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AI interview with Ali Reza Arabnia, president and CEO of GEICO – Focus on greening the paintshop

With all that's happening in the world of ecology, energy saving, nanotechnology and electronics, we believe we'll have many more tools available to meet our final goal of having a self-sufficient and green paintshop on Energy Independence Day on June 16, 2020

Paintshops are among the main contributors to emissions and pollution in the factory environment – but all that is changing, according to Italian automotive coating plant specialist Geico.

The company says paint-shops 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.

The solutions which 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.

Geico traces its history to the Italian branch of Carrier-Drysys which was established in 1905, and quickly became the largest multinational company specializing in original coating plants for the vehicle industry. In 1976, Giuseppe Neri, an expert in system engineering for the vehicle coating process and managing director of Drysys Equipment Italiana of Carrier-Drysys Group, initiated a management buy-out operation and established Geico as a new company.

In October 2009, Geico opened the doors of the Pardis Innovation Center. This center houses Geico’s new prototypes such as J-Jump, J-Flex, Amir booth, the new liquid booth Caleidos, J-Dry booth and Ergo Roll. The innovation center 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.
“The name of the new center comes from Geico’s internal division, Pardis. Its main activity is the development of technological solutions which meet sustainability requests, protection of the environment, and energy efficiency in automotive coating plants. The name is emblematic and once more highlights Geico’s mission in realizing paintshops with a zero impact on the environment,” says Luigi Lazzari, Geico’s vice president of Innovation.

Many of these innovative solutions are currently installed in paintshops around the world, including some in India, China, Brazil and Africa – showing Geico’s capabilities to develop and fit new technologies in dramatically different environmental and industrial scenarios.

Geico also encourages auto body repair shops to pass an environmental and safety training program. Participating auto body repair shops in the Geico Auto Repair Xpress® program and the Geico Guaranteed Repair Shop (GRS) program, must have a minimum of one person at each facility complete this online training program. Working with the Coordinating Committee on Automotive Repair (CCAR®), Geico repair shop personnel get Safety and Pollution Prevention (SP2) training online that is specific to auto body repair. Bill DeGrocco, Geico AVP of Claims, proudly states, “We’re enthusiastic about playing our part to help protect the environment. By partnering with our Auto Repair Xpress® shops to provide training and promote the safe handling of materials like paint, antifreeze and other shop chemicals, we know that these repair facilities are safer for our customers, our employees and our environment.”

The Pardis Innovation Center will help Geico towards its goal of becoming the leader in technological advancements. “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 Ali Reza Arabnia, president and CEO of Geico S.p.A.

Automotive Industries spoke to Ali Reza Arabnia, president and CEO of Geico S.p.A. and asked him how he expects the Pardis Innovation Center to help the company keep its technological lead?

Arabnia: For the last four years, Geico’s working policy on technological innovation has been based entirely on defining our internal and external customers’ expectations and transforming them into concrete and workable solutions. The Pardis Innovation Center has been established to assist our internal and external engineering groups in developing projects to pursue these solutions.

AI: What are some of the innovative technologies that have come out of Geico recently?

Arabnia: There are a lot. We cannot talk about all of them as a number were developed with our customers’ and partners’ involvement and they are quite confidential. But some examples I can speak of include various energy saving solutions with retrofit possibilities: a programmable rotating dipping system called J-Flex; the compact aluminum booth called Amir; the compact blow-off called De-Dust, and the newly developed wet and dry scrubbers called Caleidos and J-Dry.

AI: What are some of the prototypes and new technologies on display at the Pardis Innovation Centre?

Arabnia: J-Jump, J-Flex, Amir booth, J-Roll and others.

AI: What are some of the reactions you have received from customers that have visited your Innovation Center?

Arabnia: They are simply amazed and particularly impressed due to the fact that the centre was developed in an unfavorable economic climate.

AI: Geico has been pursuing the 2020 deadline for launching a completely green paintshop – will this target be met?

Arabnia: We are certainly working with outmost determination to meet this objective. We have already completed 20% of the project with existing technologies. With all that’s happening in the world of ecology, energy saving, nanotechnology and electronics, we believe we’ll have many more tools available to meet our final goal of having a self-sufficient and green paintshop on Energy Independence Day on June 16, 2020.

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