Shop Profile - Collision Repair

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Over-the-road drivers depend on safe, timely repairs at Michigan shop

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - 07:00
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Big-rig truckers frequently wish each other safe travels by imploring you to “keep the shiny side up and the greasy side down.” When that equation goes awry in a wreck — and ever-mindful that time is money for every owner-operator — the specially trained technicians manning the extra-capacity bays at Michigan’s Truck Collision Services are geared toward quickly and competently getting professional drivers back on the highways and byways.

Based in Lansing with a second location in Gaylord, TCS serves truckers throughout Michigan along with an extended marketing reach that also covers the Indiana and Ohio corridors on up to the Canadian border, according to Ray Chatfield, who owns the business along with his wife Kris.

At a Glance:
Truck Collision Services
Lansing, Mich.
Main location
Ray and Kris Chatfield
No. of shops
Years in business
No. of employees
No. of DRPs
25,000 and 18,000
Square footage of shops
18 and 8
No. of bays per shop
Average cycle time
Average vehicles per week combined
Paint supplier
Frame machines used
Estimating system used

“Our honesty and integrity is why our customers continue to come back to us,” says Ray. “Repairing the truck right the first time” is the key goal. “If there are ever any issues we deal with them promptly. Additionally, we tend to do the heavier hits and the ‘problem jobs,’” he points out.

“What sets us apart is the complete understanding of the complexity of repairing Class 8 vehicles, or even medium-heavy duty, keeping in mind safety first. Most of our customers are looking more for the ‘quality-type’ job while keeping cost in control. We typically are not the cheap guy or the low-baller. We are offering value for their dollar.

“I understand that they need to have the truck back on the road to haul revenue, and I stress to them that our mission is to get the truck back at the most reasonable length of time while still ensuring safety and proper repairs,” says Ray.

“We rely on 3M for repair procedures and training, plus we use I-CAR procedures in the repair process. Our techs buy into training knowing that there are no (OEM-specified) repair processes in HD trucking. This sets us apart by sending our techs to training and showing how much we appreciate their everyday ‘get it done’ attitude. We provide full-time employees with health care, vacation pay, uniforms and production bonuses.”

The shop works on anything that rolls within the commercial vehicle category – large semis and trailers, cement mixers and flatbeds, box trucks and vans, etc.

“We pride ourselves on knowing when a customer needs a repair over a replacement when it comes to their truck. The time it takes to fix or repair a part could mean a big time difference for you.”

Services rendered include:

  • Heavy repairs for truck rollovers
  • Front & rear axle laser alignment
  • Front & rear axle correction
  • Frame repair
  • Cab & hood rebuilding
  • Welding on all types of metals
  • Fabrication
  • Sandblasting
  • Refinishing
  • Custom painting
  • Graphic decal design & installation
  • Large-format printing & wraps
  • Express 1- to 3-day repairs
  • New & surplus parts for all makes & models

“Our collision center can accommodate any commercial truck or trailer,” says Ray. The mammoth painting stall area is 70 feet long, 20 feet wide and 16 feet tall. “This means we are not reliant upon the weather in order to do paint work, and we don’t need to unnecessarily take apart your truck in order to fit it inside our facility.”

In January of last year “the 3M national team came in and did some ‘value stream mapping’ for us,” Ray recounts. “The introduced us to some new ways of doing things that really made a difference in our efficiency. At the same time, they set us up with a new line of 3M products and tools, and came in and did some product training.”

Within a month the shop sliced its cycle time from 33.3 days to 16.3 days. Touch time ratios rose from .59 to .95, and reached 1.48 by the end of the year.

“Our techs don’t like wasting time in their work,” Ray reports. “Everyone seems to be on board with the changes we have made. It’s not just the cost and material. It’s all the value-added stuff that 3M has been a part of in helping us and making our shop better.”

In addition to educating the staff on the latest repair techniques, both locations were outfitted with new tools and supplies that included 3M’s Clean Sand System, Self-Generated Vacuum Random Orbital Sanders, File Belt Sanders and Cubitron II Abrasives.

Two of the company’s Total Automotive Sanding System units were installed, and Ray says the equipment provides a much cleaner working environment along with better protection for his employees due to less composite dust.

TCS was so pleased with the professional expertise and contributions of 3M’s John Spoto that “we added the 3M logo to our paint booth because we thought it would be cool,” Ray explains. “We decided to do it as a tribute to John. We even used 3M Commercial Graphics film.”

Long-term durability

Positive relations are maintained with vendors by “asking them to be a part of my business, getting involved, sharing our vision, and asking them to understand how we want to repair trucks right the first time,” he notes. “We keep our parts orders to a minimum and make precise orders so we do not have a lot of returns. Doing pre-order teardowns helps us make good ordering practices.”

When a vehicle rolls into the bays at TCS, “We think about how to return it to a pre-accident state while also thinking about long-term durability,” says Ray. “Some of these trucks are going 1 million miles or more, so it is important that good materials and craftsmanship is used."

With five direct repair program (DRP) affiliations and transactions with other carriers, Ray’s strategy entails “just being honest and working with the insurance industry by justifying that our whole intent is ‘repairing the truck to safety.’”

Kris Chatfield, Ray’s wife and co-owner, rates high praise for her critical roles in effectively running the business. “We work together every day,” he says, and she deftly handles the accounting, human resources and organizational tasks while consistently providing positive support for the entire staff.

Admiration for industry consultant Mike Anderson is another important operational element, especially as it applies to the Axalta HD Truck 20 Group. “The peer time has been invaluable! Lots of knowledge gets shared freely,” says Ray. Ideas are introduced and contemplated, and the members “work on industry issues to make things better for all.”

Ray goes on to note that he is essentially self-taught, which makes the latest instructional opportunities all the more valuable. “The HD truck industry has lacked proper training and procedures. It’s a cowboys and Indians world,” he observes.

“I would say my father was my biggest mentor; he was not in the body business – he was a diesel mechanic – and he instilled in me to always do the best job I could: If it was worth doing, do it to the best of your ability and right the first time.”

Expanded coverage

Ray’s business began in 1990 with a 5,000-sq. ft. facility primarily dedicated to painting, gradually shifting to HD repairs. An additional 18,000 square feet was constructed in 1999 to house a 65-ft. frame press, a front end alignment system, a sandblasting unit, graphics station, more body bays and enhanced mechanical repair capabilities.

This high level of sophisticated technology and knowhow “allows us to offer all truck collision repair needs under our roof without subletting any repairs. We are able to monitor the quality and time efficiency of each repair more efficiently that way.”

Expanded geographical coverage was accomplished in 2006 when a second shop in Gaylord, 160 miles from Lansing, was inaugurated. An additional 12,500 square feet is currently being constructed at the Lansing location along with another paint booth to further boost production.

Along with day-to-day contacts throughout the trucking community, TCS utilizes an outside sales team, billboards and online advertising to drive its marketing message.

The enterprise “is viewed as a ‘One Stop Shop’ by our loyal customers who appreciate our high quality repair work for commercial trucks and trailers,” says Ray. “When a customer drops their truck off at our facility, they know they will be able to start working again as soon as they pick up their truck.”

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