From left: Rudy Romero oversees a front-office staff that includes estimator Mario Ramirez, customer service representative Veronica Guevara and estimator Lisa Collier, who help lead to $400,000 in monthly sales.Rudy Romero became director of Gosch Toyota Collision Center last year.Technician Martin Villalobos works on repairs to a Toyota Corolla.Painter Jesus Jimenez mixes a color in the shop’s paint mixing room.Jaime Mendoza, who joined the staff of the shop earlier this year, works on a bumper for a Chevrolet Silverado.

New director brings new arsenal of best practices and SOPs to drive efficiency

Change in paint line helps dealership collision shop improve cycle time, profits

Hemet, Calif.—About seven months after becoming director at Gosch Toyota Collision Center, Rudy Romero points to a transition to the Axalta Coating Systems’ Spies Hecker paint line at the company’s three body shops as among the biggest changes he’s made.

“That was a major undertaking, not only for us on the shop side, but also by our new business partners, FinishMaster and Axalta,” Romero said. “It was an all-hands-on-deck thing. The Axalta paint applies quickly, has better coverage and cures quicker. Of course, we had a few bumps in the road, but now that we’re there, we’ve increased our gross profit percentage on our paint materials by about 15 percent, and reduced our cycle time by about three days. That ultimately has increased our customer satisfaction scores by a few points, which is what we’re all about.”

 

Barcoded inventory system

Other changes have also have contributed to those improved statistics. All shop supplies, for example, are now barcoded using a ClipLizzard inventory system to which only two employees have access.

“We scan everything out to each technician, down to individual tack rags and razor blades,” he said. “At the end of each day, the system knows what needs to be reordered to keep us stocked, rather than having a jobber decide what he wants on the shelves.”

The system allows the shop to track usage by employee and produces invoices for products used for any given job and can be billed similarly to how parts are.

“This is a key to increasing your gross profit or reducing your loss,” Romero said, inside the supplies storage room. “This is a lot of money in here. When fully stocked each morning, there’s probably about $18,000 worth of supplies.”

 

Lean processes

The shop has also been moving toward more of the Toyota lean-processing systems Romero helped develop and implement at dealership shops he ran earlier in his career. He has had 3M hold lean principle classes, as well as help prepare SOPs for the 3M products the shops uses. Romero is currently focused on improving parts accuracy.

“DJS Fabrications makes all of our parts carts, and we’re increasing our purchases from them so we can introduce mirror-matching of the parts prior to production,” he said.

He’s also hired a mid-level technician who will be trained to specialize in plastic bumper repair.

“We’ll basically be opening a bumper shop within our facility. Most collisions involve a bumper, front or rear. If I can take those bumpers off the other techs and give them to a specialty technician to repair and get them into paint, the other guys can focus on the meat and potatoes. I think we’ll see an increase in quality with another reduction in cycle time.”

The 15,000-square-foot Gold Class facility has 13 employees and does about $400,000 in monthly sales, thanks in part to three primary DRPs. Its equipment list includes a Chief EZ Liner S21 frame rack, a Pro Spot i5 welder, a Garmat paint booth and dual Global Finishing Solutions Ultra XD prep stations.

 

Keeping customers for life

Romero said unlike at some dealerships, the Gosch company owners understand that offering collision repair is part of being a full-service dealership, and recognize that a bad repair experience elsewhere can influence when and where that customer buys their next vehicle.

“The dealers without a collision center don’t understand the value it has to their own customers,” he said. “The Goschs want collision centers so the vehicle is repaired properly in a timely manner, using OEM procedures. If that customer still decides they don’t want the vehicle, they’re still going to trade it in here and we’re going to give them a fair value for it because we know we repaired it properly. We keep that customer for life. That’s the goal.”

Romero said the network of shops that have earned a particular OEM certification can offer other certified shops a key resource for ideas and help when needed.

“We really don’t have competitors. We have a bunch of knowledge that’s shared fluidly across the whole nation,” he said of Toyota certified shops, for example. “It’s incredible. We can put out an email to 200-plus shops and get an answer in a heartbeat. Or a couple of hundred answers within a few hours.”

He’s also learned throughout his 26-year career that great leaders recognize that employees don’t work for managers — managers work for their employees.

“The smartest thing we can do is hire the right people, educate them, give them the tools they need, and get the heck out of their way,” he said. “I make the employees happy, and they make the customers happy.”

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.