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March 8, 2018

Big Ass Comfort Boosts Morale and Bottom Line

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Leadership at Don Jacobs Paint and Body Shop in Lexington, Kentucky, knows that if you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your business. After improving technicians’ work environment with the installation of Big Ass Fans and Lights, Don Jacobs saw big gains in both quality and productivity.

Auto-service centers often see training or efficient design as the best way to boost productivity. But studies have shown that employee comfort is key, and that productivity decreases by about 1 percent for every degree above 77°F. Simply by keeping employees comfortable – and by giving employees the right light levels – employers can increase throughput at their garage.

Don Jacobs handles every kind of repair, from the smallest ding to the biggest smash-up. Though its technicians routinely received high marks from customers, they were often either too cold or too hot, making it hard for them to focus. The shop has an HVAC system, but registers are near the ceiling. In winter, the heat blew in far above the shop floor and stayed there, leaving workers shivering below. And in summer, despite air conditioning, the service bays were hot, thanks in part to another roadblock to productivity: old-school halogen lights.

Technician Jim Slone was all-too familiar with the problem: “The lights ran at about 280°F. The cold air had to pass by the lights, and by the time the air reached the floor, it felt like it was heated.” The halogen fixtures were heavy power users, and by also heating the cooled air, not only did they make the AC less energy-efficient, they sapped employees’ energy, too.

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The company decided it was time to do something. Don Jacobs installed four new Big Ass Fans – two in the body shop side, one in the paint department and one in detailing, and replaced old halogen lights with high-performance, energy-efficient Big Ass Light LED fixtures that make the workplace brighter yet produce an insignificant amount of heat. Additional LED task lights go anywhere more light is needed.

Slone says morale among his co-workers is way up. Not only is everyone more productive, but the quality of the work has improved too.

Cutting Costs and Hot Air

Large-diameter Big Ass ceiling fans – commonly known as High Volume, Low Speed (HVLS) fans – create huge benefits in terms of comfort and energy savings wherever they go. In summer, they make people feel cooler — up to 10°F cooler — and in winter they push down the heat down to the floor, where it belongs. And throughout the year, they reduce the HVAC’s load.

At Don Jacobs, the four Big Ass fans have definitely improved air circulation and made the HVAC system more effective. Workers who used to be “soaked in sweat in summer,” says Slone, are now comfortable and more productive. And in winter, the fans push the warm air down from the ceiling so technicians no longer have to bundle up to keep warm.

And with the switch to LEDs, the cooler air from the A/C is no longer heated up by the old red-hot halogens as it makes its way to floor level.

“The air from the A/C runs past the LEDs and there’s no heat on them,” says Slone.

In other shops nationwide, HVLS fans have also boosted productivity by eliminating the need for individual and box fans, which clutter workspaces and create tripping hazards, while attracting hot workers like a magnet. And they help eliminate hazardous fumes, too.

 

With LEDs, Seeing Is Believing

In terms of productivity, one of the main things people notice when they switch to LEDs is the response time. There’s no more waiting, sometimes 20 minutes or more, for metal halides or fluorescents to warm up to full brightness. Those minutes can add up to a significant chunk of time each month that’s spent working instead of waiting.

LEDs also hold a big advantage because of their longevity. High-quality LED fixtures are rated for 150,000 hours, or 17 years of round-the-clock use. A retrofit, done well, should last for well more than a decade, and its cost benefit is partially calculated on the fact that LEDs require little to no maintenance. Less maintenance equals added productivity, because employees are no longer climbing up and down ladders to replace burnt-out fixtures.

But by far the greatest impact that LED fixtures have on productivity comes from their tremendous light output in comparison to other fixtures. Adequately lighting a body shop requires more than just increasing brightness – LEDs like those Don Jacobs installed also have a color-rendering index and color temperature similar to natural daylight.

At Don Jacobs, Slone says the LEDs have made paint-matching and buffing a breeze, and technicians are able to see every little fleck or scratch that shouldn’t be there. Thanks to the LEDs and the HVLS fans, not only is the team more productive, but they’re able to take greater pride in their work, because now they can clearly see the quality.

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