The Road Ahead
It’s designed as a showpiece; that’s not a secret. And Robert Becker makes no qualms about it.
It ’s about the technology and the systems, he says. It’s there for people to see what it can actually do—when incorporated into one synergistic environment, of course.
More than anything, though, the Body Shop Express concept is intended to serve as physical proof that Becker and his entire team know what they’re talking about.
“We wanted something that we could point to, and say, ‘See, this is how it all is supposed to work—and it does work. Just look,’” Becker says.
So, take a look: The San Diego facility is 9,000 square feet, about three-fourths of which is made up of repair space, one paint booth and two aluminumonly bays; there’s a modern office, lobby and waiting area; and there’s a slew of gas-catalytic drying “robots”—two that, set on rails, can maneuver through the 10 bays dedicated for body and prep work, and another full-arch model set up in the shop’s paint booth, to go along with a number of small, handheld drying devices.
Putting it simply, Body Shop Express is a collision repair shop.
But nothing is simple about the business plan Becker and his partner Patrick O’Neill put together.
The shop’s success won’t be measured in sales but in conversions; how many of you they can bring into the Bodyshop Revolution family. Because, really, that’s what this is about: Body Shop Express, despite being independently owned and personally financed by Becker and O’Neill, is geared to be more than just another shop. This is their glowing example of the Bodyshop Revolution formula—the system O’Neill, as president of Bodyshop Revolution North America, is working to spread throughout the U.S. collision repair industry, albeit at a significant price.
“It’s an investment,” O’Neill says. “And, coming from that shop owner background, I know that the first thing everyone wants to know is the return. They want hard numbers. Sure, this has worked in Europe and the U.K. for years, but people want to see it done here. They want physical proof that it works, no matter the market.
“Body Shop Express will be our proof.”
As profiled numerous times in this magazine, including a February 2015 feature on the equipment itself, gas catalytic drying is at the forefront of a t
echnology-driven push to make shop floors more efficient. (See: “Required Reading” on p. 45 for further details.)
For those who haven’t heard the Bodyshop Revolution pitch yet, it’s fairly simple: Buy the equipment (namely, the gas catalytic drying systems); get the systems and processes; adhere to the Theory of Constraints–based philosophies; and make more money due to greater throughput. Sounds easy enough, but this isn’t a late-night infomercial, and Becker isn’t peddling a cut-rate oddball product.
In all, joining the Bodyshop Revolution program can cost up to $250,000. (Note: It is considerably less if purchasing specific pieces of equipment, or smaller parts of the system.)
The Theory of Constraints refers to a methodology in which one identifies the most hindering and limiting factor (i.e., the constraint) in a process and then systematically improves it until it no longer stands in the way of the desired goal.
“We’re trying to sell people on an entirely new way to do things,” Becker says. “And that’s why we’re doing Body Shop Express. We talk about these systems and processes, and then we hear, ‘If it’s so good, why aren’t you doing it?’ Well, we are.”
THE FACILITY AND PROCESS
The idea, as Becker explains, was to put the shop in one of the country’s toughest markets (Southern California) and in a specific area (just outside downtown San Diego) with the strictest licensing and zoning restrictions for collision shops.
“If we could get the zoning, permits and such here, we could do it anywhere,” he says.
And they did. The Green Tech drying equipment has both ETL and UL approval, and gained the city permits without issue.
Now, it’s all in the shop.
Following the Theory of Constraints model, the shop floor is laid out to eliminate traditional bottlenecks in each department. The idea, O’Neill says, is to allow “continuous workflow” in which no vehicle and no shop employee ever sits idle.
It starts with disassembly and blueprinting. Every part for every vehicle needs to be onsite before a vehicle is put into the repair process. The shop is designed to have separate teardown techs, and one that focuses solely on drivable estimates.
Once all parts are in, the vehicle goes to the shop’s (1) lean body bays, which incorporate a simple setup but also include every tool and piece of equipment needed for any given job, all supplied by the shop. This allows techs to work without having to walk away to find tools.
A Green Tech E7 model dryer hovers over the body stalls and is maneuverable between bays to allow techs to dry and cure filler and other materials.
“We don’t want eight technicians with eight different sets of tools,” O’Neill says. “We want uniformity and consistency.” The vehicle then moves to the shop’s (2) two-stall prep deck that includes an E5 robot that can pass over and in between both stalls. All vehicles are set on (3) rails, fully masked and prepped before going into the shop’s (4) paint booth, which has an E6 model that can dry and cure the freshly painted vehicle.
Opening a ground-up shop in San Diego is not cheap, and those costs increase with the attention to detail Becker and O’Neill put into the Body Shop Express facility. In all, it cost $850,000 from start to finish—most of that through their personal finances. O’Neill says that in their company’s research, a “traditional” ground-up shop would range between $500,000 and $750,000 for that market.
But they both already feel confident about recouping their costs.
The shop did a soft opening in August, and repaired 44 vehicles. In September, Body Shop Express pushed 75 cars through. It topped 100 jobs in October.
That’s with three body technicians and a painter.
“The idea is to slowly work up to capacity by January,” O’Neill says. “Ideally, we have this shop set up to have about seven or eight more techs, and to push roughly 225 vehicles through each month.”
He sees it as a $425,000-per-month business. The shop did a little less than half of that in October. And key-to-key cycle time on all jobs (with the shorthanded team) was just under six days in October. (Editor’s note: October was the last month with final, completed numbers before this story went to press.)
O’Neill says the shop also has a 75–80 percent savings on its gas bill as well (it was $65 in October) due to the advanced drying equipment.
“It’s working as we’d expect it to,” he says.
FenderBender has covered the rise of robotic drying extensively over the years. For more information, look back at the following stories:
• THE RISE OF ROBOTIC DRYING: Gas catalytic drying has come to America, and it could completely change workflow in collision repair shops. bit.ly/fbroboticdrying
• BEYOND OUR BORDERS: Operational insights from thriving collision repair shops around the globe. bit.ly/fbworldview
• ROBOTIC PAINT DRYING: Advanced technology and tools will dramatically change the way U.S. shops operate. bit.ly/ fbroboticoverview
• ROBOTIC DRYING COMES TO AMERICA: Marshall Auto Body (Wis.) is the first to adopt the technology. bit.ly/fbfirstshop
“The biggest thing now is just to start doing some typical customer acquisition and building our customer base. Then we’ll train and add techs as we go, and be fully operational soon.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Becker says his team has already conducted a number of tours of the facility—and that’s the goal.
“We want to bring possible clients in to see this firsthand,” he says.
Seeing is believing, O’Neill says. And that’s what their company is banking on.
The technology, systems and philosophies have been used to various levels of success in other parts of the globe, but Becker and O’Neill want to show shops stateside that this is the future of the U.S. collision repair industry.
They have plans for more Body Shop Express shops across the country, and Becker says he’s actively accepting pitches from investors.
But will they get their converts?
“I’d say it’s going very well so far,” Becker says.
“We are gathering the data—the proof. Instead of people responding, ‘Wow, that’s a great theory.’ They can now point to something and say, ‘Wow, that really works.’
“You can get efficiency just by adding a robot [dryer], but it’s about the whole environment that works together. This is the way things need to go, and we want to demonstrate that.”
MAACO’S DRP MOVE
THE MSO’S DRP INITIATIVE HIGHLIGHTS A SHIFT IN ITS TRADITIONAL FOCUS, AND HIGHLIGHTS AN INDUSTRY-WIDE TREND FOR THE LARGEST CONSOLIDATORS
Ignore the name on the sign for a moment, Frank Petrane says, and just take in Brian Greenley’s Littleton, Colo., shop for what it is: a flourishing, independent repair business with a diverse work mix and a sophisticated, modern production system that allows for impressive efficiency numbers and high-end margins.
OK, now that sign: Maaco Littleton.
In every conceivable way, says Petrane, a Maaco vice president and the head of the company’s fleet operations, Greenley is Maaco’s posterchild for franchisee success. (Its $6.2 million it total sales for the fiscal year in 2015 was a c
ompany record—and a $1.1 million increase of Greenley’s previous record-setting year in 2014.)
The shop also might be the antithesis of the company’s “Uh-Oh, Better Get Maaco” stereotype floating through the industry.
“Maaco is known for its retail wo
rk, and that’s the bread and butter of our company,” Petrane says. “But it’s definitely not the only thing we’re doing.”
And that’s exactly why Petrane and Maaco’s insurance relations director Pat Fahey led a group of roughly 20 franchisees, company execs, insurance representatives and industry trainers for a tour of the Greenley’s Littleton, Colo., Maaco location in late August during the company’s first-ever DRP Summit.
The multi-day event held outside Denver, consisted of shop tours and informational sessions on everything from vehicle staging to parts ordering to key performance indicators to curb appeal. The franchisees in attendance were offered presentations from I-CAR, Enterprise Rent-ACar, CCC and TenPoint Complete, among others.
The summit, Petrane hopes, will serve as a launching point for what he believes to be the company’s next rapidly growing profit center: DRP work.
DRP AS THE NEXT FLEET?
Currently, Petrane says that 50 of the company’s 480 facilities are completely equipped, trained and systemized in order to meet the requirements of any and every DRP out there. It’s a modest number, he says, but it still might seem surprisingly high to many outsiders. And he only expects that to grow in the future.
“Once we held the summit,” he says, “there were a lot more people who were suddenly very interested.”
The company held breakout sessions about DRP work at its annual convention last fall, and will host additional summits in the future.
The way Petrane sees it, this could be the company’s next quickly expanding segment to mirror the fleet business he helped build from an afterthought in 2002, when Maaco did just $1 million company-wide in fleet work, to the $80 million behemoth it is today.
After starting basically from scratch, the company now has 330 of its facility’s internally certified for fleet work.
CHANGING COMPANY, SAME GAMEPLAN
When Maaco parent company Driven Brands acquired CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Experts in late October, then Maaco president (now the head of Driven Brands’ Collision & Paint Division) Jose Costa said the addition of CARSTAR won’t change Maaco’s desire to increase its DRP workload.
“Maaco’s vision and operating plan doesn’t change at all, as all shops need a mix of work today,” Costa told FenderBender at the time. “DRP work is roughly 2 percent of Maaco’s overall mix. Even if we grow that 1,000 percent in the coming years, it will not change the overall company.
“What it will do is give opportunities to individual franchisees and allow them, if they go down that road, to see significant change and growth. It’s the way the industry is heading, and it only strengthens us as a whole to improve that segment.”
the ESTIMATE SAVERS?
TWO PROGRAMS—BOTH REFOCUSED—AIM TO HELP SHOPS IMPROVE A CRITICAL PART OF THE REPAIR PROCESS
What It Is: An online system that allows estimators and repair planners to scrub an estimate, comparing it against a database of estimating information.
How It Works: Think of it as an “estimate reader,” says Steve Trapp of Axalta, who, along with Mike Anderson of Collision Advice, helped develop the 2.0 version of the program. Upload an estimate in PDF format and the scrubber will use artificial intelligence technology to scan the document and check it against a database of items and estimating rules. The average scrub takes less than one minute.
Thing to Know: This is the recently revamped, second version of the product, which was first launched in 2009. The program used to be limited to checking estimates against the Society of Collision Repair Specialists Guide to Complete Repair Planning, but now also includes the ability to 1) compare to insurance/fleet profiles; 2) examine against estimating/repair planning rules lists; 3) view “Not Included” guides, which references the Big 3 information providers’ most current P-Pages reference guide; 4) view DEG inquiries/ reporting database issues; 5) create consumer estimates; and 6) integrate with paint and allied materials invoicing and other applications.
Cost: Free 30-day trial; $25 per month after that.
What It Is: A consumer-, insurer- and, now, shop-facing application that allows estimates to move through the repair process in a more streamlined manner.
How It Works: The initial form of Snapsheet was a consumer application that helped vehicle owners get quick estimates through insurance companies following an accident, CEO and co-founder Brad Weisberg says. The product has since evolved and has recently added tools for shops that allow repairers to upload their own photos and estimates (which are rekeyed by Snapsheet) to negotiate with insurers on supplements in what Weisberg says is a quicker process.
Thing to Know: When Snapsheet started, Weisberg says that he and his team were more focused on the initial post-crash situation for consumers. “But as we evolved as an organization, we realized that we can’t just start a claim,” he says. “We have to see it through to the end.” That was roughly two years ago, and he says his team has worked with more than 12,000 shops across the country to find repairer solutions through the Snapsheet platform. Rekeying of estimates for supplements and improved supplement turnaround time were the biggest problem areas they heard. Snapsheet’s estimates and supplement work is both rated by the shops using it (they have a 98 percent satisfaction rating) and reinspections from insurance companies. Snapsheet processed 150,000 total claims through more than 25 carriers in 2015, and averaged two days for supplement turnaround.
Cost: Free (service is only available through carriers that also use it)