MSO uses new location to implement best practices

June 30, 2021
When Steve Suppe, director of collision services for the three Holman Collision Center Florida locations, began planning the company’s latest collision repair center, it was a chance to implement new processes and ideas they learned from other locations.

When Steve Suppe, director of collision services for the three Holman Collision Center Florida locations, began planning the company’s latest collision repair center in Pembroke Pines, it was a chance to implement new processes and apply ideas he and other staff learned from other locations.

Holman Automotive’s Pembroke Pines dealerships – Audi Pembroke Pines and Lauderdale BMW of Pembroke Pines – desperately needed additional inventory storage space to support sales of 400 cars each per month. At the same time, the nearest Holman Collision Center was about 30 miles away, in Ft. Lauderdale.

“We were losing a lot of our customers who didn’t want to drive 45 minutes in traffic just to get an estimate,” Suppe said. “So if somebody had a BMW or an Audi in Pembroke Pines, and it had a damaged fender and bumper, they figured, ‘I’ll just bring it to where the insurance company tells me to go.’”

Begun with a single Ford dealership in 1924, Holman Automotive has grown into one of the largest privately-owned dealership groups in the United States, according to the company, with 40 dealership franchises representing 20 brands, from the East Coast to the Pacific Northwest. In addition to the three Florida locations – Ft. Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, and Pompano Beach – the company operates one collision repair center each in Maple Shade, New Jersey; Beaverton, Oregon; and Centennial, Colorado. (The last two continue to operate under the Kuni Automotive name since their 2016 acquisition.)

Onward and upward with mixed-use structure

To meet the need for a convenient collision center and additional inventory storage, a surface parking lot between the two dealerships was replaced with a new six-story parking garage. The ground floor is dedicated to the 70,000-square-foot Holman Collision Pembroke Pines, which also includes the VPC (vehicle processing center), where used cars are reconditioned and pre-delivery inspections are performed for new cars.

The collision center opened in March with immediate demand, with more than 100 repair orders in the first 30 days, Suppe said.

“We’ve had customers come in and tell us, ‘I knew you had a store on the east side, but I don’t like driving that far.’ So they were waiting for us to open.”

Seven employees from the Ft. Lauderdale collision center joined Suppe at the Pembroke Pines facility to get it off the ground. He figures the new facility will eventually support 40 employees, the staffing level at the other location. Take a virtual tour here!

“We’re busier than I ever thought we would be, and I’m looking forward to growing, growing and growing,” he said. “I’ll say when you have a facility that looks like this, you don’t have a problem finding technicians. We’re not direct repair for anybody. We use only OEM parts; we don’t use any used or aftermarket parts at our facilities. Our estimators are well-versed in factory repair procedures and P page knowledge, so we are able to get more hours than the typical DRP shop.

So it’s not all that hard for us to find people. Everybody complains about technician shortages, but we don’t really have a problem with that.”

Applying knowledge to facility upgrades

Facilities Development Manager John Keasling “was the real mastermind behind this facility,” Suppe said, and Suppe collaborated with the architects and him on the flow, equipment selection and placement of the equipment.

Applying what they had learned in their previous facilities, including at Ft. Lauderdale, improvements were made, such as a larger secure tool room for specialty tools and equipment; three inspection bays up front with Rotary in-ground lifts (one more than at Ft. Lauderdale), which can also be used to deliver a car in inclement conditions; and the ability to move a car from the body department to the paint department without the car ever moving outside. Rytec high-speed doors feature a security sensor, so shop personnel must have a badge to enter and exit.

“Our other location was an existing facility that we added onto and then refurbished the existing facility. So the flow there is not as good as it is here,” Suppe said. “Everything that we did wrong when we built that facility 10 years ago, we were able to correct when we did this one. That store still does $1.2 million a month, but the flow is not what it could be.”

Because the new shop, as is the Ft. Lauderdale facility, is air-conditioned, the prep deck in the enlarged prep area features air makeup, so conditioned air stays contained in the building.

Suppe wanted a showpiece of a collision repair facility. For a premium, European appearance, clinker (industrial ceramic) tile is laid throughout the facility except inside the 31-foot-long Garmat 3000 spray booths, which were purchased from and installed by FilterWorks, of Deerfield Beach, Fla. The fresh appearance of their epoxy floors is maintained by using an adhesive plastic-sheeting liner typically used in home construction and remodeling for floor protection. At quarterly booth-maintenance intervals, the liner can be replaced to keep overspray buildup to a minimum. BASF Automotive Refinish Coatings’ Glasurit paint is used at the shop, as it is with all Holman locations.

At the time of the spray booth installation, Suppe requested that the messier components of what is typically inside a mixing room be placed in a separate room: an explosion-proof paint shaker; gun cleaner; and the spill-containment pallet, which holds 55-gallon drums of new and waste thinner.

“It worked out really nicely to keep all that mess out of the shop,” he said.

FilterWorks also supplied the Car-o-Liner frame benches, which are mounted flush in the floor. Reliable Automotive Equipment, of Belford, N.J., supplied the Celette Bench, aluminum clean room, and other equipment needed for OEM certifications.

“We do everything in-house,” Suppe said. “We don’t sublet anything, including glass or alignments, and we do all our own pre- and post-scans. I think the only thing we sublet is stripes, which we hardly ever do. Because it’s a new location, we have to go through another certification for this location, so we’re in the process of doing that now. We use repair procedures on every car that we do. So whatever it says in our repair procedures, that’s what we do.”

New facility offers opportunity to implement blueprinting

At the same time, Suppe, who has been a director for five years after serving 10 years at Holman as body shop manager, chose the opening of the new location to implement new processes, such as embracing the blueprinting process. So the parts room was enlarged to store Innovative Tools & Technologies parts carts, as well as a secure caged-off area for parts direct-shipped overnight from BMW.

“We wanted to get started on the blueprinting process right away,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest things that we want to change and get our estimators, parts guys, and technicians all on the same page right from the beginning.”

Suppe said he began the process at the Ft. Lauderdale facility last fall, with some success in showing how the process helps identify all missing or incorrect parts. But its rapid pace has prevented its full implementation there.

“You’ve got two technicians and ten lifts and you have plenty of space [at the Pembroke Pines location] to spread out a little bit and work through the process until we get it down,” he said. “At the other stores, they’re so busy all the time, they’re just bumping into each other. When you’re doing $1.2 million out of 40,000 square feet, there’s a lot going on.”

Along with CCC ONE Estimating, the shop uses CCC ONE Repair Workflow to track vehicle repair status, assign tasks, and manage productivity, which has aided its emphasis on blueprinting.

“When we opened up our new store, I said, ‘We’re going to start right from the very beginning doing it the right way. Fortunately, it’s working out really well for us. We’re still learning to fly, but we’re doing it.”

It’s been a painless adjustment for the technicians, Suppe said, while he’s encountered some resistance from parts personnel unaccustomed to mirror-matching new parts to the damaged parts on the parts cart.

Consumers respond to OEM parts and training

Consumers respond to the company’s marketing, which stresses its factory-trained and I-CAR-recognized technicians and use of only OEM parts. On that last point, Suppe said he runs into very little friction from insurers.

“We’ve been doing this business model for 10 to 12 years, and we had a little pushback at first,” he said. “But we educate our customers and they call their agents [if there is a problem getting their insurer to pay.] Now it’s automatic when the adjuster comes in; they know the deal. There is not a tremendous number of aftermarket parts around for BMWs and Audis, so that makes a little easier, too.

Most of the cars we work on are fairly new, also. The oldest car we’ve had in the shop was probably a 2015.”

The new location promises to continue to draw customers with little risk of cannibalizing sales from other Holman locations, Suppe said.

“Are they going to lose some work down there? Probably a little bit, but it’s not going to be anywhere near as much as we’re going to gain by being here.

One of my advisors was complaining, ‘Oh, you guys are going to take all of our work.’ I said, ‘I’m hoping we’re going to be so busy out west [Pembroke Pines] that we’ll be sending cars east because we can’t get them done.’ ”

About the Author

Jay Sicht | Editor-in-Chief, FenderBender and ABRN

Jay Sicht is editor-in-chief of FenderBender and ABRN. He has worked in the automotive aftermarket for more than 28 years, including in a number of sales and technical roles in paint/parts distribution and service/repair. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Central Missouri with a minor in aviation, and as a writer and editor, he has covered all segments of the automotive aftermarket for more than 20 of those years, including formerly serving as editor-in-chief of Motor Age and Aftermarket Business World. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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