True craft

Autocraft Telford last graced the pages of bodyshop magazine in May 2014. The business subsequently went on to win bodyshop’s Large Bodyshop of the Year Award for 2014 and is back to defend the crown in 2015. bodyshop caught up with bodyshop manager at Autocraft Telford, and finalist in the Bodyshop Manager of the Year Award category for 2015, Phil Travis to find out how things have moved on over the past 18 months.

Eighteen months in today’s rapidly evolving accident repair industry seems like a very long time indeed. Accident repair businesses in the UK, and world over, are constantly evolving their proposition to ensure they remain at the forefront of current trends and Autocraft Telford, despite clearly having all the right credentials in place to take the 2014 large bodyshop of the year title, is no exception to the rule. People, processes and technology have all been key areas of development.

The ‘blueprint for excellence’ as referred to previously by Autocraft’s bodyshop manager, Phil Travis continues to be a fluid evolution of the business in order to ‘stay ahead of the curve’. ‘We have experienced tremendous growth and have now got to sustain that by continuing to develop our business solutions,’ explained Phil, ‘it’s a constantly evolving model we are working to yet the blueprint aspect comes from the consistent control mechanisms and reporting lines.’

ORGANISED

A very well organised business, as you would expect from a team which mixes experience from the corporate world with the entrepreneurial mindset of a small-medium enterprise (SME), Autocraft has a keen eye on its numbers. ‘We dissipate information throughout the team to make everyone responsible for the success of the business,’ said Phil who monitors balance sheets, costs, and profit and loss accounts with fine detail.

Much of this keen eye for detail has been aided by a major evolution of the business which has seen Autocraft Telford’s total commitment to moving to a paperless environment. Working closely with EMACS, which is used to manage the flow of work within the business, Phil and the team have implemented a completely paperless environment with iPads being used in the workshop for job cards, in-process checks and technical repair information. Accuracy, communication and speed are now greatly enhanced. ‘Implementing ARC-AiDE from EMACS within the business has been like somebody turning the lights on,’ said Phil who has nothing but praise for the system. ‘We went live with it in January this year, a bit of a risk, but within a week all staff were switched on to it. It has already produced some incredible savings in costs and increased efficiency levels like nothing else.’

TANGIBLE

Beyond the impressive tangible measures, Phil feels that ARC-AiDE now allows an unprecedented breakdown and view of the Autocraft business, something Phil appreciates is invaluable. ‘Without data, you are just another person with an opinion,’ said Phil. ‘ARC-AiDE allows us a complete view of our business from work mix and profitability breakdown, to parts orders, technician strengths and weaknesses – you name it, it allows us to drill down and find solutions.’

With this, the system has empowered the team at Autocraft who now have far more insight into the business and can better manage the workflow through the business. Communication throughout the business has also been vastly improved as an ‘at a glance’ view enables all staff to see the current status quo of specific jobs at any one time. ‘The team have welcomed the systems introduction with open arms and have experienced how it can enhance the business as a whole,’ said Phil. ‘What it has also done is help develop the internal ownership of the business where people are now far more engaged and able to see exactly how the business operates.’

A major benefit of this is that staff can now make decisions based on information rather than opinion, allowing a far more agile operation. ‘It gives staff the opportunity to find solutions, based on data, which in itself is creating an organic succession plan as people take more responsibility for the management of the business,’ explained Phil.

INTEGRATION

Another beneficial strand the integration of the technology has brought to the business is how work itself is processed. Because of the availability and visibility of connected processes, the business can now adapt its workflow in order to create a more lean operation. ‘Lean thinking refers to launch, in-flight and landing and this is something, with the visibility we now have, we have been able to utilise more rigidly with regards to processing jobs. We can visibly see the jobs ready to ‘launch’ and they act as a priority to process.’

The lean thinking has also been applied across the business and the team is now made up of 43 staff in total, down seven from the 18 months previous. ‘We have scaled back our headcount slightly in order to become a more lean operation,’ explained Phil, ‘but what this has also done is open up the opportunity to bring onboard more apprentices and we now have six within the business – four in the workshop and two on the commercial/administration side of the operation – it’s an area we are keen to ensure we have succession plans in place for.’

On a people theme, the business has also withdrawn its individual bonus scheme, which Phil felt was ‘detracting from the transparent, team oriented culture of the business.’ Despite the change in working practices, which inevitably had to be managed in an attentive fashion, the business thrives with productivity, profit and quality all on an upward trajectory.

PRIORITY

At the front end of the business, customer care remains a key priority for the business with a major focus on customer satisfaction and retention. Part of this attention to detail is demonstrated by the offering of a range of courtesy cars, from Nissan Micras and Peugeot 208s, to Citroen DS4 and Mercedes C class vehicles for customers wanting to upgrade. ‘It’s about providing the customer with choice and ensuring they are receiving the service they expect,’ said Phil. ‘We want to help our partners by offering their customers a service above and beyond expectations – it’s very much a win-win for all parties.’

The effect of Autocraft’s dedication to customer care has also paid off in other areas with the business having achieved a 10% increase in retail work in a little over 12 months. ‘We have changed the profile of our work to some extent,’ said Phil who, following detailed analysis of its work partners, made the decision to terminate terms with those that simply did not ‘work’ for the business. ‘They are not decisions you take lightly but we want to partner with those organisations who match the Autocraft culture and have a long-term agenda.’

FUTURE

The business, having recently been through the transition from PAS 125:2011 to gaining the BSI Kitemark BS10125:2014 is now keenly focused on the future and continuing to develop its offering.

‘We have been running a fast track centre in the background now for a little over six months, and despite not yet being the finished product it is already showing great potential for the business,’ said Phil. ‘It has been a learning curve but we are now ready, with a strong team in place, to focus our attentions of developing that as a proposition.’

Phil continued, ‘This industry is not waiting for anyone, and we want to be at the forefront of its development so will continue to explore new areas of opportunity now and into the future.’