Thinking About the Finisher as Well as the Finish


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Q. I run a small job shop with only a few employees and have been thinking about the ergonomics of our paint department. What are some spray equipment and booth design options that take the operator as well as the finish into consideration? —M.R.
A. There are several things you should consider when evaluating what would work best for the ergonomic design of your operation. First, how much spraying do operators conduct each day, or how long will they be on their feet? If they perform spraying a lot, a well-rated, safety-approved foam floor mat can reduce foot fatigue and sore legs. I often find that when I stand and spray all day my feet kill me at night. The mat solution has helped to eliminate a large portion of this pain. 
Next, you will also want to evaluate the spray equipment operators are using. I have visited hundreds of shops that use very cumbersome spray equipment, with long hoses that have to be dragged all over the booth, heavy, outdated spray guns that do not fit the hand well, etc. Consider the growing number of lighter spray gun technologies that exist in the marketplace today. Without recommending a specific company over another, most spray equipment manufacturers have conducted hundreds of hours of ergonomic studies that apply to productivity in the spray room. You will want to find a gun that feels comfortable in your hand and that has easy triggering, enabling the operator to spray for a longer time without hand, elbow or arm fatigue. Arrange a convenient spray gun holder on or by the booth. For example, I use a stand with casters that allows me to hang up the guns while I move around the booth. Another option is equipment that utilizes light nylon-type fluid and airlines. These lines are much lighter than their rubber counterparts, making them much easier to move around.
In addition, the spray booth should be well-lit with the proper CRI (Color Rendering Index), should have easy access in and out, and should be large enough to move around the parts without any obstacles or constraints. Poor lighting can lead to material waste and added work for the operator. 
Lastly, housekeeping, housekeeping, housekeeping. This is important for safety and ergonomically efficient workflow. When an operator has to move around pails, or slips on dirt, dust or debris, both the workflow and quality of finish suffers. If the booth is left clean and unobstructed, your operator will be able to produce more.