Top Shops Collision Repair

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Education overhaul

2015 Top Shops put their own spin on training
Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 09:00
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"Our goal is to help them work on the business and make their own decisions," explains Lund. "We're teaching them to self-manage." Hitting that goal will help the shop reaching another, putting its management "out of a job," according to Lund. As employees become better able to make their own decisions, processes become more efficient, with far fewer problems.

"Our production manager doesn't need to put out fires," Lund explains. "He can dedicate his time to being more hands-on and working on vehicles."

Since he's put these changes in place, Lund says employees are happier and more engaged with the business, allowing them to take better care of customers. Those changes also have translated into a much healthier bottom line. During the past three years, Warrensburg has tripled its revenue.

OEM certification rush

The most popular growing trend in training for this year's Top Shops, and probably most of the industry, is gaining OEM certifications. Some owners declare that repairers eventually will need this training to stay in business. Over half of the 2015 Top Shops possessed multiple certifications and are pursuing more. South Broadway should complete its eleventh certification by the end of 2015. Car Crafters counts Tesla among the multiple OEMs it is now certified to repair.

Certification isn't without its drawbacks, especially it's often prohibitive costs. Paterniti points to the expense of adding arguably the most common certified work, Ford aluminum repairs. "It's a $100,000 capital expense that a lot of shops can't afford to entertain," he says. His shop did make the investment and to date has had three new Ford F-150s pass through its doors, none of them needing structural repairs.

In time, that investment very well could pay off, but some Top Shops are content to wait until certifications become a necessity. G&C Auto Body, a Santa Rosa, Calif.-based multiple Top Shops winner, has no current plans to pursue OEM certifications. "It's not what our business model is right now," says Chief operations Officer Shawn Crozat.

In house bonanza

A far more affordable training option is in-house learning, which is proving its worth in a range of implementation formats. Some shops have turned to internal training as part of MSO expansion. After Car Crafters recently acquired Hoffman Body Shop, it began cross training the business's new 50 employees at its other locations. In some cases the business sent established employees to Hoffman to conduct training there.

Other Top Shops pair up new hires with veteran workers. At CSI Collision Center in Houston, senior employees take new techs under their wing to teach them the business's standard procedures. New estimators work directly with General Manager Trey Purdue until they're ready to fly on their own.

Classic Accident Repair Center in Mentor, Ohio puts most of its training focus on in-house development. The business utilizes DCR Systems lean repair model, which utilizes training modules covering every aspect of the shop's operations that can be viewed at any time.

New employees kick off their Classic careers by viewing these online learning sessions. Next, they work with a senior staff member who teaches them the business's unique multi-stage repair process that Store Leader Marty Roberts describes as a fundamental departure from traditional collision work. For example, eight different techs typically work on each vehicle at clearly defined operational points before a repair is "validated." Tools are provided for particular operation and stored only in specific areas.

Classic does require its employees to go through I-CAR training, scheduled through an on-staff I-CAR instructor. It also carries OEM certifications (Classic services a 17 dealer network) and provides vendor training, all of this overseen by a national training support manager and a store leader who match employees with learning opportunities.

Classic incorporates all these resources under an umbrella operation aimed at predictable, problem-free, speedy processes. This setup permits Classic to regularly bring new hires with a variety of work backgrounds and place them throughout the business to handle increasing workloads.

(Photo courtesy of D&S Automotive) Lean training from paint vendors can be carried into shops to teach vehicle tear downs and introduce other ideas such as team-based pay structures. (Photo courtesy of Car Crafters) Certification programs involve significant capital expenditures such as investments in clean rooms for aluminum repair. Shops need to be aware of the time it can take to recover these investments.
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