The International Auto Crafters management team (from left), Harvey Ryan co-owner, Moreno Valley manager Craig Huneke, and Harry Ryan co-owner say PPG Green Belt Process training has helped the company achieve double-digit growth in just over a year.  Estimator Sandra Beaubien discusses a work order with blueprinter Daniel Perez.   I-CAR Platinum recognized painter Marco Velazquez says PPG Envirobase water-borne paint is easy to mix and color match with both OEM and custom finishes.Frame technician Juan Leon prepares to pull a car on the shop’s Chief EZ Liner S21 frame machine. Blueprinter Jeff Toole shows estimator Sandra Beaubien the OEM new trunk panel for a damaged Kia.

MSO invests in training to boost performance, shop efficiency and morale

International Auto Crafters changes paint company to improve processes with PPG training program

Moreno Valley, Calif.—Today’s collision repair industry requires better performance as margins continue to get tighter, so brothers Harry and Harvey Ryan decided to look for a company that provided more than paint.

“A little over a year ago we changed our paint manufacturer to PPG, which we buy from FinishMaster, and switched to the PPG Green Belt Process,” Harvey said. “Dean Shirley, our FinishMaster rep, and Jeff Thomas, our PPG Green Belt program rep, have both been a tremendous help to us.”

Green Belt is the practical application of PPG’s Lean Six Sigma training tailored for collision repair and provides all the tools and knowledge required to create improvement in all processes, Harvey said.

“It features a program carefully developed to provide an effective balance between teaching the proven science behind process improvement and implementing practical solutions for driving best-in-class performance at our collision centers.”

The Ryans own International Auto Crafters, a four-location MSO. They opened the first location in Moreno Valley, which is certified by Assured Performance, in 1990 (other locations are in the process of being re-certified).

Harvey said that before signing up for the training program, he and Harry visited other shops that had been through it and saw the positive results they had obtained, such as improved throughput, better repair-cycle processes, higher quality repairs, and reduced key-to-key times.

“Estimators, managers, blueprinters, technicians, and anyone we want to send, goes away for four days to a seminar with a team from PPG’s MVP Business Solutions Group,” he said. “We try to send at least three people every time and we’ll continue until everyone in the company goes through it so it becomes a culture in the shop.” 

“We have to pay for the training, but the ROI is amazing,” Harvey said, “because this light comes on in their heads and they come back with this ‘Oh, my gosh’ attitude. We have them write down what their priorities are to move forward while it’s fresh in their minds and they’re excited.”

Harry added that a few employees have gone twice because they want to learn more and they understand it’s not just a better process but it also relieves stress because they don’t have to think about what process comes next.

Since first incorporating Green Belt processes the average key-to-key time has dropped from about 12.6 days to seven or eight days, and it’s continuing to drop, Harry said.

“Our average repair order is up to about $2,100, we have approximately 50 vehicles in process at any time, and our average car count is 150 per month,” Harry said. “We are up by 28 percent over 2016 so our strategy for 2018 is to continue training and implementation of the Green Belt Process.”

 

Equipment and tooling investments

All of International’s locations have Pro Spot resistance spot welders, aluminum and silicon bronze welders, aluminum repair equipment, and Menifee and Moreno Valley have Polyvance Nitro Fuser plastic welders. The four shops have Spray King, Spray Zone, Global Finishing Solutions, Ultra X, or Garmat spray booths. Harry said the Garmat is the most worry free.

“We have Chief EZ Liner and Car-O-Liner frame pulling and measuring equipment, Infinity 3D Laser measuring systems, and Maximus 2.0 scan tools from Matco for pre- and post-repair scans,” Harry said. “And we send vehicles to the dealership for recalibrations when necessary.

 

OEM certifications

Currently all locations are Honda and Acura ProFirst collision repair facilities, Moreno Valley is Infiniti, Nissan, and Hyundai certified, Menifee has BMW-certified technicians, and all locations are Assured Performance certified, which Harvey said has helped them keep up to date on OEM certifications and provided them with attractive signage to promote the Assured Performance certification.

The company also has more than 20 DRPs, offers free shuttle service and Hertz rentals and Lyft (which Harvey said will even deliver parts).

 

Launching the business

“Before opening our first location with an investment partner, I worked for many years in the collision industry as both a technician and as an insurance adjuster,” Harry Ryan said, “which gave me insights into collision repair from both sides of the spectrum.”

In 1997, Harry bought out his investment partner and Harvey joined the business. Since then, the brothers have looked to the future and ways to grow their business together.

“I spent more than 20 years with Honda/Acura as a service director and participated in the Training Management Action Program,” Harvey said, “so I brought a lot of knowledge of the OEM industry with me.”

The I-CAR Gold Class shop has I-CAR Gold- and Platinum-recognized technicians and estimators and was built on a foundation of providing outstanding customer service and honest repairs, Harvey said, which has allowed it to open locations in Lake Elsinore in 2001, Palm Desert in 2013, and Menifee opened in 2016.

Harvey said there are advantages to being a multi-shop-operator such as economies of scale, parts procurement, human resources, and training.

“Training is certainly an advantage because we can host training sessions from vendors such as FinishMaster, Car-O-Liner, and Pro Spot at our shops and our employees don’t have to travel to different training centers,” he said.

“We also learned things about better shop layout and work flow as we opened each new location,” Harry said, such as spray booth placement to make it easier to pull cars in and out, better work station and stall layout, and adding new equipment, such as the Car-O-Liner frame machine and nitro welders.”  

 

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