Robby Bartlett, body shop manager for Spradley Barr in Cheyenne, intends to increase car counts with upgrades in layout, equipment, and processes.Bodyman Jason Merritt grinds on the front end of a 2014 Ford Expedition. Behind him is a parts cart that contains the new parts for the $19,000 job.   Painter Derrick Barnhart measures Glasurit 90 Line clear for a job in the shop’s new BASF paint bank, supplied by Capital Paint and Refinish.

Spradley Barr targets increased collision throughput in Cheyenne

New paint booths and parts cart room improve workflow with vendor-assisted efficiencies

Cheyenne, Wyo.—When shop space is limited, relocation isn’t an option, and car counts are abundant, there’s only one thing to do, says Robby Bartlett, body shop manager for Spradley Barr Automotive Group. Eliminate inefficiency.

After 10 years at the helm of the dealer-owned body shop in southeast Wyoming, Bartlett said he’s experienced consistent year-over-year growth. Couple that with a glut of work from recent hailstorms and several automaker certifications, and suddenly work is being backlogged.

It can be up to a year wait for hail-damaged roof replacements and up to four months for paintless dent repair (PDR). The only solution, he said, is to maximize existing personnel, processes, and space for effectiveness. 

Bartlett has recently taken the first steps toward greater efficiency by reconfiguring and adding two new paint booths to the 8,500-square-foot shop, which is located on-site with its Ford/Lincoln, Toyota and Hyundai dealerships. A dedicated 1,000-square-foot parts cart room has also been recently been completed, he said.

Without the support of the dealer principle, Bob Womack, who also has a stake in the Laramie and Greeley dealerships, those investments for improvement would not be possible, Bartlett said. Fortunately, he added, Wolmac began his career in the fixed operations side of the dealership and understands the value of collision repair.

“It’s a very profitable business if it’s done right,” Bartlett said of collision repair, who quickly added, “If done wrong, it can be a money pit.”

The final measure to maximize efficiency and profitability, he said, is by implementing the processes from BASF’s Advanced Process Solutions (APS) program. Bartlett recently attended the three-day APS training program in Dallas and is implementing those best practices.


Goodbye paint booth bottleneck

Prior to installing two new Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) Performer XD paint booths, sourced through KLC Automotive Equipment, Bartlett said it was disruptive to even get a car painted. 

A cinderblock wall split down the middle of the shop, cramping the paint department and forcing cars to make a 90-degree turn to get into the booth.

“Every time someone wanted to get into the paint booth, you had to move four to five cars,” he said.  Now, the two 30-foot booths are side-by-side with a paint bank in the middle. To create even more space, he said the paint booth mechanicals are positioned on the roofs of the booths.

Capital Paint and Refinish supplies the shop with BASF’s Glasurit 90-Line waterborne paint, he said, adding that they installed the new paint bank, complete with touch screen monitors and scales.  

The shop’s status as a Ford F-150 authorized collision repair facility dictates that the shop use either Garmat or GFS paint booths, Bartlett said. KLC was already doing the booth maintenance and repair, he said, adding that they’ve always had great service from them, which made the decision to install GFS booths an easy one. In order to not disrupt production, he said they installed one booth at a time.

To increase quality and speed, most parts are painted off the car now, he added.


Automaker certifications

Although costly, having automaker collision repair structural certifications adds to the shop’s credibility, ensures accurate repairs, and brings in business, Bartlett said.    

It was through the Assured Performance Network program that the shop earned Ford’s F-150 aluminum certification and, by default, Nissan as well, he said.

By being a Ford dealer, the collision shop has a captive audience, he said, pointing out that they’re the only certified F-150 shop in the region.

The shop also carries certification status with Toyota, he said, which is a “big deal,” given the brand’s loyal customer base who actually seek out Toyota-certified shops.

To complete the job properly, Bartlett said he’s a proponent of replacing versus repairing parts, and using OEM whenever possible. Not only does it result in an accurate repair, he said, but the state of Wyoming has strict laws that require a shop to disclose the use of aftermarket or alternative collision parts. Most brands are sourced through their own dealerships or key wholesalers in the Denver area. 


Improving benchmarks

After a July hail storm that hit Cheyenne, Bartlett said they’re backlogged with hail jobs, so much so that they do two roof jobs a week and are scheduling ones out as far as November 2017.

“We fall short regularly with DRPs cycle time and touch time requirements,” he said. “This is why the shop is implementing the APS program.

“We’re looking to take away inefficiency, eliminate waste, put problems in front of a job, instead of dragging them out,” he said. “We still turn big numbers for a small shop, but it’s never good enough.”

The goal is to increase touch time to five hours a day, he said, which will naturally decrease cycle time and allow for a greater car count with less stress and snags.

In order to do so, Bartlett estimates he’ll need to add two additional employees to the current 17. Ultimately, he said he estimates it will take a about a year to realize the full potential of the APS changes.

“We’ve been a profitable shop, but at the expense of sanity,” he joked, adding with sincerity that he doesn’t want his good tenured employees to leave because of the hurried pace at which they have to work.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.