When cars enter the Montrose Collision Center at Montrose Ford in Fairlawn, Ohio, they’re treated more like people with broken bones than vehicles with crumpled hoods or bent frames. BodyShop Business Managing Editor Hannah Schiffman witnessed this firsthand during a visit June 30 and talked with Director of Shop Operations and Ford/ASE Master Collision Repair & Refinish Technician of the Year Jim Pease about what makes the shop and the two other Montrose Collision Center locations he manages so special.
Pease says he prefers to run the shops like hospitals, starting with a check-up in what he calls the “triage department” to fully assess vehicle damage before any parts are ordered or repairs performed. The results are speedy, organized repairs, satisfied customers and a more profitable shop.
“Most people will write an estimate and it’s just the estimate,” Pease said, standing outside an open garage door while a technician used a pink marker to circle and label chipped paint on a car’s front bumper. “In our world, it’s like going to the hospital and going to the emergency room we’re going to give you that triage before we actually assign you to a doctor so we know what doctor to give you to.”
A technician and a parts person conduct a thorough examination of each vehicle to ensure estimates are accurate and that the best technician is assigned to each repair.
“We completely disassemble the vehicle to identify all the damage to include the nuts, bolts, clips and fasteners, and we’ve also added a parts person to that process so that we’re accurately identifying all the parts we need,” Pease said.
Pease got the idea for the complete disassembly about four years ago when he noticed technicians often were stuck in a rut he called “start-stop mode.”
“We’d go in to work on a vehicle, then have to stop the repair because we didn’t have an accurate estimate,” he said. Now, the triage process allows most repairs at least 99 percent, according to Pease to go from the estimate to final detailing with no errors and no interruptions.
Other unique touches around the Fairlawn shop reflect Pease’s management style which is centered around “lean” principles for all three Montrose Collision locations and help keep the repair process error-proof. Each repair is graded A, B, C or D according to level of difficulty, and technicians are assigned to one based on their skill level a rookie tech is never left alone with a complicated repair. Pease also makes sure that each part needed for a repair is at the technician’s station so work isn’t interrupted for parts searching. Used parts are also hassle-free for Montrose techs in that they’re dropped off and rehabbed in the parts department an area separate from the shop and then delivered to the technician ready to install. Car keys are hung on a colored map of the parking lot, and numbers on key tags match parking spot numbers. Each parking space on the key map is color-coded to correspond with the vehicle’s repair status. For example, keys in a green space are for a vehicle that’s ready to pick up. Pease said these details are “no-brainers” that save the shop valuable time and simplify the repair process for everyone.
“We’ve come to find we’re much more profitable, and our cycle time … immediately changed to about four hours a day, and we’re currently running at about seven to seven-and-a-half hours a day touch time, which is close to perfect in an eight-hour day,” Pease said. “We’re very, very close to perfection.”
The triage system’s resulting efficiency has led Montrose Collision Centers to amicable relationships with insurance companies that allow the shop, not the insurer, to dictate repairs.
“Because I only do things once, I take control of the repair right up front,” Pease said. “If I identify the damage up front and negotiate the repairs right up front, I don’t have to go back and supplement the estimate … Most people write an estimate, then they disassemble the car in the shop and have to go back to the bargaining table. I don’t have to do that.”
And less time writing supplements means more time to work in the shop and a faster vehicle turnover.
“We’re constantly working on new business while other people are going back two, three or four times to supplement their estimates,” Pease said. “We’re able to fix cars faster than everybody because of that, and other people are losing money because they can’t get cars fixed fast enough."
For more on Montrose Collision Centers, visit www.montrosecollisioncenter.com.
At a Glance
- Locations: Fairlawn, Alliance and Kent, Ohio
- Gross Revenue: $9-$10 million
- Square Footage (Fairlawn): 15,000
- Number of employees (all locations): 40
- DRPs: 12