Snap Shop: Newell's Auto Body

Oct. 17, 2023
This Illinois shop has an expert strategy to use multiple buildings and segment repair work.

SHOP STATS: Newell's Auto Body  Location: Decatur, Ill.  Owner: Amanda and Art Anderson Average Monthly Car Count: 120  Staff Size: 26  Shop Size: 18,000 square feet Average Repair Order: $3,700  Annual Revenue: $5.5 million

1. Always Evolving

Newell's Auto Body started in 1958, but it has been constantly evolving. In 2023, the shop had just undergone some expansion work.

“That was just completed earlier this year," says Amanda Anderson, the third-generation co-owner. "It’s been fantastic. So much easier. We've got our parts manager in there, and we have tape on the floor for all the parts carts to be organized out of our production building.”

The Newell's shop is more like a campus, with multiple buildings and segments and specialties. The expansion work comes with some logistical puzzles to put all the right pieces in the correct place so that jobs can flow easily between segments but also have enough room to grow and work on their own.

2. Lay of the Land

The Newell's campus includes the "lower building," which is the original shop space. Today, that includes the detail department, as well as mechanical work like alignments, tires, and suspension work as repair jobs require. The lower building includes a fast lane as well, which can tackle smaller jobs like bumpers, mirrors, and dents.

"Back in '98 we completed our production building, which is still our main production building now. That is about 12,000 square feet,” Anderson says.

The production building is where much of the collision repair work is done, including disassembly and paint. A third building on the grounds is planned to accommodate an expansion of mechanical work. All the segmentation and planning helps staff focus on big and small jobs separately.

“More helpful now than ever, because he can fly through this smaller stuff," Anderson says. "We hate making cars wait so long to get the car repaired. Even though it’s a smaller job, it’s great to tell a customer that it will be two weeks.”

3. Focused on Efficiency

Anderson and her husband, Art, are co-owners of Newell's. Anderson's father retired in early 2022, and he had run the store after taking over for Anderson's grandfather. Anderson says that it was her father who started the segmentation strategy in the '90s.

“A few years after that, they got away from the combo tech thing and made it specialized,” she says.

Recently, Newell's added bigger drive-thru paint booths with embedded mixing rooms. The big plan in the near future will be to expand capabilities in mechanical work. They're starting to move a technician and large equipment, like an alignment machine, into the "third building." It's a logistical challenge, but Anderson says the team has been great.

“I think our biggest strength is our crew, from the managers to the detail," she says. "Everybody has a lot of buy-in and it is a family business. Not that we’re large, but when you start getting bigger, you focus on efficiency and some stuff that might sound like big business, it can be easy to lose that feeling."