SAN ANTONIO. In the past, it wouldn’t be uncommon to walk into a cloud of dust and debris at the Rush Truck Centers Tech Skills Rodeo collision competition here at the center’s body shop in San Antonio. But this year was different – and significantly cleaner.
New to the 2017 competition, 3M supplied a Festool machine that eliminates dust and debris from the shop’s atmosphere. When the technicians started sanding, the machines, scattered throughout the shop floor, vacuumed up the dust from the sanders while in use.
“These are a big deal this year,” Matthew Aguirre, a competition judge and account representative for 3M, told Fleet Owner. “We didn’t have that before; we had a cloud of smoke.”
Troy Bratusek, Rush Truck Centers body shop manager for San Antonio, said he and the competing technicians appreciate the cleaner work environment this year. He joked that he was tempted to “hide” one of the tools in the shop before the day ended to spirit it away for continued use.
In order to compete in the collision and paint competitions, all contestants took a written test based on the training they’ve completed. They were scored, and corporate tallied those scores and selected the top 5 finalists to compete in the hands-on finals. According to judge Marcelino “Marcy” Fernandez, national fleet manager for Axalta and corporate account manager at Rush, as many as 350 paint and body techs have tested to attend this event.
“It’s great for their resume and bragging rights,” Fernandez said. “They bring their wives, it’s a few days off of work, and there’s a lot of cash on the line.”
Cash and prizes will be distributed to winners of the overall competition on Tuesday evening. First- and second-place winners are awarded various tools and $4,000 and $3,000 in cash, respectively.
During Sunday’s competition, the top 5 body repair technicians were required to follow a standard operating set of repairs and were graded on the quality of the repair. They were awarded points for properly going through the procedure and points were reduced if they missed a step.
3M provided panels with holes and big dents that the technicians had to repair, sand, and straighten.
“The whole idea at the end of the day is they want [the panels] to be perfectly straight,” Aguirre explained. “We go and look at every panel for straightness, consistency, and appearance. So those are all the factors in what we judge throughout everybody that’s doing it.”
“It’s a bragging rights competition for these guys,” he added. “These are the best [techs] in the country that are here. But we take a lot of pride in it, too, because they’re not only using 3M products, but we really enjoy the business and seeing what they do and what they go through every day. It’s amazing.”
Sponsor SATA provided the paint guns for the competition, and all techs were judged using the same tools. Prizes are similar to the collision competition segment, and judges here looked for efficiency, productivity time and material management, and overall appearance.
“It’s exciting,” Fernandez said. “When you come here and you’re going to do a 14-and-a-half or 15-hour repair, and there’s the potential to make $4,000, there’s a lot of energy. Three of the five guys that are here are former champions, so the competition is stiff. These are guys that have been painting 15-20 years; these aren’t vocational kids. These are pros. It’s interesting to see the level of expertise we witness here.”