A Fast Fix

Nov. 1, 2008
How an express lane can improve cycle times and impress customers.

Several years ago, George Leigh was trying to figure out a way to increase efficiency at his shop. The body shop manager of Conicelli Body Shop—part of the Conicelli Toyota dealership in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.—was dealing with insurance companies that were disgruntled with cycle times. And the heat didn’t stop there. Toyota was also heavily pushing their on-time collision repairs. A brainstorming session with some of his employees sparked the idea of doing express repairs to handle lighter hits. Leigh figured separating the shop’s workflow—between small jobs and big jobs—would allow cars to get out the door faster. The plan worked.

So, when the body shop moved to its present location in Plymouth Meeting in October 2006, it unrolled a full-fledged express lane. “When we moved to our new location, we built it with the express lane in mind,” Leigh says. “We had express repairs before, but now we had a specific express lane and a specific area for it.” So far, the express lane is thriving. Equipped with its own special prepper, body man and painter, the express lane repairs about 100 cars per month. It also brings in about $100,000 worth of business per month. And, better yet, his customers are happy with a much faster turnaround time for minor repairs.


Spanning just 180 feet in Conicelli’s 60,000-foot shop, the wedge-like space is ideal for the express lane, says Leigh. “It’s perfect for work stalls, a prep deck, and paint booth with its own mixing room.” The prepper, body man, and painter work together as a team and stay busy in their small area, which is located close to the parts department. “We have 250 cars a month, and 100 are going through there,” Leigh says. “It’s a pretty good portion of our business.”

As soon as a car arrives at the shop, it’s immediately evaluated to determine which type of repair work is needed—express or not. “We filter everything through one person who runs the express lane. She decides which ones can go in there and which can’t,” Leigh explains. “We get a copy of the estimate, she reviews it, and then the parts person gets it.

A vehicle with less than 20 hours of body labor is put through the express lane, where repairs typically have a turnaround time of three to four days. “If I can get more cars through the shop, that’s more money for us,” Leigh says. “As for customers not having their car tied up for a long time—we try to make our mark on that. I think in the big picture of things, we’ve had a lot of people come back [for other repairs]. That’s got to say something.”

Even with its benefits, though, the express lane can be a struggle at times. “The challenge is that a lot of these cars have supplements. Every time you take a bumper off, there’s more damage,” Leigh says. “Sometimes you put a job in express, and it ends up being a bigger job. It’s a struggle to hit your deadline, but most of the time we hit our mark on it.” He says a majority of cars going through the express lane are ones with bumper damage.


Leigh says he isn’t aware of many other shops that have created special express lanes for light body work. “A lot of people were thinking of ways to do it, but I’m not sure how many implemented it,” he says.

Two years in, Leigh realizes there’s still a lot of room for future potential. He speculates that a shop with an express lane would seem more attractive to insurance companies since cars with minor damage would be getting repaired much more quickly. While Leigh says Conicelli isn’t a big DRP shop right now, it’s something he thinks could further add to the value of having an express lane. “Basically, if we had more DRP relationships, it would really pay off, because there wouldn’t be delays,” Leigh notes.


Leigh says having the express lane has done a world of good in terms of improving his business. The days of shuffling different types of repair jobs no longer exist, and sales have improved to the tune of $100,000 a month. “As far as our ability to accommodate customers, it’s been a huge plus. The car comes in, the car goes out. Business is not bogged down anymore,” Leigh says. “Everything is designed for speed and it’s been a real benefit for us.”

And Leigh knows speed is something customers always want. “Everyone wants to drive their own car—we hear that every day. If you can make it more convenient for the customer, how can they not be happy?”

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