The Internet of Things Hits the Painting Industry
28 March, 2019
28 March, 2019
By Megan Headley
With virtually every painter carrying a computer in their pocket, it was only a matter of time before business owners— and their vendors—would begin exploring ways to turn that connectivity into productivity.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a tech term that describes the everyday internet connectivity of everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. Think of asking Google to turn on your living room lights or having your Nest thermostat program itself. These types of technologies are changing the way we live and the way we do business.
In fact, the IoT is beginning to make major strides into the painting industry. We’re seeing smartphone job documentation and drones that collect photographs and project information, and now the very applicators you use can provide insight into your productivity and true costs.
The ability to gather this type of data on the job, right there in your smartphone where it can be easily shared among crews and managers, has powerful applications. IoT connectivity can be leveraged to better measure productivity, improve maintenance and more effectively manage inventory.
1. Productivity Metrics
No business owner can ignore the fact that what gets measured gets managed, and it takes data-based insight to make effective decisions. For many painting contractors, getting data that can help drill down into productivity and job costs can be challenging. Many are still using eyeball- based estimating, and when asked why they bid based on the square foot, it’s common to hear “because that’s the way I’ve always done it.”
But with the technology available today, we’re not doing things the way we’ve always done them. There’s every reason that this new way of doing things should translate to your painting estimates.
Take BlueLink, for example. BlueLink is Graco’s new Android- and Apple-compatible app that communicates with the spraying manufacturer’s newest line of Bluetooth-connected sprayers. The sprayer is able to provide painting contractors an exact number of gallons per hour for each connected sprayer.
Business owners also can see when sprayers operate. Painters can enter notes into the app about any problems that arise on the job as well as specific materials used, and managers can use this information to make connections between specific challenges and productivity. By exporting and analyzing this information over time, business owners can identify trends on typical problems that, addressed more proactively, could boost productivity.
Rather than making a best guess, IoT connectivity gives painting contractors data that allows them to become more scientific in their estimating.
2. Maintenance Alerts
There are essentially three ways to do maintenance:
There’s reactive maintenance: “My sprayer is broken and needs to be fixed.”
There’s preventive maintenance: “It’s spring, so I should de-winterize my sprayer so it doesn’t break and lead to costly downtime.”
And then there’s predictive maintenance: “Based on the alert coming from my sprayer, I should schedule some time to do maintenance because there’s a problem that needs to be addressed.”
The first type, reactive maintenance, is far and away the most expensive, because reactive maintenance means that you must account for unexpected downtime. This downtime might mean you’re paying overtime to have painters do the work on Saturday, or maybe the job runs beyond the promised deadline and suddenly you’re dealing with a snowball effect of late jobs the rest of the summer.
While preventive maintenance is certainly more cost-effective than dealing with unexpected delays, it’s also more expensive than predictive maintenance. Time-based preventive maintenance means you’re performing maintenance whether the tool really needs it or not. It’s a good practice and it might be saving you on delays down the road, but ultimately you just don’t really know.
Predictive maintenance helps you virtually eliminate downtime by scheduling in maintenance when it’s needed based on feedback from the device itself rather than a recommended schedule. By having a tool that tells you exactly when maintenance is required, you can account for downtime by getting it serviced in between jobs.
Consider, for example, how important it is to not use a blown-out tip on your sprayer. Tools such as BlueLink can send a reminder to a painter to swap out the tip on a sprayer every 100 gallons. Or let’s say you wanted to repack your pump every 4,000 gallons. Now your sprayer can tell you, eliminating a potential problem just before it occurs.
With real-time information on where crews are operating and what tools are down for maintenance, business owners may be able to better schedule their jobs.