By Jeff Sanford
Ottawa, Ontario -- August 17, 2015 -- Collision repair facility owners know how difficult it can be to maintain proper staffing levels. The decision whether to hire a new full-time employee is a tough one. The nature of the collision repair business is that some weeks there is too much work. Other weeks there is not enough.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a company you could call to hire preppers or painters for a couple of days? Ken Hughes, the principal of Advance Automotive Solutions, is making this happen in the Ottawa area.
Collision Repair magazine caught up with Hughes just as he was coming out of the spray booth at a Fix Auto location in the nation’s capital. He took some time out to explain how he has recently started up what he calls a temporary labour agency for the collision repair sector. His company offers prepping and painting services on a temporary basis.
“The auto body industry has labour issues. It can be tough to find talent,” says Hughes. “But we’re going to change that.”
Any shop owner knows that fewer young people than ever are getting into the industry. Shops with a heavy load of work can fall behind as a result of the labour shortage. Advanced Automotive hopes to help collision repair centres with labour when needed.
“This has never been done before. It’s a new idea,” says Hughes. It seems to be a natural idea. Hughes’ deep experience—he ran a shop in the Peterborough area for ten years—will ensure the success of the company.
“It’s taking off really well. People need painters,” says Hughes. “”Some of the little shops can’t afford to bring a guy in full time. If you get bottlenecked, call me to subcontract. I’m in and I’m out.”
He has worked with all the major paint products, so differing materials and equipment are not an issue. Hughes also notes that his company can offer solutions to any size of collision repair facility.
“It’s a great service for smaller shops when they’re behind and need a prepper or painter for a day or two. For the larger facilities and the banner shops, rather than turning to the paint reps for labour help, they can have us on call instead, and we can help them meet their labour needs for painters and preppers.”
Recently Hughes sat down with a web developer to create a site where shop owners will be able to go on and schedule a temp. “Instead of me going home and returning twenty messages, they can just go on the website and schedule it,” says Hughes.
The plan is to expand the business beyond Ottawa as he signs up enough new painters.
“It’s hard to find good guys. Young people aren’t coming into the industry. You can go get a BA and make the same money doing something that is less strenuous,” says Hughes. So he knows the hassles collision shop owners run into. Not surprisingly, shop owners have been extremely supportive.
“The last two Fix Auto locations are just ecstatic,” says Hughes. “There are peak busy seasons in this industry, in summer when everyone is on vacation—the big shops are busy. We can help with that.”
Recently, Hughes has been working on Fix Auto Ottawa Innes. Scott Noseworthy is the facility's General Manager.
"After encountering some challenges throughout the summer, I contacted my Fix Auto paint supplier and was referred to Ken from Advance Automotive Solutions," says Noseworthy. "When in contact with Ken, everything moved smoothly on his availability and performance. I was glad to have somebody there to provide the services when needed."