Body Straightening & Metal Repair
You should locate this department on the other side of your shop from the painting area, or at least partition it off from the refinish area. Even if you use modern dust control equipment, products and practices, body and frame repair still produces dirt and dust. And there’s no point in risking getting any of it on a new job.
You’ll need lifts, benches, racks, cutting equipment, MIG welders and a re-circulating air filtration system. Outlets for a central vacuum system will also conserve floor space, help your workers contain the dirt they generate and save on end-of-the-day clean-up time.
Mobile lifts and track systems have become more popular, especially in shops where space is limited. With rail or track systems, you can move vehicles sideways and forward without starting their engines or remounting wheels. They also give you better use of awkward corner space and make it possible to use front-entry, side-entry spray booths when space is limited.
Typical metal stalls are 12 feet wide x 24 feet deep. Again, this may vary on the type of work you perform. Increase the width of a stall lying along a wall to 15 feet to allow for ample room to work on both sides of the vehicle. Most pulling systems require a stall 14 feet wide x 25 feet deep. This also can vary depending on the equipment you select. Studies show that in-ground or portable lifts can have a significant increase in a technician’s productivity. Staging cars with the damaged area facing the aisle will allow the production manager easier visibility to the work in progress.
In-floor pulling systems will decrease your shop’s cycle time as technicians don’t have to wait to use a frame rack or bench. These systems allow for correction of light damage to be completed in the technician’s stall without having to move the vehicle.
Many shops don’t consider the way work should flow through their facility. Proper flow will help increase productivity more than anything else you can do. A lineal flow (straight line) is ideal, but this also takes up the most space. A circular flow also works well in a collision facility, and reduces the amount of space required. The one thing you want to do, is to design a facility that requires moving cars as infrequently as possible.
The number of stalls a technician requires to be productive can create heated arguments. The key to running a profitable collision shop is to restore the car to pre-accident condition in the least amount of time possible. As you know, you don’t get paid until the car is delivered back to your customer. In the meantime, you have to pay salaries, parts, utilities, building payments, etc. Most technicians will take as many stalls as you allow them too, but they can still only work on one car at a time. Even for your most productive technicians, allow no more than two stalls per person; 1.5 stalls per technician is recommended.
There are a number of good manufacturers that provide benches, racks and other equipment for this section of your shop. Talk to them to figure out which models are best for you. You should talk to them during the beginning planning stages of your new shop so you can use their advice to lay out an efficient metal repair area.