Flying high in Stansted

Almost a year has passed since Rye Street Stansted took home bodyshop’s Small bodyshop of the year award 2014. bodyshop magazine’s Padraig Mallett caught up with managing director, Bill Duffy and group operations manager, Pete Sadler to find out how the team had been getting on since winning the award.

The Rye Street Group consists of six independent bodyshops, all of which are dotted across the south east of England. On entering Rye Street’s Stansted bodyshop I could instantly see how pleased the team were on winning the bodyshop award – a large graphic was posted proudly on the door of reception welcoming customers to an award winning repair business.

Bill said the company was extremely proud of the awards it had won, having also recently come away with the NAB sponsored Motor Trader Best Bodyshop of 2015 accolade. He said the awards were not only a mark of all its hard work but they also offered reassurance to the customer. ‘Some customers even commented that they were unsure about where they should take their car but after seeing, on the Rye Street website, the company were award winners, they then felt more at ease knowing their cars were in safe hands,’ explained Bill. According to Rye Street quality is the key to its positive reputation – ‘quality of work and of customer service,’ is a mantra used.

Change

After a warm welcome, I was given a tour of the ever expanding Rye Street business headquarters. It’s clear that the team is continually searching for ways to improve and streamline its business methods, to not only ensure customer vehicles are repaired quickly but to the highest standards, which in the first instance is great for the customer but this also has a positive impact on the profitability of the business. The reception area has been revamped to be more friendly and welcoming for the customer and the business is currently expanding the triage team based at headquarters, to increase communication between bodyshop, customer and insurer.

After my tour we sat down to talk more about how business was doing and how exactly it manages and runs six sizeable independent bodyshops. I was given an insightful break down which detailed how Rye Street has gone about growing the business in what has become for many, a challenging environment. Last year was a record year for the group in terms of turnover and this year it’s on target to achieving a 50% increase in turnover in two years. The main focus has been on reducing the cycle times, a target of a six day key-to-key time means things run efficiently.

Expansion

Although the business is currently surpassing all of its targets, the team are keen to keep pushing the envelope, constantly thinking of new ways to enhance what it already has and expand the business further for the future. The group is currently looking at potential sites for a seventh Rye Street site, possibly even number eight. Other changes have included extended working hours, centralising claims, transport functions and invoicing; investing in a mobile image assessor, and implementing a brand new telephony system. The resources have been amalgamated, with a new group vehicle damage assessor (VDA) having been appointed, plus a complete driver retraining scheme is planned for the third quarter of this year.

Bill explained the importance of the drivers to the business, as it’s often the first and only point of contact a customer will have when dealing with a bodyshop. For that reason, Rye Street drivers are dressed in a smart company uniform, keep their trucks in good condition and also now come equipped with a ‘Bill Duffy manbag’ complete with polish and various other tools to help both the driver and the customer.

And the developments don’t stop there, the company has new twin bed trucks on order, a Rye Street paint technician has reached the finals for the bodyshop/Thatcham Paint Technician of the Year Award and the business has secured five new manufacturer approvals taking it to a total of 18, with the aim of securing a few more in the near future. Interestingly, while some of Rye Street Group’s sites work with vehicle manufacturers and insurance companies, the site at Stansted does not carry any approvals, yet is the most profitable business model within the group.

Information

Another key part of the Rye Street success seems to be down to a strong focus on the analysis of facts, figures and statistics, again ensuring that it is maximising on all aspects of the business. Daily reports are produced and it focuses on ‘the three Qs’ – quantity, quality and quickly. The reports are generated and applied to each sector of the business and the company’s growth is directly attributed to the sharing of more information. From sales, to key performance indicators, to the number of jobs invoiced to the number of vehicles repaired, I was given a comprehensive look at how Rye Street were fairing and I don’t think there was a sector of the business that hadn’t been analysed in either graph or statistical form. Continuing with the acronyms, Bill and Pete advised how Rye Street follows the DMAIC (define, measure, analyse, improve and control) improvement cycle, a data-driven method used for improving, optimising and stabilising business processes and designs. Gathering and sharing information and ideas within the work force, seems to be benefitting the business in a big way, as it ensures everyone is on the same page and striving to reach the same goals.

Teamwork

At Rye Street the workforce plays a huge role in its success, workers are encouraged to bring forward new ideas and are regularly given positive feedback. Quarterly awards are given out to staff and long-term staff are rewarded for their years of service with the company. The business is also keen to invest in its future workforce, taking on 12 new apprentices in total – two new apprentices on each Rye Street site. According to Bill there is currently a shortage of apprentices in the sector and they are keen to get people involved. It recently held an open night at a local school for those who were interested, to come along and see how exciting and rewarding a career in the bodyshop industry can be. He was also keen to point out that Rye Street, and the industry in general, is now after a higher level of apprentice than before, as vehicles and the repair industry becomes increasingly more complicated and reliant on new technologies.

It’s clear from speaking to the team at Rye Street Stansted that the past year has been a successful one and that winning the bodyshop’s small bodyshop of the year award 2014 has meant a lot to it and its customers. Managing to run a successful group of independent bodyshops in a fast paced sector that is becoming increasingly challenging, due to the technological advancements in the car industry, is no easy task. Yet with a positive outlook, a keen eye focused on company stats and through the sharing of information it is managing to do just that. I think Rye Street summed this up best itself with Bill saying, ‘We are proud of our past and passionate about our future!’.