New owners hone production and lean practices to drive output and teamwork
Portland, Ore.— When Jim McCoy closed on the purchase of Lents Body Shop in 2016, he opened the doors to processes and practices he gleaned from his of his involvement in an Akzo-sponsored 20 group.
“For the first few years, the group was concentrated only on lean processing,” McCoy said. “Now we’ve moved into a leadership training focus. Our tagline is: building better humans. We want to develop and empower employees to work with customers and make decisions without having to look for a manager. It’s about seeing people as people, not objects. It’s lot easier to be mad or yell or be upset at an object than it is a person. So stop and think and treat people better. I think employees really appreciate it.”
The company conducts quarterly team-building activities such as barbecues, an annual weekend camping trip, Warrior Dash, and a video game-themed event at a Buster & Dave’s.
“Money is not always the way to keep people,” McCoy said. “We are just building a good solid team. We try to include the spouses and kids, get everyone involved.”
McCoy’s wife and business partner Dawn added, “It helps make this a place that people enjoy coming to. It’s not just about working, getting a paycheck and going home. We feel if you treat your employees right, and do right for them, that’s going to carry over to the customers.”
Jim McCoy spent about 17 years working in production and management for a collision repair business in Washington state. When it was purchased by a regional MSO, McCoy decided to fulfill a long-time goal of going into business with Dawn. He briefly considered a business outside the collision industry, then got a call from Randy Dagel, the long-time owner of Lents Body Shop.
“He said he wanted to talk to me about running the shop, but I told him I wasn’t interested in that,” McCoy said. “But I told him if he was ever interested in selling, I’d be interested in talking. He called me back a couple of weeks later.”
McCoy came to work with Dagel as the two finalized a sales agreement over about nine months. Dawn joined the business during that time, and the McCoys now oversee a business that has doubled in size in terms of sales and has grown to 15 employees.
The McCoys say they have tried to continue Dagel’s long-standing involvement in the local community. Their marketing efforts, for example, include sponsorship of the Portland Pickles, a baseball team of college-age players in a West Coast league whose homefield is in nearby Lents Parks.
Dagel was also known over several decades for being among the earliest to “go green” in his shop’s paint department. The McCoys say they have tried to extend that effort into the shop’s offices, transitioning Dagel’s meticulous paper files and records with a shop management system.
The shop’s equipment list included a Garmat booth and prep station, and a Chief S21 frame rack with the Velocity measuring system. The McCoys have added a vacuum sanding system, a nitrogen plastic welder, and both a Pro Spot i5 spot welder and a SP-2 Smart MIG welder. To supplement the shop’s 10,000-square-foot facility, they added multiple covered car ports in the back lot for both vehicles and the parts carts used for each job.
But it’s really the shop’s production system that McCoy said he’s been focused on during the last two years to increase throughput. Technicians use a specific process for complete tear-down of vehicles, for example. A board above the garage door between the body department and paint shop outlines a checklist of items that must be completed before a vehicle moves into paint. A color-coded production board on the wall shows what stage in the process each vehicle is in.
“We just watch for areas on the board that grow,” McCoy said. “If the ‘ready for refinish’ area grows in terms of the number of cars, we know we’ll have a problem coming up in paint, so we can work with the paint department about how to deal with that.”
The system is one McCoy said he saw in an Illinois shop in his 20 group that he copied and tried to improve. That shop owner later visited Lents Body Shop and planned to implement McCoy’s improvements.
“It’s called R&D,” McCoy joked. “Rip-off and duplicate.”
He said the system is part of the basis for Carbeat, an electronic production system AkzoNobel has recently developed. McCoy said he plans to eventually begin using Carbeat, but wanted his staff to first understand the basic process and its value before implementing an electronic version.
He said Carbeat also will help automate a system the shop has recently been using to track whether the painters each hit their goal for their week, and if not, why. The system looks at which jobs took more time than they should have, and whether those delays were based within the paint department or elsewhere in the shop.
“You need to know why,” McCoy said. “There has to be a reason why we didn’t hit the goal. I know we can do it. So why didn’t we?”
The McCoys said as they move forward they hope to continue to hone the shop’s production process, upgrade some more of the shop’s equipment and ramp up employee training to help the shop regain its I-CAR Gold Class status.
“We’re making sure our employees have all the knowledge and every advantage they need – I-CAR being one of them – to make them be as successful as they can be,” Dawn McCoy said.