Symach-equipped bodyshops share how they are dealing with COVID-19
When the coronavirus restrictions were first put into place, body shops across the globe were faced with new challenges. Symach proprietary equipment, layout, and processes, have been extremely beneficial for facilities while they are dealing with decreased work and implementing social distancing and contactless procedures. Since many shops are experiencing downtime right now, the company has reached out to many facilities with Symach equipment to ensure everything is being maintained properly. It is a great opportunity for body shops to inspect all their equipment, including compressors, lifts, filters and address any maintenance issues they might have, so it does not impact production when business starts to pick up again.
Having a clean working environment is especially important right now during COVID-19. Symach’s design layouts lend themselves especially well to this environment and minimizes concerns from employees and customers. When customers see their car in a clean shop that is using disinfectant, it gives them confidence that the facility is taking all the necessary precautions. Due to the defined workspace and specific positioning of the Symach layout, there is a natural distance between staff at each repair phase. As a result, technicians have space to do their job individually, which encourages social distancing on the shop floor.
Despite the current situation, shops are still able to achieve fast turnaround times and minimal key-to-key time while dealing with reduced staff and production levels. As businesses start to recover, we are confident that Symach shops will be ready to easily manage the increase in work and do so efficiently.
Gino’s panel & Paint
Australia experienced the COVID emergency as hard any other country in the world. WA is one state within Australia which has started the journey to recovery recently after a success lockdown periods and now starts to see restrictions been released; let’s see what Aaron Scagliotta, Gino’s Panel & Paint shop’s Director, based in Freemantle, WA, said to Symach:
“There was never ‘complete lockdown’ for our industry here in WA for us, as we were considered an ‘Essential service’ once we followed COVID Health guidelines to protect ourselves and others. Important steps were taken such as following: all social distancing rules, including marking the reception floor to the desk distance. We also reduced the number of people allowed in reception to one at a time. The weather was great which enabled us to set up individual waiting areas outside as well. We also better scheduled drop off and pick up for clients”. said Aaron. “Gloves were worn by all our employees (and strictly enforced). Hand sanitizer was readily available and encouraged. We used bags and bagged all clients keys, this allow the opportunity to create a contactless environment. We have always used disposable steering wheel, gear stick and seat covers. Each vehicle at ‘check in’ was given a pre and post sanitation with a hospital grade disinfectant mist that would not damage any surfaces including all interiors. The workers shifts were staggered, so if we did have a contamination, we would only lose 50% of people to isolation. Lunch rooms were closed.”
Aaron said they initially saw a 70% drop off in volume allocation, however they were extremely busy with a lot of bookings prior to the COVID pandemic lockdown– This enabled us to have a “cushion” of work during the start of lockdown. Eventually as restrictions ease, business did improve, but overall we are seeing approx. 30% drop to prior COVID restrictions now. The business took the chance to review the staffing levels and lowered the number of employees. The non-productive employees’ hours were reduced by 50% and the productive employees’ was only reduced by 33%. These team members were divided into 2 shifts and just they adjusted the work flow to match exactly.
The business knew that the unfortunate reality was that fixed costs of running a business would not change, apart from non productives. However Aaron felt with the adjusted number of employees and workload, they had an opportunity to manage the gross profit to be as good as before, if not better.
“This obviously also involves the question primarily of ‘how productive your team can be?’ said Aaron. “The Symach equipment always encourages minimal unnecessary movement (also good during these times for health reasons, not having to enter a cars as often) and also helps to limit a main constraint which is in this case the spraybooth. We were still able to do a pretty impressive number of cars, considering the number of people in the paint team.”
We asked Aaron what piece of advice would he feel to give to other shop owners to cope with restrictions, lowered volumes and still successfully run the business at the same time: “Firstly watch your non-productive labor costs in your revenue, adjust down accordingly. This is the big fixed cost and can be adjusted. Obviously you still need to provide service to your customers, but you would be surprised how much extra revenue is there. Then you must really focus on your costs of goods sold, labor, paint and then consumables. Labor is by far the biggest cost, you must make sure the productive staff are really productive. Focus on selling their time effectively, reduce their unnecessary movement, and focus on systems and process; you want them working on cars for nearly their whole day. Measure their productivity, performance manage. Then watch your paint spend in relation to the paint revenue, any other way is not accurate. Make sure you are doing equal to or better than benchmark, measure this religiously. If it does not look good start asking the hard questions. “ Consumables – see paint.”
Aaron believes that all new work practices, apart from split shifts, such as lunch rooms and restricted office numbers remain, and will remain for the near future.
CSN 427 Auto collision
In Toronto, Ontario, CSN 427 Auto Collision has reduced its operating hours and staff and temporarily closed the waiting area. “The health and safety of employees and customers remain our first priority and we’re taking every possible precaution to limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Lorenzo D’Alessandro, president of CSN 427 Auto Collision.
As a result, they introduced additional health and safety measures and touch-less services so they can continue to serve the community while maintaining physical distancing.
This includes continuous cleaning of the shop, online and mobile estimating, off-site vehicle and rental car pickup/drop-off and vehicle and rental car cleaning with disinfectant. If a customer prefers to come in, all paperwork is delivered contact-free.
D’Alessandro said Symach equipment has helped promote shop cleanliness and ensure employee health and safety are at the forefront of their operation. The individual technician bays allow the team to work efficiently while maintaining distance and the innovative paneling helps them clean with sanitizing products.
“We’re all in this together,” said D’Alessandro. “As an essential service, balancing shop needs with public responsibilities can be difficult. In times like these, we are lucky to have such a great, reliable network of shops through the CSN Network to fall back on for advice and upgraded services, as well as reliable equipment from Symach.”
CARSTAR Fredericton’s two locations, in New Brunswick, Canada, have remained open during the coronavirus restrictions. General Manager Steve Knox said the business only reduced their operating hours by one hour per day to correspond to the car rental company’s hours.
The customer waiting areas at both locations were closed to maintain social distancing and management set up a process to accommodate customers during repairs.
They have found Symach equipment to be beneficial. “The beauty of having a Symach shop is that we are able to keep physically distanced,” said Knox. “The stalls are far enough apart that it helps avoid the spread of bacteria.”
Knox said their Symach shop has beautifully finished floors and clean smooth surfaces similar to a hospital operating room, which is ideal for cleanliness. “These things do not allow for the accumulation of dust and dirt particles,” said Knox. “When you are starting out with a clean environment, it’s much easier to maintain it as a safe place to keep bacteria and viruses out of.”
For shops considering a Symach installation, Knox recommends visiting many Symach shops. “There are different styles, but one thing I’ve found they all have in common is cleanliness,” said Knox. “A customer, especially in these times of fear of bacteria really appreciates seeing a vehicle go into a well-lit, clean shop. That’s what Symach sells.”
In mid-March, when the stay-at-home orders were going into effect in the U.S., DCR Systems closed its doors to the outside world. Since then, the Ohio-based company has put several processes in place to ensure employees and customers are safe. “We went ‘virtual’ on virtually everything and created cleaning standards for vehicles that needed to be repaired as well as continued to use steering wheel and seat coverings,” said co-owner Giarrizzo. The business has remained open but there is still limited access inside their seven collision centers, which are located in Ohio, Massachusetts, North Carolina and New York. There were a few voluntary layoffs at the facilities, mostly from employees who either had health concerns themselves or have spouses with concerns.
Giarrizzo said the use of Symach equipment has been very beneficial during this time. “The equipment has really helped us sell work by promising and delivering incredible turnaround time for customers and our dealer partners,” he said. During the pandemic, Giarrizzo stressed the importance of trying to still find blessings. “They are out there!” he said. “It’s a great time for business improvement in so many ways. Think virtual world, contactless experiences, streamlined processing, and business enhancements that are sustainable beyond these crazy times.”
Axiom UK, a TDN Group Company, is on the road to recovery. Managing Director Jordan Fisher said the operation came to a swift standstill when the COVID-19 outbreak first occurred because an employee or one of their family members showed symptoms of the virus. “We were missing key players at an early stage; then, the stricter general lockdown came into play,” he said. “The government introduced a furlough program that was helpful, but it didn’t cover four employees who had joined the business that month.” After cleaning the shop, they began rotating shifts to complete their work in progress (WIP). They also showed new employees how to best utilize Symach equipment. In addition, they created COVID-related policies such as distancing, staged breaks and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The situation has given them an opportunity to create a more efficient workforce. “We thought we were efficient, but we learned how to increase it further,” he said. Recently, they began bringing back employees from furlough as claims volumes have gradually increased. They anticipate Symach equipment will be very beneficial coming out of the lockdown. “The sheer speed of booth cycles will allow us to have painters work minimum hours, thus reducing contact with other staff,” he said. Fisher advises shops to take care of staff and be flexible. He also recommends using government support wisely and staging a facility’s recovery to get the best outcome financially as well as for the team’s welfare