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Stacey Phillips

Stacey Phillips photoStacey Phillips is a freelance writer for the automotive industry based in Southern California. She has 20 years of experience as an editor including writing in a number of businesses and fields.


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Friday, 15 September 2017 21:16

The Best Body Shops’ Tips: How to Improve Body Shop Profit Using Sensible Goals: 'The Power of One’

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When John Shoemaker asks collision repair shops across the country about their financial goals, he is often told, “I’m going to increase company sales 10 percent.” 

When he asks how, they instinctively say, “By doing more repairs.” 

The business development manager for BASF Automotive Refinish Coatings North America said if you look at an average shop with $2.4 million in annual sales, a 10 percent increase would equate to $240,000 annually, or $20,000 per month. 

“Using an average repair of $2,600 as an example, the goal would require around eight more repairs per month,” said Shoemaker. “That’s reasonable, but is it sensible?” 

Shoemaker said that what is sensible is making more money on the repairs the shop is already doing. During a recent interview with Autobody News, he shared tips on how a collision repair facility can increase profits sensibly by making small incremental improvements. Much of this centers around changing a sale or cost by about 1 percent, which he refers to as “The Power of One.” Although it’s a small number, he said it can make a big difference to a business in terms of profit. 

Six key performance indicators to help overall profitability: Sales per RO (repair order)Shoemaker often recommends that shops consider raising each RO by 1 percent.


“If an average RO is $2,600 and you increase that by 1 percent, it would raise the average to $2,626 or $26,” he explained. When you multiply $26 by an average of 20 repairs per week, it equates to $520 in weekly growth. Earning an extra $520 each week for 52 weeks will add up to an additional $27,040 in profit. 

Effective labor rate


A body shop’s hourly rate is not necessarily its effective labor rate. Shoemaker said the effective labor rate is what a shop is actually earning. Although body, frame and mechanical work generally all have different labor rates, Shoemaker said often times shops bill insurance companies the body labor rate and don’t charge frame or mechanical labor. He advises shops to charge for the particular skill being used based on the education and training the particular individual has received. 

“You need to make sure that you are charging your frame rate for your frame work, your mechanical rate for your mechanical labor and not including everything in body; that’s how you increase your effective labor rate,” he said. 

In addition, he said by increasing your effective labor rate by just $1, a shop can improve its annual revenue by $31,200 based on an average of 30 hours billed on a $2,600 RO. 

Effective Labor Cost


The effective labor cost---the hourly rate paid to technicians---works hand-in-hand with a facility’s effective labor rate. Shoemaker encourages shops to bring in lower-cost technicians to focus on the less technical jobs---for example, bumper repair. 

“There is an opportunity to make more profit on those smaller jobs, which is about 45 percent of a shop’s business,” he said. “If they can make more money on 45 percent of their business by using a lower-level and lower-paid technician to do these smaller repairs, that’s where they change their effective labor cost.” Based on an average of 30 hours per RO, he said reducing the effective labor cost by $1 can increase annual profits by $31,200.

Paint Hours per RO


In regard to paint hours, Shoemaker said shops can often miss little things on estimates such as blending a gas filler door when repairing a quarter panel, refinishing a tail lamp pocket when replacing a rear body panel or rocker panel flanges to correct frame clamp damage. He said that currently, the average paint hour per RO is 7.8. 

“If we raise that by one to 8.8, over the year you can bring in an annual sales increase of nearly $73,000,” he said.

Paint and Material Sales Per Paint Hour


Shops that increase their paint materials sales per paint hour by $1 can also make a significant difference in their annual profits. When insurance companies cap materials, Shoemaker said it can drive down the actual rate. Using a common industry average of $27.63, he said shops can boost their annual sales by $8,100 by raising their paint and material sales per paint hour by $1.

Paint and Material Cost per Paint Hour


In terms of the amount of paint materials used to do a particular job, Shoemaker often recommends that shops use a little less product. He has found that typically, there is about an ounce of paint left over after finishing the job. 

“If you are mixing less product, your cost for that job is going to be reduced even though you are still getting paid the same amount because you are eliminating the waste,” he explained. 

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