New equipment lets rural Kansas shop tackle latest vehicle technology
Ottawa, Kan.—Staying on top of the latest technology is a tradition for Aaron Bien, owner of Bienie’s Body Shop & Repair, whose family began in the collision and mechanical repair business more than 60 years ago.
So even though he just paid off the tire service and alignment equipment he bought in 2011, he knew after a visit to the recent SEMA Show that it was time to invest in the latest equipment to stay in front of current and emerging technology.
“We’ve always been ahead of the game,” Bien said.
In January, the shop installed new Hunter Engineering equipment, purchased from Quality Service Equipment: a new scissor lift, HawkEye Elite alignment machine, Revolution tire changer, and GSP 9700 Road Force Elite balancer. In the town of about 13,000 that’s about an hour southwest of Kansas City, the shop has a business mix of about 60 percent collision and 40 percent mechanical, he said.
With advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) now common, the new alignment machine can recalibrate ADAS features such as lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control at the time of an alignment by using the same targets and the tower’s cameras, Bienie said.
“I don’t like to farm anything out. The customer doesn’t want that, so this is a positive, especially in a small community. One thing I’ve always tried to do is be self-sufficient.”
The tire and wheel service equipment allows the shop’s technicians to avoid damaging sensitive TPMS sensors, easily mount low-profile tires, and confidently diagnose whether a vibration problem stems from a tire, a wheel, or something else, which he said “has paid us dividends.”
“We get a lot of tire problems from Walmart where they will say, ‘It’s not a tire issue; it’s an alignment issue.’ We can take all of that out of the equation. This will tell you that wheel’s bent or that tire has a broken belt.”
The Road Force balancer will also calculate road force on a set of four tires to minimize vibration so that the best [tire with the least amount of road force variation] is placed at the left front, and the worst is at the right rear.
Over the years, the Biens introduced several firsts to the area, Bien said, such as a factory-built frame machine, a downdraft paint booth (now a Global Finishing Solutions Concept booth, in which the shop sprays Spies Hecker, from NCS), laser measuring, and resistance spot welder. He added a nitrogen generator to fill tires in 2008, which has helped solve very slow tire bead leaks that otherwise proved elusive.
The brightly lit shop, which has expanded several times to 8,200 square feet, is a model for lean production, with a glossy Imron-coated floor, parts carts, and color-coded spaces to denote the proper “home” for equipment. Bien has participated in 20-groups, traveling across the country for meetings, and although he thought it was good information, he said he was already doing some of what had been suggested and he’s retained his emphasis on quality, not chasing an insurance company’s carrot of an ever-lower cycle time target.
“We remove a lot of doors so we can paint the door. We don’t necessarily get paid for it, but the bottom line is it all goes back to the customer by it being a better job when it’s done.”
Bien, who runs the front office and does some estimating, said he still does some technician work, mostly for railroads’ road vehicles such as hi-rails, including crane inspections and DOT inspections. That work keeps him on call 24/7, although breakdowns are fortunately rare, he said. He has a staff of eight, which includes his brother, Tim, a collision repair technician. Each collision repair technician performs each step of the repair, from start to finish, including aluminum repair.
“We’ve been doing aluminum since my dad was doing it in the ’70s,” he said.
Although prices have come down on self-piercing rivet guns, Bien said he can rent one from a supplier in Newton, and the insurer reimburses him for it.
He’s looked at other estimating systems, but prefers CCC ONE for its favorable repair times and because it’s built “from the outside in.” A December addition, a Snap-on Intelligent Diagnostics Center, ties into the shop’s network to allow easy access to Mitchell 1’s Manager SE and ProDemand OEM repair information lookups.
He’s beginning to see more insurers agree to pay for pre- and post-repair scans, which his shop can do with one of three scan tools, including one from Autel and the latest, a Snap-on Zeus.
“It does everything I need it to do for scanning, detection, and troubleshooting.”