cure base coats and clear coats really efficiently."
As the shop starts getting busier, Kim said that he will be able to paint 1-2 more cars every day by using their USI booth. "When our anticipated growth continues and we ramp up, I'm more than confident that this booth will help us with our cycle times without sacrificing any quality. Our Chronotech's EPS System with its touch screen is so state-of-the-art that we are still learning all of its capabilities and finding out better ways to utilize it."
By working closely with the people from USI Italia, Kim's painter and prepper, who is also a second painter when needed, are getting better at using the booth. "Stefano Moretto from USI has made us all believers," Kim said. "He knows more about paint booths and airflow than anyone I know. Going to the USI from our old booth was like going from a flip phone to an iPhone. There’s no going back.”
Kim is now poised and prepared for when his car count goes up, because he now has USI Italia and its support team watching his back, he said. "Their virtual support helps us for when we have questions, especially if we want to customize the different recipes for various applications. We're connected to the Internet and the experts at USI are right there when we need them. A piece of any high-quality equipment comes with great support and USI is surely no exception. I look forward to working with them and using the booth to reach our new potential."Kim's Auto Body Location: Santa Clara, CA (408) 294-7633 www.kabsc.com
By using the USI booths, you are automatically saving time and money. "Yes, we’ve probably cut a half a day off our cycle time with these booths. It means a lot when you’re trying to hit a four-day cycle time. If you’re at a 4.2 and it drops you to a 3.7 then it puts you in a great place with certain insurance carriers. If we can stay under that 4.0 number, that’s our goal." - Gabe's Collision Buffalo NY.
Faster cycles allow you to move more cars through your booth. Here in the SF bay area this is key. The USI booth allows you to cut down on your cycle time meaning cars spend less time in the booth. Less time in the booth allows your team to get out on time and under budget!