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Tuesday, 01 May 2012 17:51

CAA San Diego Chapter Meeting Goes Nuts Over Efficiency

Paul Amato, who owns Amato's Auto Body in San Diego, will be the first one to tell you that he's totally nuts. When he spoke recently on shop efficiency at the San Diego chapter of the California Autobody Association monthly members meeting, Amato prefaced his presentation by saying, "I might offend some people, so be prepared."

Equipped with shop efficiency tips and a few gag props, Amato opened his presentation by handing out some nuts. "I'm really nuts--so here's some nuts," said Amato. He broke out a pink elephant nutcracker that he introduced at the beginning of the night as the anti-trust rules were read, calling it 'the elephant in the room.' He used the elephant to crack the nuts that represented topics like aftermarket parts and DRPs, but continued to reiterate, "we can't talk about it," CRACK, "but we can't talk about it."

While cracking nuts and wisecracking, he had a serious message and a sincere interest in transmitting shop efficiency tips that he had come up with to solve issues around his shop, which has been in business for over 32 years. About 75 collision repairers were in attendance, including a number of non-members that came in support of Amato.

Incoming chapter president Shon Craft pointed out the blank 3x5 cards at each person's seat, explaining the cards were for written suggestions for future meetings - part of a more open, roundtable discussion atmosphere the organization is looking to create.

Amato's first suggestion to increase communication between the front of the shop and the back of the shop, using his famed" star stickers" as a model. If an estimator gets a customer that's a 'total pain', he puts a star sticker on the car. That way, as the car makes its way around the shop, each person working on it knows that this car belongs to a 'total pain' and it better be perfect. The customer is also none the wiser since this star sticker is seemingly innocuous. Amato orders his star stickers through www.printglobe.com.

Amato's office staff also has smaller star stickers that they put on these 'pain-in-the-butt' customers' files. According to Amato, now everyone knows that this customer is very particular.

Amato has also come up with a way to stay better organized and make his office staff more accountable. Each person in the front office that handles files has different colored file folders. This way everyone knows who did what paper work going forward because of the color coded system. Amato designed these files to include a myriad of information on the outside of the file so you don't have to go digging through the folder to find simple information.

Amato also has the first technician who reads the estimate put a blank luggage tag on the mirror of cars needing alignment--this way everyone in the shop knows just by looking at the car which cars need to go out for alignment. Amato has also cut down on how much it costs him to get cars over to his alignment shop. He bought an old 'beater' car and parked it at the alignment shop. When he drives cars over there, he can drive himself back to his shop. He doesn't need two people and two cars to go back and forth each time.

Amato is big on using stickers and signs on the cars to be repaired in his shop. A blue sticker is put on the car that says the customer name and the target date for the repair to be completed. If the target date is missed, the technician responsible for that job is notified and the blue sticker is replaced with a red one that has the new target date on it. Amato also fixes a red flag to the top of the car so everyone in the shop can see that job missed its target date and is now priority.

He also prints his estimates on an 11x17 sheet of paper because they're bigger and easier to read than the 8.5x11.

"The big sheet is primary--all other papers don't matter," said Amato.

If the original 'big sheet' estimate comes back from the insurer and needs to be modified, the second big sheet estimate is printed on a different color paper so that the technicians will notice the difference between the two.

Amato also has stickers that say "Repair Pinchwelds," "Bench needed," and "Send out to Keystone"-- among others-- so communication throughout the shop stays on the actual car. Amato orders all his stickers through www.ideaautorepair.com and www.onlinelabels.com.

When a car is ready to go home, Amato has a mandatory check-out list. Everything on the list has to be checked off before the office staff calls the person and lets them know the car is ready for pick up. Amato calls it the "Perry Pad" after the employee who thought of the idea. They will also be adding a "Bluetooth" check mark to the list as well, so techs remember to make sure the Bluetooth in certain cars is functioning and connected before the customer picks up the car. Amato orders his Perry Pads through www.ips-online.com.

"You don't want to get caught with your pants down," said Amato. That's why the office staff doesn't call a customer until this list is done.

Amato has also invested in 10 vehicles, half of which, he said, are totals he bought off customers. He uses these vehicles to loan out to customers. On the 'trainwreck' cars that come in--the cars that will take more than 30 days to repair--Amato offers his vehicles to loan out to the customer after their 30 days in a rental car paid by their insurer goes by.

Amato also bound a set of Mitchell and CCC P-Pages for his shop floor, this way techs don't have to go online or dig around in the office for their technical information.

"It takes a really good technician to understand and read the P-Pages," said Amato.

Amato encouraged shop owners at the meeting to buy a scanner that has a printer attached to it. This way the shop can print out the codes and give it to the insurer to get paid for this job.

"I do a lot of research before I buy equipment," said Amato. "In order to make money, you have to spend money on your business."

Amato's hours of operation structure also helps him to increase productivity. If a tech is sick, Amato's rule is they have to make up the sick day on a Saturday or Sunday. Amato's is open on Saturdays and Sundays, but just the back of the shop, not the front office. He also skews the hours when his techs work; some come in very early in the morning and work on things that the late crew finished the night before.

"I owe these guys 40 hours a week, that doesn't mean it has to be Monday through Friday," said Amato.

For more information about Paul's shop, please visit www.amatosautobody.com.


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