Published: Saturday, December 15, 2012, 5:00 AM
Launching an entirely new independent repair center under a new brand and building it into a $3 million-a-year shop is no easy task in today’s competitive market.
Entrepreneurs Lauren Angie and Jill Strauss, founders of LJI Collision Center in Beachwood, has been instrumental in the development of the new Blowtherm spray booth.
“We decided very early on in our planning that we would seek out the most eco-friendly and energy-saving equipment available,” said Mike Giarizzo, advisor for the business. “We are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish here with this new system.”
LJI Collision was the first shop in the United States and one of the first in the world to incorporate all of the energy-saving and eco-friendly options that Blowtherm has available. And the benefits to both the collision center’s customers and its employees are noticeable.
“When we started this store, we really went out on a limb to make sure that we were going to satisfy our customers,” said Strauss. “But, the way we set up the store also contributed to healthier and happier employees. That really tightens up everything when it comes to operations, and the enthusiasm of our employees continues to grow as our business grows.”
The Blowtherm system at LJI is one of the most technically-advanced spray-booth and prep-station combinations in the industry. It uses an Air Speed system that uses environmentally-safe waterborne coatings, as opposed to solvent-based coatings.
A solvent-based paint, which is the traditional type of coating used in most collision centers, uses chemicals for thinning pigment solids. It releases volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere.
Waterborne paint systems greatly reduce VOC emissions. At LJI, they use the Sikkens Autowave waterborne coating from Akzo Nobel.
The heated air makeup units in the system are equipped with heat recovery systems that reduce energy consumption, while reducing the temperature of the air released into the atmosphere. Heated air is reintroduced into the heating system, which in turn reduces the heating bill by 60 percent.
The air makeup units also have a dual filtration system that greatly reduces the amount of particulates and VOCs that escape into the atmosphere. The air makeup unit has a uniquely designed 100-percent efficient direct-fired low NOX burner that minimizes CO2 emissions, while reducing energy consumption.
Prep stations afford the option of being able to bake in zones, which further reduces the use of energy when not at full capacity.
The real benefit to LJI’s customers is that the Blowtherm Air Speed waterborne flash off and curing system that applies those coatings guarantees a cleaner more durable paint finish than traditional spray booths. It offers a finish that is equal to or exceeds factory coatings.
More importantly, this new system is simply much better for the health and welfare of LJI’s employees. The environment is cleaner, but it also includes lifts in prep stations to bring body work up to an ergonomically-friendly level.
“This is probably one of the most popular and cleanest environments in this industry,” said Angie. “With this system, we were able to bring together a quality paint product in an environmentally-friendly way, while also improving the health and safety of the people who work here.”