Published in Autobody News
Baker’s Collision Repair Specialists in Mansfield, Ohio was recently recognized by the Ohio EPA for achieving its E3 (Encouraging Environmental Excellence) Achievement Level, obtained for “completing pollution preventing activities that decreased emissions from painting operations, initiating activities in management commitment, employee involvement, energy efficiency, continuous improvement and recycling.”
DeLee Powell, president of Baker’s Collision, is proud of the accomplishment which she views as “acknowledgement that they recognize the efforts that we have put forth. We are honored to be recognized for doing something that is good for our business and, in turn, good for our community and the environment. At Baker’s, we’ve always benefitted from being early adopters – we want to always be on the cutting edge, not the bleeding edge. Continuous improvement is in our DNA; we are open and embrace change.”
Although the recognition is new, the environmental conscientiousness is not. Baker’s began this journey in 2008 when they went paperless. “One year’s worth of RO’s occupied 15 file cabinet drawers, and each year, these had to be stored for seven years before they could be recycled. Now, they’re scanned,” Powell shared. “We have more space since the file cabinets are no longer needed, and the process has improved efficiency since everyone can access the files simultaneously online. Additionally, we save thousands of dollars each year that were previously spent on labor and supplies related to storing files.”
In 2010, Powell attended a Leadership Unlimited class where Grant Milliron of Milliron Industries was speaking. “Grant has been a great role model and mentor in our environmental efforts. His message that day was ‘Recycling is just the right thing to do,’ and since our family business has always believed in doing the right things for the right reasons, we’ve recycled everything we can since that day,” she recalled. “First, we try to reduce, then reuse, and lastly, we recycle.”
Baker’s was the first business in Mansfield to collaborate with Ohio Edison/First Energy to update the lighting fixtures in the 18,000 square foot facility. The project cost over $32,000, but it has “allowed our business to save a projected 72,000 kWh and an estimated $5,000 in electricity costs annually,” Powell shared. “We’ve since done two additional fixture upgrades and are currently using all LED lighting which improves the work environment for employees.
“We always meet or exceed the lighting requirements by OEM’s for our certification programs that require proper lighting for the repairs to be able to be done completely and correctly the first time,” she continued. “We continue to look at each use of energy and determine what we can do to improve, such as new roofing, efficient heating systems, or whatever comes next.”
With that mentality, it isn’t surprising that Powell couldn’t resist answering the Green Business Challenge issued by the City of Mansfield’s Energy Efficiency Program. “The program’s motto is ‘Small changes – BIG impact,’ and they provided a worksheet to calculate your score, along with helpful links for improving it. Kim Hildreth, the program coordinator, was very helpful and does so much to help beautify our community. When Baker’s accepted the challenge, I recruited management to be involved. We didn’t just embrace the concept – we used what we learned to take everything we’d previously been doing to the next level,” Powell said.
Next on the agenda for Baker’s Collision: transitioning from Sherwin-Williams Ultra 700 solvent-based paints to Sherwin-William’s Ultra 9K Waterborne system. But there was a snag. “We were unable to spray this product in the downdraft spray booth we had at the production level we require,” Powell shared.
Powell applied for a grant from the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) in June 2019, requesting one-third of the funds needed to purchase a new Garmat 3000 series downdraft spray booth. “By purchasing a new paint booth, designed to spray water-base products, it will reduce the amount of VOCs being exhausted through our booth filtering system by 80%,” Powell explained to the OAQDA. “Our [former] product contains 5-6# VOCs per gallon, but the waterborne product produces only 1# or less per gallon.”
“Baker’s received the grant from the OAQDA and started the transition to waterborne on October 1, 2019. It has been very successful,” Powell stated. “Our grant request and installing the booth is what brought us to the EPA’s attention, and it’s nice to know that the Ohio EPA is here to help small businesses.”
While Baker’s has made many changes over the years to help safeguard the environment, “the activities are not difficult, and neither is the implementation,” according to Powell. “Like many things, the biggest challenge is the mindset. If companies have the right mindset and truly want to adopt these policies, there are many resources to assist with accomplishing those goals.”
Powell also recognizes that employee buy-in is essential. She said, “At Baker’s, my greatest success story is the business culture. I could not have a better team; they embrace our philosophies, which revolve around GOD, Family, and then Business. They want to contribute to our community being a great place to work and live, and that means taking all of the small steps that we can to improve the environment.”
Powell continues exploring additional avenues to improve her business. “We’re currently focused on additional training and equipment purchases to work on the EVs that are here now and all those to come. Two certification programs are currently requiring additional items to maintain status, and as the OEMs become more selective on who they certify, we are positioning ourselves to repair these vehicles to their high standards – we want to be on that cutting edge.”
“I hope other shops and businesses will explore what they can do to help preserve and improve the environment,” Powell added. “It’s a good business decision – and a good personal decision.”
For more information on Baker’s Collision, visit www.bakerscollision.com.