Growing their own
Wichita, Kan.—With aggressive growth over the past few years, All Angles Collision Repair has an almost constant need to fill a large number of staff vacancies for each new location. So in late 2017, General Manager Ken Hunnell implemented a formal staff development program focused on placing inexperienced staff and industry veterans in the roles best suited for them, giving him a staff ready to hit the ground running once the key turned in a new facility’s front door.
“We are continuously looking for role players,” Hunnell said, noting that for some positions, no experience is necessary. Instead, he looks for interest in the field and a great attitude and work ethic. (Before Hunnell joined All Angles in 2009 as manager, he worked outside for five years on railroad cars, knowing nothing about collision repair before joining the industry as a parts manager in 2001.)
“But because of our system and our culture, we also have experienced technicians coming to us who want to be part of what we do.”
Founded in 2006, the company’s first expansion was in 2015, when it added its East Kellogg location, a former Tractor Supply Co. building. It acquired Brenneman’s Paint & Body Shop in Newton in May 2017, even as All Angles was building its first ground-up facility at its northeast location at 2809 N. Greenwich, which opened for business Jan. 1, 2018. And it already owns property in northwest Wichita, where they will build their fifth location as they consider acquisitions outside the Wichita area.
Lean production leads way for change
Previous operational changes paved the way for the staff-development program’s introduction in 2017: the shops changed to lean production in June 2015, followed by a team structure in July 2016. Each location has one team, and although staffing levels may vary slightly by location and occasional vacancies, the structure Hunnell described as optimal includes two technicians performing disassembly and damage analysis; two lead body technicians; one painter/prepper, who as a combination technician can also do small repairs, as needed; one lead painter; and one reassembly technician.
“Because we now have our office segmented, too, our repair consultants — which in many shops are the estimators — are our sales- and customer-focused individuals. Their main responsibility is getting the customer checked in, getting the car dropped off and getting it into damage analysis so the repair-mapping and photographing can be done.”
Team members split the production hours, but apprentice technicians do not affect the flat-rate hours earned by the team, Hunnell said.
“Currently at the East Kellogg location, we have two young apprentices who are hourly employees that are not paid out as a team. The team benefits from having a little extra help, and as we’re growing, we’re trying to find places to put those guys as they mature.”
The next step in the evolution of operations is rotating apprentices through various positions to find their best fit, something the company introduced a few months ago.
“For most of our team setups, we have put our new people in disassembly and sometimes in reassembly. But even some experienced technicians may not be good at those tasks, so we need to look at where they may have some strengths in panel replacement and panel repair. They can spend a week in disassembly, the next week in body, and the next week we can reassess and rotate that for six months. We can see where their strengths are and start to funnel them into those.”
Weekly production meetings keep staff informed of “what’s working and what’s not working as a group,” so apprentices often already know where improvement is needed. Each apprentice has a 90-day review, with a form filled out anonymously by each team member giving both praise and criticism, reviewed by the location manager and Hunnell. Currently in the pipeline are two full-time apprentices each at the northeast and east locations, along with a detailer who is also learning the ropes of collision repair part time at each location.
Team members can vote to expand the team, as bringing on the additional member affects their pay.
“‘Is this guy ready to be on the team?’ Sometimes, that’s an easy answer, and sometimes, ‘Here are some things you need to work on.’ In other cases, it’s trying them in a different role.”
Hunnell also consulted with team members to overhaul the shops’ hiring process over the past couple years, which now starts with a phone interview, followed by an in-person interview, and for certain positions, a panel interview involving two or three team members.
“For everybody we hire, we’re making sure they’re the type of person who fits our culture. We’re looking to make sure they fit who we are, what our mission is, and what we commit to each other as team members. If they fit that, there are so many different areas of the auto body business that they should have a strength that can help our team get better.”