Why a Winnipeg dealer group brought an assembly line approach to its body shop


Henry Ford had a brilliant idea 106 years ago when he introduced the assembly line to cut costs, improve quality and increase output. Those principles are being applied today at Crown Auto Body & Glass in Winnipeg to rebuild damaged cars. 

The shop’s advanced repair process (ARP) cuts the time needed to repair a car, increases gross profit through better cost control, improves quality and customer satisfaction and delivers the repaired vehicle back to its owner in a predictable time, said General Manager Darren Beer. 

“With ARP, we can put the car back together and give it to the customer the same day,” Beer said. 

Crown Auto Body’s parent, Crown Auto Group, operates two body shops at two locations in Winnipeg — one is a 12,500-square-foot (1,150-square-metre) standalone shop, used by five dealerships, and the other is a 9,500-square-foot (800-square-metre) body shop at Winnipeg Honda, where Beer also is the dealership’s body shop general manager. 

5-7 DAYS, DOWN TO 2-3 

Both shops take the same approach to repairs. 

The standalone body shop can complete repairs on a car with $3,800 in damage — a typical repair at the shop — in two to three days on average, when traditional shops take five to seven days, Beer said. 

The business conducts 18-20 estimates a day. And since it began experimenting with lean processes a decade ago, revenue from monthly repair work completed has risen to $957,000 today from $312,000 in 2009. 

In traditional body shops, one technician is assigned to a vehicle and is responsible for disassembly, repair and reassembly. Many of these shops pay a flat rate for a job, so the temptation exists for a technician to cut corners so he can finish the job quicker than the estimated time. 

In contrast, Crown takes a team approach: Assigning a group of journeymen and apprentices to work on specific stages of the repair. Crown has a staff of five journeymen and 13 apprentices. 

Beer said the company cuts costs by using the same material — for example, one type of sandpaper — for everyone and by tracking use of materials, such as quantities of paint used. This reduces waste by ensuring that only the amount of paint needed for a job gets mixed. 


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