More than a crash repairer
When insurance companies started opening SMART collision repair workshops in New Zealand, Christchurch MTA member Scott Blackadder could see it was time to take stock of his own business model.
Scott Black Adder says “The SMART shops take a lot of the light and medium repairs. This type of insurance work, along with Avis and Budget fleet repairs, makes up a big chunk of our own repairs. However, we also do a lot of structural work, for ourselves and other shops. So I decided to put more investment into this side of the business..
He’s also started promoting the mechanical workshop that is part of the company.
Scott’s strategy included moving to bigger premises, staying as close to his central city location as possible.
Scott Blackadder started out as a car painter at 15 and has owned Hammonds since 2013. “I bought it from the receivers and some of the original staff still work with me.”
Over the first few years, Scott introduced new systems and invested heavily in equipment upgrades and additional staff, but he was constrained by the building itself.
“We didn’t have any parking attached and used an area about 50 metres away. I worked it out once that all the moving around of cars was costing me around $60,000 a year in lost time.” The old workshop was not ‘user-friendly’ and had an aging paint booth. It took Scott more than three years to find the right building in the right location.
Ahead of his move to new 1,200 square- metre premises in Sydenham a few months ago, Scott began investigating ways to become more efficient, using technology and processes to improve his workflow. “I talked to a lot of equipment suppliers, who are in and out of other workshops, and thought through the layout of the new building and how to make it work for us.”
Hammonds Collision + Mechanical employs 2.5 mechanics, seven panel beaters (including two apprentices), six painters (one apprentice) and two estimators (with a vacancy for a third). There are also two office staff and a full-time groomer.
Scott and his team built a large spreadsheet with timelines and tasks to help with the move, but it wasn’t what you’d call a smooth process.
“There were lots of delays with the fit-out by the building owner and lots of costs that went over budget. We made the actual move over a weekend, with everyone turning up to help out – including friends and families.” But moving in doesn’t mean that everything is finished and ready to go. When Radiator visited a month or so later, Scott was still waiting on the rear carpark to be finished and tarsealed, which meant he’s still dealing with a shortage of parking and a backlog of cars trapped in the workshop, restricting the workflow. But the new iBody quoting package has just been installed and already the workflow is improving.
“We’re nearly there and will soon be realising all the benefits of moving to a new site.”
Scott reckons the biggest tip he has for anyone else contemplating shifting to new premises is to work out the budget and then double it. Oh, and don’t put the spray booth in before the interior work is completed and signed off. He says the delays in the fit out meant his lovely new spray booth got covered in dust and debris.
Along with increasing his focus on structural repairs, Scott has also been pushing his mechanical workshop harder. “We have an advantage over other collision repairers because we can do more in house. It also saves the insurance company money because we’re not towing cars to other shops for work on airbags or dash scanning and so on. The mechanical side is also open to the public and the exterior sign on the new fence advertising WoFs is already paying off with drive-by customers.
As part of the move, Scott also triggered a marketing campaign to advertise the change of address to existing customers and to the general public. “We rebranded, with new uniforms and signage that added ‘Mechanical’ to our name. We are now officially Hammonds Collision + Mechanical, where before we advertised as Hammonds Collision Repair Centre.” The business has also refreshed its website and run a radio advertising campaign.
Providing loan cars to customers is something of a tradition – the firm has 27, including two vans. But it’s an expensive courtesy. Being so close to the central city, Scott came up with the idea of also providing two electric scooters on loan. They’ve proved really popular.
“Younger customers who just need to drop their car off and get back to work like the scooters because they’re something different but also really convenient. They’re also great for staff who’re dropping off or picking up cars. We can just take a scooter and throw it into the boot.“ He says it frees up staff time. “It means we don’t have someone delivering a car somewhere and then needing to be picked up and brought back to the workshop by someone else. They can just scooter back.”
The scooters are also handy for staff (like Keegan above) who just want to get around the site in a hurry.