Shop Profile - Collision Repair

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Illinois’ Zara’s Collision thrives with team-based repair structure

Friday, December 1, 2017 - 09:00
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Providing an on-the-job educational curriculum entailing hands-on instruction specifically formulated for working industry professionals, Zara’s Collision Center is eager to pass along an accumulated knowledge of body shop expertise while maintaining award-winning daily operational excellence.

At a Glance:
Zara's Collision Center
Springfield, Ill.
Brad and Julie Zara
No. of shops
Years in business
No. of employees
No. of DRPs
Square footage of shop
No. of bays
Average repair order
5.5 days
Average cycle time
Average weekly volume
Vehicles per week
$6.4 million
Anual gross revenue
AkzoNobel (Hyman's Specialty Paint)
Paint supplier
Frame machine used
CCC One, Audatex
Estimating systems used

“Zara’s University grew out of the frequency of visits from other shop owners and managers that had an interest in coming to see how we operate in a team environment with a segmented, non-traditional repair process,” explains President Brad Zara, co-owner of the company in conjunction with his wife Julie. “We found that most would leave intrigued, yet had no idea where to start with implementation of what they saw.”

Having extensively worked at perfecting their business with the assistance of Kent Carlson at Ad Meliora Consulting, “we decided to put together classes that could provide structure so that the attendees – other shop owners, managers and technicians – have something of real value to take away.

“We share our journey of how we transformed from a traditional collision repair shop, with people working in silos, trying to please everybody yet satisfying very few, to a team-based environment where everybody is pursuing the same vision of providing service excellence to our internal and external customers. We offer the classes at our location so that we can ‘pull back the curtain,’ show attendees how we do what we do, and give them the opportunity to talk to the people doing the work,” he says.

Julie and Brad Zara

“I have been to many classes over the years, where I learned great ideas and theory, yet couldn’t envision how I could implement the change in my shop. ‘Seeing is Believing’ is still the strongest selling tool for change,” according to Brad. “Our managers and key team members actually present more of the class material than Kent and I do. The classes are very interactive – not your typical PowerPoint and handout-type of presentation.”

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A significant strength of the shop is a team structure that “breaks the repair process down into smaller chunks” such as disassembly, repair, paint preparation, paint application, reassembly and detail.

“This allows us to bring young/inexperienced talent into our industry where they can learn and progress at their own speed,” he says. “Our cross-training allows us to quickly scale our resources to the mix of work that we have. We also have a depth chart for each position, which allows us to maintain a level workflow by shifting resources vs. accepting the productivity/sales decrease typically experienced when a key team member is missing.”

A “continuous focus on holistic improvement” is another important attribute. “With technology changing so quickly, it would be easy to focus only on technical training. However, we understand that we can’t ignore our focus on the health and well-being of our team members so that we can truly be the best that we can be, day-in and day-out,” says Brad. “We also recognize, and embrace, the opportunity to help serve the needs of the less fortunate in our community. Our mission is to ‘improve the lives of others,’ and there are no boundaries.”

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