The value of a quality paint booth goes far beyond the one-time purchase price.
Paint booths are not a tiny investment. Even for a small woodworking or cabinet shop, a proper spray booth that meets fire and safety codes will still cost at around $3000. When you get in to automotive refinish shops, a booth averages around $30,000, not including installation. Large industrial paint booths can climb upwards of $100,000 or more depending on the size, and technologically-advanced aerospace coating facilities can be in the millions of dollars.
Now, I’d just like to emphasize the statement ‘meets fire and safety codes’, because there are very cheap solutions out there that fit the description of a paint booth, but do not take any of those codes in to consideration. Codes that are put in place specifically to prevent accidents and catastrophic equipment failures. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that we’re discussing equipment that meets the minimum code compliance for a spray booth. While it may seem like a minor issue on the surface, the number of shop accidents that can be traced back to non-compliant equipment is not minor in the least. Many companies rely on ‘field inspections’ from the various code inspectors once the product is installed in order to tell them what modifications need to be made to bring the equipment up to code, and them proceeding to make those modifications. This is hardly an efficient way of going about meeting code, since it can involve unforeseen costs and delays. It’s far better to choose a manufacturer that looks after code compliance than to take chances on field inspections where the outcome can be widely variable.
Another factor that needs to be kept in mind about your paint booth is that it’s a piece of capital equipment. Which means it is going to be part of your business for a long time, in some cases this can be up to 20 years or more. It’s functionality might not be much of a concern when you’re only needing to produce 4 or 5 paint jobs a week today, but in 5 years when your production rates have increased, will it be able to keep up to your demands? Productivity is a concern that you need to address not just for today’s requirements, but also for your requirements for future growth. And what about upgrading your booth down the road? Was it designed to be modular, and can it be expanded? Can the controls or other components be updated without replacing the entire system? These are growth questions that need to be answered before you make your final decision.
Also, a paint booth is a piece of equipment that is absolutely crucial to the successful operation of your business, every day. If your paint shop goes down, for whatever reason, everything else grinds to a halt. The impact that lost productivity has on your bottom line can be huge. Every second that your paint booth goes down due to a faulty breaker, burnt-out light, or clogged filter will equate directly in to lost profits. Reliability and operational longevity are major purchase factors and need to be considered alongside every other factor.
Then we get in to operating costs. Paint booths have lots of lights, high-powered motors and fans, control systems, heaters and many other components that consume electricity. The net energy consumption of your paint booth can significantly affect your profitability, and is an aspect that can be easily forgotten during the purchase process. There are many energy-saving technologies that are available in paint booths today, including high-efficiency light fixtures, direct-fired industrial air heaters, programmable control panels that automatically adjust the temperature in the booth for optimum performance, and accelerated drying systems that enable you to cut drying times significantly. These may seem like ‘frills’ at first, but if you look at the net effect they have on your operations, you’ll see that these additional capabilities will translate directly in to higher productivity and lower operating costs.
One last thing that tends to get ignored when considering the ‘big picture’ of investing in a paint booth is local support. If you’re purchasing from a no-name manufacturer who drops the booth at your door and waves goodbye, you’re on your own for installation, service and maintenance of that product. The reputable manufacturers will have spent the time and effort in building a solid network of distribution in the areas that they sell. This allows the manufacturer to provide consulting, training, installation, service, maintenance, and parts and filters support on a local level, so you don’t need to wait for weeks (or months) for some obscure component on a slow boat from overseas to arrive.
Ultimately, you need to look beyond the simplicity of the purchase price, and see through to the full value that your paint booth provides. If you take a step back and look at the complete big picture of what you’re getting for your money, including assets like local support, productivity, energy-savings, reliability and safety, you’ll see that the cheapest booth can sometimes end up costing you the most.