Chapman Auto Body: The Long Game
A strong focus on training, mentorship and investment has translated to incredible success for CSN — Chapman Auto Body Ltd.
It’s a drizzly spring day in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but as I enter the reception of CSN — Chapman Auto Body Ltd., I can feel my spirits lifting. David, a regular customer tells me, “I’ve been coming here for several years and I just love it. Everybody is so enthusiastic and the service is second to none.”
And he’s far from alone. CSN – Chapman Auto Body’s mission is “To provide the highest quality of workmanship and training at a fair rate” as well as maintaining a clean, friendly, honest working environment.
It’s a mantra that owner operator Kelvin Campbell and his team take very seriously.
Since Campbell took over the business in 1992 it has grown significantly, expanding from a 2200 square foot facility employing three people to a more than 18,000 square foot operation that employs a staff of 18.
And it’s a busy place. Mike Lowe, Shop Manager at Chapman, takes us on a tour. From the outside, you’d never guess the business covers the acreage it does, but Lowe says it’s part of a plan to fit into the community (which is largely residential.) So you’ll find separate buildings for general repair, prep and painting, aluminum repairs and administration, the latter of which is a converted house.
Lowe says he loves working here — and his enthusiasm and professionalism for the collision repair business radiates. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity Kelvin provided me,” he says, noting if it hadn’t been for solid mentorship and training, he probably wouldn’t be overseeing operations for one of the premier collision repair facilities in Canada.
In fact, training and process are key foundations in developing a successful collision repair model at CSN – Chapman Auto Body. The facility is the only BMW approved location for structural aluminum repairs in the Maritimes, and regular training is part and parcel of working here.
“All of our technicians are BMW and Porsche certified,” says Lowe. “In today’s industry you have to be familiar with the latest repair techniques, especially when it comes to materials such as carbon fibre, aluminum and high-strength steel.”
As we walk through the shop, multiple vehicles are in the stages of tear down, repair and prep work, many of which are high-end cars and SUVs.
Chapman employs a full-time painter and you might think that with 40 to 50 repair orders on average each week, it would be a struggle to keep up with the volume. Early each morning however, all tasks are mapped out and each member of staff knows exactly what needs to be done. “Everybody has their own board at their own workstation,” says Lowe. “If you have a process in place and you have the right people (which we believe we do), you can really maximize productivity.”
He says that when everybody knows exactly what needs to be done, jobs get completed faster, cycle times decrease, quality is maintained and everybody wins.
Lowe also says that Kelvin [Campbell] and his team really take a long-term view of the business. “We’re constantly reinvesting,” he says, “whether its funds or training or personal development.”
He notes that Campbell’s background with BMW led to Chapman becoming a pioneer in aluminum vehicle repairs. “It’s something quite special and unique to our business, especially in this part of Canada,” he says.
While many shops in the Maritimes often have to send vehicles to larger markets such as Montreal and Toronto for structural aluminum repairs, being able to do it in-house has been a huge trump card for Chapman and one that’s slated to become ever more important as more and more OEMs introduce lightweight materials in vehicle instruction to increase fuel economy.
An interesting aspect is that approximately 40 percent of business at CSN – Chapman Auto Body is actually customer pay work. “It really is a high percentage,” says Lowe, who notes that in many cases owners of higher end premium vehicles, like BMWs and Porsches, tend to pay out of pocket for repairs that run less than a few thousand dollars. And it’s the quality of work and emphasis on customer service that keeps them coming back.
“Everything is always right on time,” says a long-time customer. “I know exactly when my vehicle will be going in and I know when it will be ready. I really have no worries at all.”