CUTTER’S CHOICE

 

With a unique ‘back to first principle’ diamond-cut wheel machine, here’s why Finishing Touch Alloys franchisees will be able to cut wheels faster, more accurately

When you meet Ian King, it’s easy to tell that he’s both energised by the opportunities the wheel refurbishment business presents, and proud of the system prototype he has single-handedly conceived for his new Finishing Touch Alloys franchise proposition. It is designed so that the wheel renovation market can stay on top of market trends and has taken more than a year’s work to commission and build.

But what are these trends? Simply put, lan has identified that to keep up with the move by car makers to more complex alloy wheel designs, mobile refurbishments had to also change. The modern look of many cars features a move away from single-colour, usually silver, alloy wheels, to a hi-tech look featuring black plus diamond cut accents.

Ian spotted that many dealer chains in the future were going to be stuck. ‘About three years ago it seemed to me that these black and silver wheels comprised around 10% of the vehicle pool. But as time moved on, these designs were becoming more prevalent and you only have to look on a main dealer forecourt to see that nearly every car now has them, we’re up towards 90% of the new car market.’ And with this sea-change in design, came a new problem. Accurately refurbing one-, or multi-wheels to factory levels of finish was going to slow down how cars were supplied into the approved- used market. ‘The industry standard for sorting out rim scuffs and damage was to remove the wheel from the car, then send it off.

But how many cars can a dealership cope with, propped up on axle stands and immobile?’

The same problem occurs in bodyshops: if one or more diamond cut wheels are sent off to be refinished, this can impair timescales, lengthen repair times and cause the bodyshop huge problems with wheel-less cars on site. The answer, according to Ian, is for there to be a ‘go-to’ UK-wide mobile wheel repairer. ‘Along the lines of Fix Auto or Nationwide Crash Repair, but dealing purely in face-repairs to alloys.’ And Ian reckons that while there are already mobile wheel repairers, they are hampered by the types of equipment that can be fitted inside vans.

‘A wheel-face cutting machine is bulky and heavy. And most vans aren’t large enough in dimensions to carry them.’ Which is why machinery fitted to these mobile operators’ transport often places the wheel upright. ‘But that goes against how lathes and milling cutters work best – with the bed in the horizontal plane. The other problem is the weight. A properly made, horizontal-bed cutter is a heavy bit of kit. And the loading of most vans isn’t up to carrying one. Neither is the steel floor strong enough to support the machine rigidly while it’s working. So I began to look at how I could design a whole system. One where the van is designed to accommodate both the machinery needed, the weight of it, plus the rigidity needed to ensure wheels being cut were done accurately.’

Which leads us to Ian’s Peugeot Boxer van. ‘It’s based on a motorhome’s aluminium chassis, which keeps the weight down. But the floor is an ultra-rigid platform, so the machine can operate in the same way as if it is in
a building, with no wobbles or accuracy problems.’ Ian also speci2es bespoke suspension on each van built, and ensures that all tools carried – compressor, paint booth, spray guns and lines plus generator – are all weighed to keep the mass below the 3.5tonne limit. This ensures the van can be driven legally on a car license, and is small enough to 2t within the tight con2nes of any bodyshop or main dealer site where parking is at a premium.

‘Finishing Touch Alloys is at the point now where any bodyshop undertaking a crash repair can get wheels refurbed within the envelope-time of the crash repair. And often l can do the alloys as soon as the car has come in, which means there’s no waiting around for the wheels to come back before the car is returned to its owner.

’With many franchise opportunities out there for smart repairs and wheel refurb, Ian King’s systemised approach, bespoke equipment and adherence to engineering principles offers potential franchisees a market-beating advantage. It’s the wheel-deal.

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