Ed Attanasio (39)
ABN: How has the BAR changed most significantly since you took the position of Chief?
SM: I took the position four years ago and I think the organization has changed a lot in a relatively short time. Establishing open communication was the first step. I’ve been to every industry associations and group throughout the state, many of them more than once in my four years in this job. I wanted to get out and make sure that I was hearing from the industry what their issues were what their problems were so that I could go about resolving those issues. Any time you take on a new job, you want to be able to hear from your constituents. And then we started having our regular BAR Advisory meetings on a quarterly basis. Any time we got out to do regulations we also have a series of workshops throughout the state, anything that’s going to implement the industry, anything involving something we need to do or mandate that they have to do something that imposes on them, we try to get them in the loop early on and making sure that we hear all of them concerns and address those as we go through the process.
Italy makes amazing race cars (Ferrari), top-tier watches (Bulgari) and luxurious shoes (Gucci) and they also make some of the finest air compressors on the planet, respected by auto body and mechanical shops throughout the world.
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Mattei’s General Manager Jay Hedges knows air compressors inside and out after two decades in the industry. He’s been with Mattei for nearly three years, overseeing North American Operations for the company that developed the first rotary vane compressor in 1958.
An essential piece of equipment can make or break any company. If a body shop has problems with a lift or a paint gun, it can slow down their production significantly. That’s why Rod Salas, owner of an airbag mobile service company in Southern California, knows that his scanners have to work on every service call or he’ll lose time and of course, money. That’s also why he said he’s happy to use scanners made by Autoland Scientech, a worldwide leader in diagnostic tools since 1990.
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Salas, 46, has been working in the airbag industry since 2000, and in 2003 he started Airbag Tech in Downey, CA, servicing all of Los Angeles County. It’s a small company with two vans and several on-call part-time employees, including his son Rod Jr., 20, but the company is busy even in a recession, he told Autobody News.
If you don’t know SEO from [a] CEO, and PPC could be a new type of paint, or if ‘organic search’ sounds pretty much like a hunt for fresh but pricy vegetables, you might want to pay some close attention to Auto Body Guru. Don’t be embarrassed if you lack internet skills. Instead take a little while to understand what you might be leaving on the table, by ignoring the potential benefits to your business.
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Body shops need to know how to fix cars while navigating around the many obstacles that can get in the way of doing a good job while still making a profit. That’s why it makes sense to understand the benefits of using a company like Auto Body Guru to figure out the proper ways to position yourself on the Internet and get results.
“Body shop owners know how to run their businesses, but when it comes to Internet marketing, they will admit they need assistance,” Rony Mirzaians, the founder and owner of Auto Body Guru explained. “Would you hire a body tech to create your Web site and then optimize it for search? I don’t think you would. The best thing a body shop owner needs to know is what he or she doesn’t know. Delegate your online marketing to an expert and you’ll succeed. Do it part-time or hire a hobbyist to do it, and you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
Most body shop owners will admit that they just don’t have sufficient time to do marketing. And that’s why Mirzaians knows the game plan when it comes to getting shops customers via online, he said.
A long-time collision repair professional knows that the right equipment can make his job easier. But if a lift or another piece of shop equipment can fail during a busy period, it can break the business and cause chaos trying to meet those highly critical cycle times. Lee Haney, Jr., owner of 21st Century Collision, a 13-year-old shop in Oklahoma City, can cite equipment manufactured by Chief Automotive Technology as being a great asset to the overall success of his operation.
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“I’ve worked with quite a few great suppliers and vendors over the years,” Haney, Jr. said. “If you can identify the best products and build an ongoing relationship with these companies, you can get an advantage in this industry. I’ve been very fortunate to be associated with companies like Chief. Without the proper equipment, you won’t survive long in this business.”
21st Century is a busy collision repair facility, but it’s not just a “body shop”, according to Haney, Jr. “I don’t like to call us a body shop, because we do so much more. In these times, with the technology we have, the industry has changed and body shop just doesn’t describe what we’re doing to get these cars back to pre-existing condition.”
21st Century Collision fixes approximately 250 vehicles monthly, Haney Jr. said. The business operates out of a 20,000-square-foot shop and employs 23-25 people. When the weather turns nasty, 21st Century sees a spike in business, when huge hailstones rain on the area.
Giannini’s Auto Body in San Francisco’s Bay Area has learned that being green can lead to further green down the road, but that’s not the only reason why they do it. By setting a high standard for doing anything and everything they can to prevent degrading the environment, body shops like Giannini’s are winning recognition and remaining busy year-round. They were an early adopter of waterborne, they run their shop using practices that are ultra-green and they’ve found a niche in fixing hybrids in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Hybrids are more popular in San Francisco than in most parts of the country. “Toyota’s Priuses are very popular in the city and we’re seeing more of them coming through these doors all the time. Hybrids are definitely becoming a bigger part of our overall business and we’re gaining a solid reputation for working on them,” Manager Joe Mason told Autobody News.
“We see it in our bottom line. We’ve seen a significant improvement in business and we’re working on more hybrids than ever. We run a green, clean operation. People feel better bringing their car here, because our shop is immaculate and they appreciate it the fact that we’re trying to run a green operation.”
“Two things hybrid owners are obviously very conscious about—running a clean company and using earth-friendly methods. At first, we were getting a few here and there and now hybrids make up 25% of our revenue. They’re part of our daily life now and we’re very comfortable and confident to be working on them.”
Giannini’s operates out of a 10,000-square-foot facility, employs eight people and repairs an average of 40 cars monthly. The company does approximately $1.4 million per year in business and the shop is growing at a steady rate.
In 2008, Giannini’s began fixing hybrids, and pretty soon the referrals began to pour in, Mason said. “We have two large, very well-known hybrid mechanical repair shops here in San Francisco—Luscious Garage and Pat’s Garage. They’re leaders in the hybrid movement in the Bay Area and they’ve been a great referral source for us.”
These hybrid specialists have made themselves available to Giannini’s for advice and assistance when needed, Mason said. “It’s very important that we’ve been able to call these people when we need information and they’re responsive and helpful—it’s refreshing. The hybrid circle is very connected around here and the people who work on these cars are a tight-knit group. They’re not super-competitive and they focus on the bigger picture. It’s not all about the money all the time.”
Learning the issues surrounding working on hybrid vehicles involves primarily safety precautions and processes that include safely handling high-voltage in wiring and connections, Mason explained. “It’s a simple rule—disconnect their electrical system and don’t re-connect until the car is re-assembled. Safety is number one, because if you’re not very aware of it, that’s when accidents can occur. We stress it with our techs every day, so they’ll never forget. By drilling it into their heads, it becomes second nature.”
PG& E has played a role in assisting Giannini’s movement to complete greenness by taking advantage of the utility’s rebate program, Mason said. “They gave us $100 per fixture for qualifying interior high bay linear fluorescent fixtures. With potential savings of $140 per year in energy costs when replacing a 400 Watt standard metal halide light, a fixture like this can pay for itself in two years. So it just makes sense for a lot of reasons.
The new, more environmentally responsible lights provide a better working environment as well, according to Mason. “We’re getting a more consistent light with better distribution with these high bay lights. The lights we have now also turn on faster and they’re much brighter. Our techs can see better now and that’s a big plus.”
Taking a green approach can also help his techs to be more productive and efficient, Giannini said. “We’re always looking for more ways to be greener overall and changing our lights helps the entire crew. If it’s something and it’s within our budget, we’ll do whatever we can to achieve it.”
One of those enhancements involved the installation of a vacuum system that eliminates dust throughout the shop, Mason said. “We have eliminated 95% of all the dust on the floor and in the air with this new vacuum system. It doesn’t go down the drain and it doesn’t go in our employees’ lungs, so it was a no-brainer. We recycle the filters and keep them out of the landfill. These types of changes are easy to make, because they pay off in so many ways.”
Being green is an advantage, but in the end, quality customer service still reigns, Giannini said. “There’s nothing more important than providing a great customer experience every single time. We get great reviews on Yelp and a ton of referrals, because we’ll always go the extra mile for everyone we work with. We learned long ago that being fair and honest is the key. We want people to come here again and again without hesitation, because long-term customers will be your backbone.”
Was there a large initial investment needed before jumping into the hybrids pool? “It was basically all about the training,” Mason said. “We put all of our people through the I-CAR classes. They cost $108 per class and all of us took four classes. There wasn’t any significant investment in equipment, so it was a very easy process. We were fully trained within a short time and the hybrids started coming quickly, so we hit the ground running.”
Giannini’s embarked on the journey to using waterborne paint well before most shops even thought about it, Mason said. “It was a huge step and a smart move. Many shops waited right up until they were forced to switch, but we did it more than two years prior to the regulations kicked in. We saw the value in waterborne and we gravitated toward it as soon as we can. It was an easy transition. We dropped the solvent and started using waterborne the same day.”
What does the future hold for Giannini’s? “We’re focused on hybrids now that we’ve created a niche here,” Giannini said.” Our goal is to get to 80 cars per month, which we mean that we’d have to add a second shift. At that point, we might be able to consider moving to a larger new facility. We’re riding a green wave right now, and as long as we’ll never forget the most important thing—customer service—we’ll be producing quality work consistently and keeping our car counts where we want them to be. Being green isn’t expensive, because it pays off in the long run.”
Giannini’s Auto Body
625 Mariposa Street
San Francisco, California 94107
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In the busy daily life of a body shop, a product that will make techs’ lives easier while saving time and money is a breath of fresh air. In this frenetic, deadline-heavy existence, a useful piece of equipment can help a shop to meet its cycle times and exceed even the most discerning customers’ requirements. Time is the key and without enough of it in the average day, saving it is a big issue in every body shop on the planet. That’s why shop owners, techs and even hobbyists flock to a product such as the Mobile Lift Jack, distributed by Ikotec USA.
“It’s all about safely lifting vehicles and moving them around the shop easily,” Conrad Egerter, owner of Ikotec USA said. “The jack is small, so it takes up very little space. It runs on electricity so it uses less energy as well. It’s our signature product and we’ve received great reviews on the Mobile Lift Jack from shops throughout the country.”
Ikotec USA has the master distributorship in the USA, Canada and Australia for the Ikotec Mobile Lift Jack, an innovative and unique lifting system for automobile, truck and motorcycle maintenance and repair, Egerter said. Within the past two years, the company has sold more than 1,000 Mobile Lift Jacks in Europe alone, he said.
The Mobile Lift Jack will be showcased at the November 2010 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas and on PowertBlocktv.com, Egerter explained.
“We’re proud to be associated with this product, because it works and that’s the bottom line. You’ll be able to see it and use it at SEMA and that’s the best way to understand everything it can do. When people see it for the first time, they automatically start thinking about different ways they can use it in their shops.”
Based on the company’s literature, Ikotec currently has three Mobile Lift Jack models. The Ikotec 1000 is a revolutionary way to lift foreign or sports cars, cars with little ground clearance, or cars with fiberglass trim and moldings with very little chance of damaging the vehicle.
The Ikotec 3000, the most popular model, is a 110-volt all electric wheel lift with 15 different attachments that has a lifting capacity up to 2,250 lbs per column and will lift a vehicle in approximately 35 seconds. The company’s largest lift jack is the Ikotec 6000, a 110-volt wheel lift that can lift industrial size vehicles up to 6000 lbs per column.
“Each product is designed for easy operation,” Egerter said. “They allow users to lift cars, trucks and motorcycles quickly and economically. With built-in safety features, these jacks are truly unique and provide a safe working environment in garages, body shops, inspection stations, tire stores and for the at home do-it-yourself mechanics.”
The Mobile Lift Jack was invented by Christian Koch 20 years ago, Egerter said. After for nearly a decade of perfecting and changing it, the sixth or seventh version of the lift hit the public in 1999. Since then, Ikotec obtained the exclusive Northern American distribution rights to the entire line of Mobile Lift Jacks, he explained.
The Ikotec 3000 has fans throughout the world that are more than willing to praise the product.
To say that Richard Schomaker is a car aficionado is a major understatement. He has 12 cars in various stages of rebuilding and owns a series of garages at his home near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He’s currently working on a ’64 Studebaker Avanti and he’s been using two of his Mobile Lift Jacks to implement the restoration of this prized classic car.
“These lifts are really slick,” Schomaker said. “I’ve owned them for almost two years and I couldn’t do without them. It’s all about the mobility. I need to be able to move these vehicles fast and easily and the Mobile Lift Jack is the perfect equipment for the job. There’s no air required, which means they’re no seals to break. It’s all powered by electricity and we love that aspect of it.”
With so many cars that he’s restoring simultaneously, Schomaker likes the fact that the Mobile Lift Jack works fast and never needs a break, he said. “It lifts a car in roughly half a minute. Time is money when I am working on my cars, because I can only be in one place at any time, but these lifts work quickly, which means I can spend more time doing what matters.”
Schomaker values the Mobile Lift Jack’s portability more than anything else, he said. “We can move this thing all over the shop. Sometimes I’ll wheel them into my driveway. I can go as far as an extension cord will take me. We use it a lot to hold a door on a car or lift up a vehicle’s rear end to remove the gas tank, it’s so versatile and easy to use. That’s the key of the Mobile Lift Jack.”
Sonny Palermo has owned Palermo Auto Body in Wexford, Pennsylvania for 30 years, he said, and he fixes approximately 80 vehicles per month out of a 16-bay shop with eight employees. Palermo purchased a Mobile Lift Jack and fell in love with it after using it just one time, he said.
“I bought a Mobile Lift Jack about two years ago and I saw right away that it was really convenient. Anything that will make my life easier is something I want. We restore a lot of classic cars here, and this lift allows us to move vehicles around the shop in a pinch.”
“If you want to lift something and do a specific repair, this lift can do it,” Schomaker said. “It’s so versatile and adaptable. I’ve purchased several of the accessories and it’s allowed me to do so much more with the product.”
A wide range of accessories for the Mobile Lift Jack are available to enable users to perform various procedures, including wheel sleds, hitch adapters, door supports, jack stands, quick fit plates, plane plates, sill supports, shop crane adapters, spring compressors, transmission adapter , tuning sills and motorcycle attachments.
Ikotec USA is represented internationally by distributors in Spain, Germany, Italy, France and Poland as well as the in the USA, Canada and Australia. The company is the exclusive manufacturer of the products using American manufactured motors and parts and are assembled in the USA, which insures quality control and cost containment. The product can be viewed at www.mobileliftjack.com and information is available through Conrad Egerter, Ikotec USA at 412-427-8031.
184 Babcock Boulevard, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15209; (412) 427-8031
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Jeremy Weller, owner of Unique Auto Body, started painting cars in his early 20’s, and he’s now 39, so he knows what he’s talking about with paint. Weller’s two shops in the Salt Lake City area in Utah paint an average of 10–12 vehicles daily, so he needs a paint system that provides accurate color matching with consistent quality throughout. After a decade of being with another paint company, Weller made the switch to Pro-Spray’s waterborne product—and it’s decision he’s extremely enthused about.
“We’re getting exceptional color matches with Pro-Spray that we couldn’t achieve before,” Weller said. “We didn’t feel like we were getting all of them 100% with our former paint supplier, so we started looking around. Getting away from the solvent as our main paint was a key move too.”
Unique Auto Body has now been using the Pro-Spray waterborne product for a year and a half and the new paint is already a welcome production partner.
Pro-Spray’s color matching capabilities has alleviated stress in both his locations, Weller said. “I don’t have to worry about showing a customer a car in the right light anymore. These dead-on color matches have built a sense of security with my painters, because we can now match these colors every single time.”
Unique Auto Body’s two locations employ 25 people, including four seasoned painters who know the score when it comes to producing cars at a rapid rate. Weller saw that his painters initially bucked the change to the Pro-Spray H2O Waterborne paint, but were quickly onboard and using the new paint enthusiastically.
“They saw the benefits and that’s what motivated them,” Weller said. “If we can get a better finished product, it’s a big plus. Painters are very focused on doing the best job they can, and if a certain type of paint will help them do that—they’re excited.”
Both shops still use solvent-based paint for older vehicles, but every newer car that comes through the doors is painted with Pro-Spray H2O Waterborne, Weller stated. “We’re using very little solvent right now and we’re going to phase it out eventually. It’s a convenience issue right now, but we’ve had such a great experience with the waterborne paint that we want to use it to be as our sole paint.”
The changeover to waterborne met with some hesitation amongst his painters initially, but in the end Pro-Spray won them over, Weller said. “Painters are creatures of habit. They were a little stubborn and reluctant to change, but in the end it’s been better for them, because now they don’t have to breathe in all that solvent all the time. You can smell that solvent 100 yards away and you can’t even tell that this waterborne is in the room most of the time. It’s a huge bonus for my painters, because they’re now happier and if I can provide a safer working and cleaner environment for them, it’s a great thing.”
Weller didn’t switch over to waterborne because he had to in order to adhere to local laws, because Utah doesn’t require the use of waterborne paint. So, why did he do it?
“The color matching aspect of the Pro-Spray initially attracted us to the product, because we saw that the matches were so superior and that the depth and the intensity of the finished product looked so amazing that it became a no-brainer.”
Eventually, Unique Auto Body embraced the Pro-Spray H2O Waterborne for its earth-friendly aspects as well, Weller said. “We figured that if we can get proactive in this thing, why not? We’re getting better results, so if we can help the environment at the same time, let’s do it.”
Has the conversion to waterborne helped his business overall, Autobody News asked Weller. “Yes, I hear our customers commenting about the waterborne all the time. People in this area are into being green and we promote the fact that we use the waterborne. If we can position ourselves in a better light by using the Pro-Spray product, it’s well worth it. There are only a handful of body shops using waterborne in the Salt Lake Valley right now and we’re proud to be one of them.”
Pro-Spray’s Western Regional US Sales Manager, Paul Reid, has seen more shops switching to waterborne in areas where the laws haven’t yet required them to change over to low VOCs yet.
“It’s a new movement that we’re seeing more and more,” Reid explained. “I’ve converted at least 50 body shops outside of regulated areas within the last year or so, and I’m starting to hear that more shops want to convert all the time. Green is a huge issue and it’s going to get bigger, because shops can get better color matches from our products and the finished paint jobs are superior overall.”
According to the company’s Web site, Pro-Spray® H2O Waterborne Basecoat consists of 70 pigment-rich, shake-and-pour toners formulated using advanced European technology to deliver quick coverage, precise color match, superior metallic orientation, easy blending and fast dry times, saving body shops time and money.
Pro-Spray waterborne paint is part of a complete line of low VOC automotive surface preparation products, undercoats, primers, clear coats, thinners, activators and ancillary products backed by user-friendly color formula software, technical support and waterborne conversion, color theory and painter refinishing training.
Weller’s painters were trained by Pro-Spray’s experts and were using the H2O Pro-Spray Waterborne within one week. “Jim Wallace was the technical representative from Pro-Spray and he came down here and took us through all of the steps in a very clear and logical process. Paul Reid was also very involved in the training. We were up and running right away and they kept checking in with us to help us further. If we had questions, they were right there to provide answers. They made the transition problem-free and that was a huge plus.”
Weller had to invest approximately $4,000 in equipment as part of the changeover to waterborne, but he sees it as a modest expenditure that will rapidly pay for itself. “We had to purchase some new fans for improved air movement and then my painters had to buy new guns, but other than that, that’s all we had to do. For what we’ve achieved here, this was a very small investment.”
Reid is happy every time when he sees that a new one of his customers has stepped up to make the sage move to waterborne.
“Jeremy is a former painter, so he knew what he was getting with the Pro-Spray H2O Waterborne product. He’s also a very hands-on owner, so he got right in there with his painters. This paint is so painter-friendly and the quality is so consistent with better color-matching capabilities, that this was a logical transition for Unique Auto Body. They’re seeing better results and producing better paint jobs, so it’s a win-win on every level.”
Unique Auto Body
11500 South Redwood Road
South Jordan, Utah 84095
798 West Center Street
Midvale, Utah 84047
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Doug Albin, owner of Body Works Collision Center in Murietta, California, knows paint. He’s been painting cars since he was in high school and has owned a body shop for nearly a decade, so he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to paint and painting systems.
Body Works Collision Center operates out of a 5,000-square-foot shop, generates $250,000 per month in sales, and performs 65–70 repairs monthly. The company employs 12–15 people depending on workload and seasonal spikes in business. Body Works specializes in repairing Toyotas, Hondas, Acuras and Mazdas, but they’ll work on any non-exotic vehicle on the road.
Albin, 41, has been in the body shop business for his entire life, as a master tech and a painter. He’s a second-generation shop owner who worked every summer with his father’s body shop while in high school and also completed training to be a master painter shortly thereafter.
“My dad’s shop was called Albin’s Classic Cars in Newport Beach, and he worked restoring high-end expensive cars,” Albin said. “It was a great education, because I was allowed to step in and work on different types of vehicles. Some people are born to follow their parents’ career path and I gravitated toward the body business from day one.”
By doing rather than simply delegating every aspect of collision repair over the years, Albin has a unique and invaluable perspective of how to run a body shop from top-to-bottom and front-to-back.
Precision Body Shop & Detail, with two locations in Colma and San Rafael, CA, has grown rapidly, with more and more cars coming through every month. Having lots of work can be a blessing or a curse, because organizational and production bottlenecks can arise in minutes within a busy work environment.
Precision has not only survived, but thrived during a recession. They give a lot of credit to Mitchell International Inc. and the decision to adopt their market-leading business management systems.
Precision Body Shop & Detail was started 10 years ago with just three employees detailing cars primarily for new car dealerships throughout the Bay Area. In 2004, Precision’s dealerships started inquiring about doing minor body work on their fleets and the company jumped at the opportunity.
“We started out doing primarily paint, panel and hanging bumpers to go with our detailing for dealerships,” Caprini said.“Then, we realized we should do it all. So, starting in ’06, we began pursuing all forms of collision repair and it’s been a great business model for us.”
Caprini and his partner Lou Hanhan have tapped into their complementary skills to create a company that makes a profit and is poised for expansion.