Geico holds tailored Experiment Days for its existing and future customers at its PARDIS Innovation Center; AMS was invited to join a deputation of senior managers from Ford’s global paintshop team

In October 2009, Geico opened the doors of its Pardis Innovation Center. This centre houses Geico’s new prototypes such as J-Jump, J-Flex, Amir booth, the new liquid booth Hydrospin plus, Ergo Roll, the new dry scrubber Dryspin, Speedry and its Interactive Engineering Laboratory, that allows the customer to see the realization of the project before it is concretely built in a completely virtual way, and permits to study and analyse the project during the engineering phase. The innovation centre seeks to develop innovative and concrete technological solutions for the automotive paintshop.

A great challenge for the automotive industry is to find paintshop solutions that cut costs, lower energy usage and are more eco-friendly, all whilst maintaining superior quality.

Taking the lion’s share of energy

Paintshops are among the main contributors to emissions and pollution in the factory environment – but all that is changing, according to Geico. The company says paintshops consume around 70% of electrical energy and 80% of heat energy necessary for vehicle production. Painting a vehicle body produces about 235 kg of CO2, but this estimate only takes into account the measurable electric, heating and refrigeration consumption. In addition, the energy consumption of a paintshop of 300,000 jobs/year is about 250 GWh. This is the same amount needed to power a city of 50,000 inhabitants and would require solar panels covering the surface of 30 soccer grounds to produce it.

The solutions that have been developed to date range from tried and trusted technologies to innovative renewable energy sources, says Geico. All solutions are developed with an integrated approach, which acknowledges not only the pure painting process needs, but also analyzes the paintshop as a global integrated system. All heat sources and heat wells are used to mutually promote energy recovery, thus reducing consumption and environmental impact. Together, these technologies allow Geico to install paintshops with a 30% reduction in environmental impact when compared with the existing facilities, and with a 10% contribution of renewable sources.

Many of these solutions are currently installed in paintshops around the world, including some in India, China, Brazil and Africa – showing the company’s capabilities to develop and fit new technologies in dramatically different environmental and industrial scenarios. “The Pardis innovation centre will allow Geico to achieve its goal of reaching zero environmental impact paintshops on Energy Independence Day, June 16, 2020. All we need are undoubting belief and dedication to Geico,” says Dr Ali Reza Arabnia, president and CEO.

Ford friends and global partnerships

Geico had invited Majed El-Awar, Production Engineering Manager, Global Paint Engineering – Vehicle Operations, based in Dearborn, USA; Mirek Majka, Paint Manager, Ford Asia Pacific & Africa, based in Australia, and Mick Clark, Senior Engineer, VOME European Paint Engineering, from Ford in the UK

The day started with a series of presentations on Innovation, starting with a welcome and introduction by Fabrizio Mina, Sales Executive at Geico.

Ford’s Majed El-Awar spoke next, outlining the company’s paintshop strategy and stressing the importance of materials and their handling. He stated that while process was of course very important, the rise of wet-on-wet and 3-wet paint operations meant that the handling of the paint was key to efficient paintshop operation.

This was followed by presentations on Geico’s project management and project engineering approach; from Lamberto Lamberti, Project Management Executive, Francesco Rapizzi, Value Sourcing Manager, and Valerio Iglio, Expert Engineering Manager.

These presentations concentrated on the company’s focus on its turnkey approach; how it can take on major greenand brownfield projects with equal enthusiasm and offer its customers a full service solution. The three presenters also talked of Geico’s people-centred philosophy; how its workforce is made up of almost all long-serving employees and how this translates into a very personal service where imaginative solutions to difficult challenges are quickly and efficiently implemented.

Francesco Rapizzi talked of line planning using the latest 5D simulation software that allows checking for clashes, coordination of deliverables and other factors, before building any part of a paintshop. And of course, in analysing present projects in this and other ways, further opportunities with the customer become apparent. He went on to talk about value sourcing and how Geico is happy to analyse a customer’s current projects, not only as service to the customer, but also to identify opportunities for greater efficiency through better us of existing facilities and, of course, opportunities for Geico to contribute its expertise and systems.

Procurement and quality management

Rapizzi went on to explain how the company offers assistance in procurement planning; using Geico’s expertise in achieving the purchase of the right equipment and materials, at the right prices.

This approach also extends to quality management; a team from Geico will establish the quality requirements of its customer and establishes a ‘Scope Statement’, a ‘Deliverables Description’ and an ‘Acceptance Criteria’. These protocols help to organise quality maintenance and indeed underline the importance of assigning quality responsibilities to various departments and suppliers.

Geico’s desire to have long-term relationships with customers and suppliers was stressed by Rapizzi as he presented a view of the company’s Value Sourcing and Logistics website; this global sourcing reach was demonstrated with examples of sourcing in India, Russia and Brazil (just some of Geico’s operating territories). On-site safety was also highlighted; Geico has won awards for its safety-minded installations, from General Motors India and GM Egypt, and from Force Motors in India.

Valerio Iglio talked about how an early choice of chemical suppliers for projects was preferable and how this is very important for maintaining quality. He said that this early choice was important whether the supplier was a traditional partner of the customer or a new supplier, and/or one recommended by Geico, and that each supplier should ‘prove’ their product’s value and quality for each contract.

Innovation in motion

After the presentations and lunch, the visitors toured the Pardis Innovation Centre. They were treated to ‘live’ demonstrations of Geico innovations, starting with J-Jump and J-Flex; which showed compact and flexible pre-treatment and ED solutions. Then the tour continued through the paint process with AMIR Booth, Ergo-Roll, Dryspin and SpeedDry, finishing with a fascinating virtual tour of a paintshop installation in the Interactive Engineering Laboratory. The day ended with a round table discussion between the Ford managers and Geico staff; Dr Arabnia spoke frankly of Geico’s strategy of maintaining a ‘disciplined appetite’; taking on jobs that it can carry out to its own high standards and not to offer unrealistically low rates just to get contracts.

Pardis is the ancient Persian word for an enclosed garden and is the root of the word paradise. It is also the name of a mountain in the Bushehr province in Iran that is purported to have magical powers. With its Pardis centre, Geico has enclosed and showcased the great intellect and character of the company and presented it as though spiritually it is atop that extraordinary peak.