A Perfect Finish from the Universal Wolf Paint Shop
8 February 2022
8 February 2022
Wayne Elliot is the Facilities and Maintenance Lead and worked in the Paint team at Universal Wolf – leaders in complex metal fabrication
When I was a member of the Paint team at Universal Wolf, I looked after all aspects of the product painting process. I was never interested in school, but I have always been good at using my hands. When I was in college, the teacher asked me to paint a panel in front of the class, and although I was nervous, the end product was good enough for the teacher to turn to the class and say: “That’s how to paint”. From then on, painting was a part of me.
I started out as an apprentice for our sister company Tharsus where I applied my skills for painting to their strategic machines. After a few spells working with other companies I transferred to the Universal Wolf paint shop where I stayed for more than seven years. And I still work as an advisor to the Paint team alongside my main role in Facilities and Maintenance.
I thrived in my role at Universal Wolf because as a company we have a very unique approach to painting that puts quality first. Universal Wolf invests a lot on pre-treatment. In the pre-treatment process, the metal is cleaned and prepared for the application of paint. Oils, other contaminants, and rust are removed from the part and a phosphate or conversion coating is applied. A lot of paint shops don’t do this. They just paint straight onto the bare metal. But with pre-treatment, we ensure our machines deliver longevity in the paintwork. That’s why we always invest in the latest technology and powder coating machines. And when one of our clients need a specific paint or filter, we will order it in to ensure the job is done to their exact specifications.
Flexibility is also vital in our line of work. The paint shop is the last part of the manufacturing process so if there have been any hold-ups earlier down the line, the paint shop has to have the flexibility, agility and focus to get the job out the door on time and to the highest standard.
What qualifies as a good paint job for me is when a painter stands back, examines their work, and is proud of what they’ve accomplished. The product I am proudest to have completed is the prototype Bowler chassis. It was a very complicated piece of machinery with many tiny crevices to paint. It was one of those jobs where you know other people would look at it and say: “How did they do that?”
Having a paint shop in-house is one of our key differentiators. It gives us the capacity to quality control all our paintwork as everything stays in house and is carried out by our experts. Most complex metal fabricator businesses outsource their paint, which can lower the quality of the final product & increase the overall price of the job and the time the job takes.
Wet painting and powder coating are both real skills which require you to work smart. You must put just enough paint on to cover the product – but not too much as then it won’t last as long. It all comes back to pre-treatment. You can look at a job and say: “That’s a good job”, but if it hasn’t been pre-treated, the paintwork won’t have longevity and can end up scratched. With pre-treatment, that won’t happen. That’s what we mean when we talk about working smarter and better.
Working smarter also means letting the team try new ideas and find better ways of working. This promotes collaboration and a pack spirit. It’s about getting the best out of everybody for the benefit of the team. My philosophy is that everybody is allowed to make mistakes when they start out because there’s a lot of complexity in this job. That’s why when we we’re looking to hire new recruits for the paint shop, we look for people with strong technical ability who are passionate about their craft and have high levels of persistence.
Overall, it’s a fantastic career and there’s never a dull day. It couldn’t be further from the old phrase ‘watching paint dry’. The Universal Wolf paint shop is a unique part of a fantastic company that has given me a brilliant career full of variation and personal development. At the end of the day, when you do a job well, there’s no feeling quite like it.