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Panelbeater Glen August from August Panel Spray Ltd

August Panel & Spray

Lower Hutt panelbeater Glen August (pictured above) has done his research, fine-tuned his ideas, and put in the big bucks to make sure his business can thrive and compete in the new SMART (Small, Medium Auto Repair Technology) environment.

Making the Smart Move

Glen is just about to open one of New Zealand’s most modern, process-oriented collision repair premises.

It builds on his 24 years’ experience within the confines of his premises in Nelson Street and makes the most of what he has learned in the last few years on visits to collision repair shops in Australia and the United States.

“The future is all about rapid repair - the number of $1,200-$1,800 repair jobs you can turn out in a day. The focus is on speed and skill. To get that extra efficiency, I needed to move to bigger premises.”

Glen’s taken over a 2,000 square - metre warehouse and fitted it out with the latest technology. This includes two chassis machines (Speed and a Quick 42), an electronic 3D measuring system, side- loading bake oven, twin prep station, spray booth, paint booth (also side loading), a central dustless vacuum system, and more.

The building is not just three times the size of his current workshop, but it will also give him the space to set up a work flow that drastically cuts down the number of times a car is moved as it goes through the repair process. In his old workshop, cars are driven around the block to get between the front and the back of the business, as well as moved around inside.

“We all spend a lot of time shifting vehicles around and it’s all wasted labour,” he says.

“I already manage the staff so that everyone is working on the repair they are best and fastest at. One does strip and fit, another does prep and paint, and so on. We’ll continue this in the new building and in addition, each person will work just within a couple of bays.” Faster means more cars and this in turn means more staff. Glen is currently recruiting for three or four additional people to join his team of 12 and he expects to need more in the near future. In spite of the current skill shortage, he’s getting strong interest from people wanting to get their hands on the new equipment and build experience in a smart repair workshop.

Cars outside August Panel Spray

MAKING THE DECISION

Over the years, Glen has squeezed as many cars and work into his current building as possible. He also often uses the right of way at the rear for parking and even some quick repair work (see above photo).

Most days there are as many as 30 cars on the 700 square- metre site.

He started out with a workshop in the front of the building and quickly expanded to take over the rest of it. “A couple of years ago I thought about buying and bowling the old house next door. I also thought about opening a second shop, but there wasn’t anywhere around with parking and the space I needed. So I decided it really was time to take the business to the next level.”

He made several research trips to Australia and the United States to see how the big repairers operated there. “So I got to look inside Capital S.M.A.R.T. and Gemini shops in Australia and see how their processes and work flow supported a fast turnaround on repairs. I talked to a lot of people and got advice on my ideas for design and think I should be able to put through about three times the work in the new building as I can in the old.”

Inside the workshop of August Panel Spray Ltd

LESSONS LEARNED

“In hindsight, I should have built from scratch, but was put off because the land alone would have cost around a million dollars and the build at least another million. But with all the changes I’ve had to make in the warehouse I bought – taking out columns, strengthening, installing big doors – it would have been cheaper".

MAKING THE MOVE

One of the main reasons Glen decided to invest heavily in new equipment for his new site was to make the shift as quick and painless as possible.

“The intention is to close Nelson Street on a Friday in late September, move all the cars and bits over to Regent St. during the weekend, and reopen in the new building on Monday. The only things being moved over are his large paint booth, a compressor and computers. His official reopening is scheduled for early October.