CTC Leiderdorp, May 2017
What is wrong with automotive color data? [a green opportunity for companies to save time and money]
Ever wondered how damaged cars can be repaired in exactly the right color? Well, there is an entire world of professionals taking care of that. Automotive Repair Paint companies* dedicate a great deal of resources to enable “an invisible repair”.
This article is about the behind the scenes processes of refinishing cars in the right color. After reading this article you will understand the world of color in car refinishes a lot better and if you are involved in the process, how to save time and money. Lots of it. I will explain sustainable opportunities for improvement.
Cars of the same type and color are often manufactured in different locations with paint coming from different suppliers. This means that if you switched the doors of two cars manufactured in different locations you would probably see an unacceptable color difference. Therefore, it is hard for paint companies to supply paint in the right color that can be used to refinish both cars. That’s the reason why all major paint companies deliver so called variant color fan decks with 2 to sometimes 5 different variations of the same color. The number of different colors used in each paint product can reach up to about 30.000 with millions of euros/dollars being spent in these processes.
How to save money?
The process of color formula development is very specific to every company and it will not be possible to save money by sharing that type of information. This process is different for each company because they all have their own products with their own specific mixing colors. The way companies can save substantial amounts of money (millions again), increase their quality level and shorten lead times is by sharing the collected automotive color data in the form of digital measurements and physical color samples. Color Technology Consultancy approached almost all of the major paint manufacturers and asked if they would be interested to participate in such an idea. Most companies were interested but eventually indicated that the costs associated with the color information gathering are secondary to its benefits. These perceived benefits come from the idea that controlling the color information gathering process will enable them to quickly provide the market with the right color formulas. This, in their own view, is a unique selling point. We doubt that very much. We think that the USP comes from evaluating the data in a smart way and the efficiency of the subsequent process to develop and distribute the color formulas. So, not the redundant data gathering process.
What information could be shared?
Currently, there are two types of spectrophotometers used in the automotive paint industry namely the “BYK-mac I” of BYK Instruments (BYK-Gardner) and the MA98 of X-Rite. Each of these instruments also has simpler derivatives mostly used in the car refinish repair shops. Since the measurements are taken at the POE, it would hardly require additional effort on the part of automotive data broker to take measurements with both devices. The extra costs would be minimal, and other measurements could also be taken such as gloss, orange peel, and even microscopic images. In addition, information like geographic location (GPS), Vehicle Identification Number and, of course, brand, model and year information can be determined and stored. This set of data is probably more extensive than what any of the individual companies currently collect.
How to make the data available?
The digital information (measurements and additional data) can be stored in cloud databases and the physical panels in a central library. Because each company will have its own data formats an interface must be created that enables the flow between the automotive data of the data broker stored in the cloud and the databases of the paint companies. There are multiple state if the art methods available to make such an approach possible and cost effective.
Can smaller paint companies benefit from this?
Usually smaller automotive refinish companies cannot afford the expensive procedure of collecting color information. For this reason, they usually spray out the color formulas of major paint companies and figure out (develop) color formulas in their own product. In this way, they bypass the color collection process but they must wait until a color formula from the big brother competition is available. Under reasonable payment conditions, the larger paint companies could agree to make the information available to smaller companies as well. This would strengthen the business case, but could be scary for the major paint companies. Perhaps a time delay to make the data available could mitigate this difficulty.
“A hostile takeover”
Suppose the color data broker is established as a startup and simply starts to collect the automotive color information in the way described above. This information could then be sold completely independent from the major paint companies. From our contacts with mid-sized paint companies we know they scream for this information and are willing to pay for it. Eventually, larger companies will also be interested because it is not their core business to gather automotive color data. Such an approach would require venture capital but we think a sound business case can be made for this model.
Interaction between the color data broker and other stakeholders
The color data broker will collect so much valuable information about the colors of car manufacturers that they must be interested to interact. Car brands and their color quality performance can be compared and used to improve internal QC procedures. Other stakeholders can be the insurance companies that will be interested in the color QC performance of car manufacturers
In this article, I simplified the steps of the automotive refinish process to focus on the issue that paint companies spoil substantial resources by being reluctant to share Automotive Color Data. We think the quality of car repair jobs can be improved while their costs can be reduced. The investments needed are substantial but manageable and will deliver crucial information needed to get the repair job done. In a shrinking market this seems like something to consider.
AkzoNobel, PPG, Axalta, Kansai, Nippon Paints, Sherwin-Williams, Valspar