Paint Line 101





Every once in awhile someone wonders why we don’t do those off-the-street paint line jobs anymore.  The ones where somebody brings by one part for their car, or a few pieces of metal for a flag or a bench or something like that.  After all, we ask (and are generously given) support by our Streator community, so why would we ever turn away work?

The main reason for this is cost.  The variables on the paint line are the speed of the conveyor rack, the heat of the oven, and the paint we are using.  Changing paint takes over an hour, so there is money spent and time lost when we do something very individualized.  The speed of the conveyor and the heat of the oven have to match the surface area, density and thickness of the metal going through.  If it doesn’t, instead of a nice coating, you either get something that will chip and peel right away or you get a piece of metal burned into something unrecognizable.  If there is the tiniest bit of oil or rust on a part, the paint won’t adhere.  Then it has to be sand-blasted either before being painted or after.  We’re not well equipped to do much sand-blasting and the cost is prohibitive.

Finally, the paint line itself is not very cost-effective.  The equipment and energy demands cost a lot and the funding we used to get to support supervision and supports for our consumers working there was cut several years ago.  We’ve discussed closing it down completely and selling off the equipment every year or two.  We value the jobs for our consumers, but can’t afford to have a job that doesn’t support itself.

The last time we had this discussion, we decided to leave the fate of the paint line up to our regular customers.  We raised our prices by as much as 70% and decided that, if they continued to send us work, we’d keep the paint line going.  Otherwise, we’d sell off the equipment and work harder on getting other types of jobs or on community employment.  Fortunately, they kept sending us work and, because they are parts in larger runs and we’re familiar with the settings requirements, we can keep running the paint line in such a way that it covers its costs and contributes a small amount towards supporting our services.

Why not keep doing those little jobs and raise prices like we did for our larger customers?  Mainly because we want to focus on the customers who are our main source of work and also because we’d have to charge so much for one little, unique part that it would be offensive to the potential customer.  We have learned during the hard years that, much as we want to be, we can’t be everything to everyone, so keep our focus on things that most directly benefit the people we server and the direct care staff who support them.

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