Body shop trio skillfully serves dealership chain’s varied repair needs

April 6, 2018
Serving 18 Woodhouse Auto Family new- and used-car dealerships throughout Nebraska and Iowa, “with a couple more on the horizon,” the three Woodhouse Collision Center locations combine a high production output with a family oriented atmosphere.

Serving 18 Woodhouse Auto Family new- and used-car dealerships throughout Nebraska and Iowa, “with a couple more on the horizon,” the three Woodhouse Collision Center locations combine a high production output with a family oriented atmosphere.

Not only has Woodhouse – known throughout the region for its mammoth “Truck Mountain” outdoor display area – been annually celebrated by Ford as nation’s No. 1 seller of F-150 pickups going back to 2003, the company also markets a multitude of other models along with carrying a selection of recreational vehicles, motorcycles and boats.

At a Glance:
Woodhouse Collision Center
Blair, Neb.
Main location
Jason Pittack
Josh Aufenkamp
Paul Cech

No of shops
Years in business
5 days
Average cycle time
Axlata (Redshaw Paint Supply)
Paint supplier
Frame machines
CCC, Mitchell, Audatex
Estimating systems

When nameplates from Ford, Lincoln, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram, Mazda, Hyundai, Nissan, Porsche, Alfa Romeo and Maserati are in need of body work they are all directed to the trio of Woodhouse Collision Center shops in Omaha and Blair, Neb.

“The only way to know it’s fixed right is to bring it to us – we jump through all the hoops” to ensure that every vehicle is precisely repaired to the respective OEM specifications, says production manager James Rodis, who is based at the 30,000-square-foot main Blair location. (The three shops are internally designated and differentiated as Blair; Omaha Lincoln, Mazda, Porsche; and Buick/GMC.)

Up-to-date training is an ongoing aspect, especially as it relates to complexities of collision avoidance systems and other sophisticated electronics. “That’s something everyone needs to know,” Rodis reports.

“We have some amazing body technicians and painters,” says Blair body shop manager Jake Aufenkamp. “With that said, I think our ability to stay current with the latest repair information is one of the biggest strengths.”

Jake Aufenkamp

Aufenkamp elaborates that “we take great pride in researching and printing OEM procedures for every job that we do. We understand that repair procedures are not simply guidelines, but are requirements that we need to follow to repair vehicles correctly for quality and safety.”

“As a repair facility, we strive to make an invisible repair. There aren’t many shops that focus on the little things” he says. “When replacing body panels, we not only refinish the outside of those panels but we also refinish the inside to match the factory finish or e-coat tint. It’s not something everyone thinks about, but it’s an important step to restore a vehicle to pre-accident condition. We want our repairs to be virtually impossible to recognize, especially in the event of a re-inspect.”

This attention to detail is reflected in the dealership’s marketing materials because “we want our customers to understand how important this is as well,” according to Aufenkamp.

James Rodis

The focus has been further enhanced by the recent addition of a new Global Finishing Solutions painting system. Rodis expresses appreciation for the expertise provided by the GFS installation crew. “They helped us out a lot with the planning on the paint side. It takes a lot of work to set up the best production flow,” he explains. “You can think that you want it ‘like this,’ but they put up thousands of booths, so they know what is the best route to take.”

Able to accommodate eight body technicians and five painters, the latest Blair facility upgrades were completed in May of last year. Along with the three GFS downdraft booths “we have added an alignment rack and a 2-post hoist to perform all necessary mechanical labor to help process repairs through our shop,” says Aufenkamp, whose twin brother Josh is a co-owner of the dealership.

“We started with only 12 total employees processing about 100 repair orders per month to having 24 employees processing 300 to 400 repair orders per month and working with all 18 of our dealer locations throughout Eastern Nebraska,” he notes.

“We do a ton of in-house training,” Aufenkamp points out. “We have trained and moved two paint preppers into painter positions, one paint prepper into a body tech position and our previous wash kid now works side by side with our supplemator tearing down vehicles and learning how to write a thorough and accurate estimate.”

Aaron Devney, who oversees the supplements process, is admired by Aufenkamp as “an amazing asset.”

“Starting as an estimator, he had limited collision world experience,” yet within a relatively brief timeframe Devney “has absorbed a tremendous amount of knowledge and information about the industry.”

Seeking feedback

“We are different from most shops in the sense that our primary focus is our customers, not the insurance companies,” according to Aufenkamp. “We are here to help the insurance company understand what needs to be done to repair vehicles according to OEM standards and procedures. Sometimes we run into a snag with an insurance company, at which point we don’t hesitate to get the customer involved. We strive to maintain a positive relationship with everyone, but we always have the customer’s best interest in mind.”

With all the assorted automaker nameplates being sold through the Woodhouse showrooms and sales lots, “we have it pretty easy” when obtaining OEM parts due to the dealership’s large distribution center located about 15 miles away from the Blair shop.

“Also, our paint supplier – Redshaw Paint Supply – is great to deal with. If we need something that they don’t have, they’re great about finding a way to get it for us,” Aufenkamp says.

In business since 1953, the Omaha-based Redshaw has four outlets in Nebraska.

Because the three Woodhouse collision facilities rely mostly on referrals through its vast network of vehicle sales operations, “Our body shops are not really marketed to the general public,” Aufenkamp says. “We are very fortunate to be a part of a great dealership that the general public trusts to handle all phases of purchasing and owning a vehicle.

“Our sales department is amazing and so is our relationship with them. We both realize that our customers are their customers and vise-versa. Our dealership is very customer orientated so together we make the entire process very easy.”

Out on the shop floor, much of the management strategy revolves around maintaining a collaborative environment. “We believe in letting our technicians’ voices be heard,” he says. “If we make changes to a process or policy, we ask for feedback. We try to keep a light atmosphere but still make sure we are getting the job done right.”

Recruiting competent new hires is frequently accomplished via an active presence on a series of advisory boards at several area technical schools.

Aufenkamp obtained valuable repair knowledge by spending several years in the dealership’s parts service department prior to joining the collision repair side of the business. Rodis, the production manager, has been in the body shop industry for more than 30 years, and has been with Woodhouse for a decade.

“Although our shops are dealer-owned, we have worked very to get where we are now,” Aufenkamp recounts. “A lot of our success is because of the hard work and dedication of James Rodis, not only in our facility in Blair but also what James does outside of the organization that I feel is helping the community. James is very unique because he does not just accept any answer as the final answer. James is very determined to educate everyone that comes to our facility in Blair that has a different opinion other than his.”

Rodis’ ability to convey “logical and educated” insights is a valuable asset to the company, according to Aufenkamp, which means that “when an adjuster or customer walks away from the conversation they have the information necessary to make an educated decision and a safe decision based on the information that they were given.”

He adds that “there have been many like James in our industry, but our team in Blair is very lucky to have someone like him in our organization that cares to the extent that he does to ensure that the vehicles leave here in the safe, reliable condition that they do. It is because of James Rodis that our shop is successful.”

About the Author

James Guyette

James E. Guyette is a long-time contributing editor to Aftermarket Business World, ABRN and Motor Age magazines.

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