Cutting time, costs with virtual on-demand refinish training

Sept. 8, 2022
How online learning helps shops make the most of training dollars

Change is no stranger to the automotive body shop industry. Year-to-year changes in vehicle models and technologies at the OEM level necessitate frequent changes in how those vehicles are repaired. In fact, vehicles are changing so fast, it’s difficult for the average body shop to keep up.

One option that has become increasingly popular in recent years – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – comes in the form of virtual on-demand training. By allowing a student to take training anytime, anywhere using a computer and an internet connection, virtual on-demand training can significantly reduce the learning time and costs associated with off-site refinish training.

Shops or individual paint technicians interested in virtual training have a number of sources to call upon. Most, if not all, major refinish paint brands offer such courses, as do a number of third- party providers. An important first step, however, is to learn about some of the basics of this time- and cost-effective learning solution.

One person very familiar with the benefits of online training is Robb Power, PPG senior manager, refinish solutions. Power was the driving force behind the development and implementation of the PPG Knowledge College online learning system. For the benefit of ABRN magazine readers, he has provided answers to frequently asked questions about virtual learning.

What are the advantages of virtual on-demand training for shops looking to minimize training costs?

When you consider all the costs associated with traditional, off-site, refinish training, you must factor in travel expenses (airfare, hotel, meals, etc.) and, more importantly, the cost of losing the productivity of a paint crew member during the travel and training. These costs can become quite significant when you multiply them across your entire team.

Generally speaking, what curriculum is offered through virtual learning?

I think major pant brands across the board offer similar learning options with respect to the paint side of a refinish operation. A well-rounded virtual learning program like the PPG Knowledge College system will cover many different areas of need for customers. This would include recertification courses, 6H area source rule training, videos covering standard operating procedures (SOPs), and possibly tutorial videos featuring live spray sessions to educate students on how to use a brand’s products. Also, it’s not uncommon to see information on things like how to set up a spray gun, along with tips and tricks for getting the best possible finish. This is especially beneficial for those that are new to a product line.

On the business side, I believe there’s a higher degree of differentiation among brands. For example, PPG’s MVP Business Solutions provides PPG customers with virtual learning on everything from the fundamentals of estimating to advanced repair planning techniques. This includes an exceptional series on understanding collision center financials and how to drive improvement to profitability. I’m not sure if this is something every paint brand provides.

Talk about pricing for virtual on-demand training. Are there paint brands that offer learning courses free of charge?

I can’t speak for all paint manufacturers, but I imagine that many offer some sort of free training. PPG, for example, offers free and fee-based content through the PPG Knowledge College system. These courses can be selected cafeteria style based on current needs. We also offer “learning paths” where we have bundled multiple courses together that are focused on a particular topic or skill set and provided at a discounted price.

You mentioned that virtual on-demand training can be accessed anytime, anywhere using a computer and an internet connection. What’s another way for shops to take advantage of this 24/7 availability?

Almost every body shop experiences periods throughout the week when things slow down a bit. These are the perfect times to engage in virtual learning. It’s cost-effective in that the student is not pulled away from repair work. Body shop owners and managers never want to see an idle paint crew, even if it’s just for a couple of hours here and there. Virtual on-demand training is a great way to help fill the void.

It's a common belief across the refinish industry that a well-trained paint staff will work more efficiently, ultimately translating to greater profitability for the refinish operation. How does virtual learning play into this?

Body shops can save money by utilizing virtual on-demand training. A savvy shop owner or manager might consider reinvesting these savings in additional training. I don't think there’s a limit to the amount of training a paint crew can receive.

Will on-demand training like that offered through the PPG Knowledge College system make in-person training obsolete?

I see this as an increasing trend going forward, and I think the main drivers of this trend are going to be the convenience factor and cost savings. That being said, in-person training will always be needed on some level. And in some cases, training will be required at a customer’s facility if an improvement is necessary within their environment. On-demand training can certainly supplement the learning in these situations, but it cannot replace it.

PPG Knowledge College is a trademark of PPG Industries Ohio, Inc. © 2022 PPG Industries, Inc. All rights reserved. 

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