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April 11, 2013

Drive for Perfection Leads Walker Motors to Europe

Over the years Brent Walker of Walker Motors Collision Repair has seen his company's drive for perfection take him across the United States. Recently, the road map for success expanded even further, as Walker found himself in Europe, in particular in Lelystad, a province capital in the Netherlands, near Amsterdam.

Walker was invited to the country as a guest of De Beer to visit the company's headquarters.

After being one of the first auto body businesses in the Midwest to switch to The Valspar company's waterborne paints, the Memphis native found himself as a guest of honor in Holland for a tour of the De Beer color manufacturing facilities at one of the oldest automotive coating company's in the business.

Walker Motors made the switch to waterborne paint, and to De Beer roughly 2 1/2 years ago after an extensive review of the product.

"Our industry is constantly seeing standards change and government regulations shifting," Walker said. "This technology has been around for a while and is widely in use on both the east and west coasts."

In effort to stay ahead of the game, Walker began researching the waterborne products, ultimately singling in on De Beer after visiting the company's manufacturing facilities in Texas.

The company has been featured in no fewer than three national publications, the latest of which was a cover story in the River Valley Parts & People, a collision repair industry publication that serves the Midwest.

But the trip across the Atlantic Ocean took the quest for perfection to the next level.

In the Netherlands, Walker was able to visit the color manufacturing facility.

"I got to see their color formulas at the beginning," Walker said. "It is an amazing science. I came away with a much better understanding of how their color creation works. Now in our hands, that knowledge helps me insure the best possible color match for our customers."

Armed with the knowledge he would be visiting the site where the company manufactures all of its clear color product distributed across the world, Walker said he was anticipating a much larger facility.

"Our high school is bigger than their entire plant," Walker said.

That is made possible by what he described as simply remarkable space utilization.

"Those are two factors of the trip that stood out the most to me," Walker said, "The country definitely maximizes how each square foot is utilized, with an underlying emphasis on energy efficiency."

While those factors were impressive, Walker described the color match training he received to surgery.

"The precision their technicians used was remarkable," he said. "Viewing the dissection of pigments really promoted my understanding of how the colors can be matched on my end."

The space and energy efficiency witnessed at the plant carried over across the Netherlands. Walker described multi-level parking garages that were dedicated to nothing but bicycles. He also witnessed very few full-size cars, as the bulk of the motor vehicles were compacts.

"An extended cab pickup that is common place in Memphis would be deemed a luxury vehicle in the Netherlands," Walker said, "not based on the cost of the truck but the expense of maintaining a lower gas mileage vehicle."

Air conditioning and refrigeration were also two luxuries as Walker learned after asking for more ice in his ice tea.

"The waiter finally brought out a small container the size of your average hotel room ice bucket, and informed us that was all the ice they had for the whole restaurant for the entire evening," he said.

The trip proved rewarding for Walker, not just on the professional level. An avid World War II historian, Walker took advantage of the opportunity to spend a few days in Germany.

"Someday I'd like to go back when I'm not working, so we could take in more of the history of that part of Europe," Walker said.

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