The paint shop is one of the most expensive parts of an assembly plant to build, in part because of environmental regulations. It also is one of the most expensive parts of a plant to operate because it must be run in a nearly clean-room state while consuming huge amounts of energy and water.
A large number of paint-shop innovations have received PACE Awards, as equipment and paint suppliers find ways to lessen environmental impact and cut waste and cost, while still delivering a vivid and long-lasting coat of paint.
In 2012, coatings supplier PPG won a PACE Award for its B1:B2 compact paint process, which allowed a vehicle’s color coat (known as B2) to be applied directly over its base coat (B1) in the same paint booth. The breakthrough eliminated the usual time-consuming steps needed between the coats, including paint oven baking and inspection.
Eliminating those steps allowed automakers to reduce new assembly plant construction costs by tens of millions of dollars, an attractive prospect as manufacturers plotted capacity in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
In addition, the process reduced paint shop energy consumption by nearly a third while also lowering factory emissions, water use and even cycle time per vehicle. The B1:B2 process resulted in significant cost savings per vehicle at no sacrifice in the quality of the final finish.
- 2012: PPG Industries Inc.
- Trade name: B1:B2 compact paint process
- Innovation: An application process that allowed a vehicle’s base coat and color coat to be applied in one step.
- Why it resonated: By eliminating the usual base coat bake and inspection steps, the process allowed for smaller, more efficient and less expensive paint shops.
Automakers are ever reluctant to switch paint suppliers or processes, or take on a new process with no rival suppliers offering a competitive bid. But after its introduction in 2008, the benefits of PPG’s process were so compelling that numerous factories adopted it, including those of luxury brands, even though PPG was the only game in town.
In 2014, a manager at PPG’s primary U.S. automotive paint factory in Cleveland said compact paint processes had grown in just five years to account for about one-fourth of all the volume coming out of Cleveland.
— James B. Treece