Caliber And Abra Merge To Create The Largest Collision Repair Network

Caliber Collision and Abra Auto Body Repair of America have announced a definitive merger agreement, with the combined collision repair facility operator to have more than 1000 locations.

“This combination will allow us to offer even greater satisfaction for our valued customers and insurance clients while creating new opportunities for the talented teammates of both companies,” said Steve Grimshaw, Caliber Chief Executive Officer. “With more than 1000 stores in 37 states and the District of Columbia, we look forward to providing customers and insurance clients with the flexibility and convenience that come with the broadest geographic coverage in the United States and a full suite of services. We’re confident the technological and operational investments will create unparalleled customer service, enhanced repair quality and industry-leading metrics, all of which advance our purpose of restoring the rhythm of our customers’ lives.

“We plan to maintain all existing centres from both companies as we develop and execute a plan to work smarter, generate growth, offer expanded services, drive operational excellence and reward talent across the organisation. Recognising the critical importance of top talent to our success, we will be retaining all teammates in the field at both Caliber and Abra centres, and we look forward to creating a culture that supports our teammates as they expand their careers across a larger organisation, accelerated by industry-leading development programmes,” said Grimshaw.

“Our industry becomes more complex every year,” said Abra CEO Ann Fandozzi. “The combined company will invest in the equipment, training and technologies that will allow our teammates to build their careers while continuing to meet and exceed our customers’ needs for years to come. Abra’s leadership team is excited by the opportunities this combination with Caliber creates for customers, insurance clients and teammates. We look forward to seeing our traditions of stellar customer service, unparalleled operational excellence and team development taken to the next level across the United States.”

The transaction is expected to close in early 2019 with Caliber CEO Steve Grimshaw to lead the combined company.

Ann-Fandozzi-ABRA
Abra CEO Ann Fandozzi.
Caliber CEO Steve Grimshaw.

AkzoNobel And McLaren Celebrate 10-Year Partnership

AkzoNobel and McLaren celebrated 10 years of collaboration at the SEMA automotive show in Las Vegas, Nevada, last month.

The partnership began in 2008 when AkzoNobel became the official supplier of paint solutions for McLaren Racing. McLaren has used the company’s premium Sikkens brand for its Formula 1 cars ever since.

AkzoNobel has also been a technology partner to McLaren Automotive since 2012, with all McLaren road cars being fully painted in the company’s products.

“Working with partners like McLaren is a perfect example of our commitment to delivering cutting-edge innovation,” said Keith Malik, Key Account Director of AkzoNobel’s Automotive and Specialty Coatings business. “We’re proud to have partnered with them for 10 years and demonstrate our shared passion for high performance technologies and performance.”

Simon Roberts, Chief Operating Officer of McLaren Racing, said: “Our decade-long relationship with AkzoNobel has led us to new innovations, scientific and sustainable advancements and quality finishes. Their longevity in the marketplace, coupled with the technology we’ve developed together, has helped us in our ongoing pursuit of high performance, and we’re thrilled to call AkzoNobel our partner.”

The livery for this season’s MCL33 F1 car has made an impact, with the Papaya Spark colour scheme winning a BBC poll for best-looking car.

AMA Group Announces Executive Management Team, Board Changes

AMA Group has announced several management changes that will take effect at the conclusion of the 2018 Annual General Meeting to be held on 22 November.

Andy Hopkins will become Group Chief Executive Officer while Anthony Day will join the board as an independent Non-Executive Director. Ray Malone will continue as Chairman.

AMA described Day as one of Australia’s leading insurance industry executives who has more than 30 years of industry experience. Day was recently the Chief Executive Officer of Suncorp Group’s Insurance Operations, one of Australia’s largest insurance businesses. In that role, he had responsibility for both the Group’s General and Life Insurance operations within Australia which incorporate AAMI, GIO, Vero, Shannons and Asteron.

Hopkins said AMA is very fortunate to have Day join its Board of Directors.

“His level of understanding of our key insurance company customers’ service needs is without peer.  We look forward to being able to utilise his knowledge in our business to deliver better outcomes for our customers”.

The company has also appointed Steven Becker as Group Chief Financial Officer following the resignation of Ashley Killick. Becker has spent the past two years as the Chief Financial Officer of Affinity Education Group. Prior to that, he was the Chief Financial Officer of the formerly ASX-listed Mantra Group for eight years.

AMA Group says Becker has extensive experience in high growth organisations providing financial and strategic leadership. He will be based in South-East Queensland with the finance teams and commence with the company in early February 2019.

In the interim, the Chief Financial Officer role will be performed by AMA Company Secretary and financial accountant, Terri Bakos, and the General Managers of Finance in the Panel Repair and ACAD businesses.

Malone said the changes mark an important milestone in the development of AMA Group.

“In a little over six years, the business has grown from a small troubled aggregation of automobile related businesses to Australia’s leading automobile panel repair and aftermarket parts operator. It has been my pleasure to lead the business through this stage of its development.

“The business has now reached a size that it requires a more traditional governance structure and the addition of new talent to the executive management team and Board of Directors to ensure that the next six years are equally as successful. Mr Hopkins has been my partner in growing the panel repair business over the last three years and he is ideally suited to succeed me as Group Chief Executive Officer. In this role, he will rely heavily, as I have for the last six years, on Mr [Ray] Smith-Roberts to continue his exceptional leadership of the ACAD business. Together, they will ensure AMA Group realises the significant market opportunities before it.”

Hopkins responded by saying: “Mr Malone has done an amazing job leading the creation of a truly market leading business over the last six years. It has been my pleasure to work closely with him for the last three years and over that time I have never ceased to be amazed by his entrepreneurial skills and innovative approaches to problem solving which have added very significant value to the business. I look forward to continuing to work closely with him as Chairman and head of the procurement business. The procurement business of AMA is an area of significant potential growth for AMA and I look forward to working with Mr Malone in growing that business.”

According to AMA’s latest annual report, revenue grew by 33 per cent to more than A$509 million, up from A$382 million in the previous year. The group completed 26 acquisitions, integrated 30 new facilities, and opened four new greenfield sites, taking the total number of facilities to 114.

AMA Group has also corrected an article in “The Australian” which asserted that AMA is “teaming up with Blackstone to form an offer for Suncorp’s Smash Repairs Group, Capital SMART”.

In a statement, AMA said the suggestion is incorrect. “AMA is not teaming up with Blackstone to make any offer for the Capital SMART business,” the statement read.

“Further, AMA’s announcement that Mr Anthony Day will be joining the board of AMA after the AGM has no connection with Suncorp selling the Capital SMART business. Mr Day will be joining the board due to his excellent credentials and experience in the insurance industry in Australia, AMA’s core customer group. The board of AMA believes that Mr Day will make a valuable contribution to the board.”

Robert Bryant Named Interim CEO at Axalta

Axalta Coating Systems has announced that its board of directors has appointed Robert Bryant, Axalta’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, to the additional role of interim Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. Bryant succeeds Terrence Hahn, who has resigned by mutual agreement with the board, following an investigation by outside counsel into conduct by Hahn unrelated to financial matters that Axalta believes was inconsistent with company policies. Hahn has also vacated his position on the board.

“We are pleased that Robert Bryant has agreed to step into the role of interim CEO,” said Charlie Shaver, Chairman, Axalta Coating Systems. “Having worked closely with Robert for over five years, I know he has the leadership skills and financial acumen, as well as the respect of the management team and employees, to be an effective leader for Axalta. The company remains well positioned to build on its success, with strong end-market demand and an unrelenting focus on customer service and innovation.”

“I deeply appreciate the vote of confidence from Charlie and the board,” said Bryant. “The management team at Axalta is resilient — we will work tirelessly to put this distraction behind us and focus on delivering outstanding products and customer service.”

“I wish the best to Axalta’s employees and its leadership,” said Hahn.

Axalta also announced that its preliminary results for the third quarter are in line with the company’s guidance communicated during its second quarter earnings update, which specified third quarter adjusted EBITDA of approximately 24 per cent of the midpoint of its full-year range.

Robert Bryant has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Axalta since 2013. He was previously Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Roll Global LLC. Before joining Roll Global in 2007, he was Executive Vice President of Strategy, New Business Development, and Information Technology at Grupo Industrial Saltillo, S.A.B. de C.V.

Elite Body Shop Solutions Webinar On Scheduling Coming Soon

Elite Body Shop Solutions has announced the next instalment for its free Elite Webinar Series, “Simple, Effective Scheduling”, will feature Dave Luehr, Founder of Elite Body Shop Solutions, and Ron Kuehn, President of Collision Business Solutions, on Thursday, 25th October, at 1pm CST (6pm UTC).

Dave Luehr and Ron Kuehn say that they have learned most savvy shop owners understand that that they can no longer attempt to bring a majority of their week’s repair jobs in on Monday and then hope to get them all delivered by Friday, and scheduling based on estimated work hours doesn’t always work out either.

“Many collision repairers are either fed‐up with complicated and ineffective solutions or discovering that their scheduling ‘system’ isn’t really a system at all – they are essentially still ‘winging it’ when it comes to scheduling repair jobs into their shops,” Luehr said. “Modern, successful shops need to let go of old thinking in order to regain control of their business.”

Luehr and Kuehn says that they will guide the webinar attendees through the process of designing their own simple, effective scheduling system based on sound principles of managing work‐in‐process while ensuring maximum profitability.

By executing the information learned in this webinar, collision repairers can expect to increase profitability, eliminate unnecessary expenses caused by excess inventory, “massively” improve the customer experience, improve shop morale, “reduce the chaos, and get back control of your collision repair business”.

Every month, Elite highlights a topic to keep collision repairers and those that serve them abreast of the latest information required to be successful in today’s challenging business environment. This month, Elite says that attendees will discover new ways to become more successful and expand their horizons.

To register, visit events.genndi.com/channel/EliteWebinarOct2018. Those who are unable to attend the live event can watch the recorded webinar by joining the Elite Body Shop Academy at www.elitebodyshopsolutions.com/academy.

New Global Refinish Report Highlights Changes And Major Players

A new report on the global automotive refinish coatings market has found that the sector is highly consolidated, with five companies holding 65 per cent market share in recent years.

Transparency Market Research found that two major companies, Axalta Coatings Systems and PPG Industries alone hold 40 per cent share in the global market.

The report also finds that with stringent rules and regulation pertaining to VOC emissions, particularly in Europe and North America, the consumption of solvent-based coatings has seen a massive reduction.

The global automotive refinish coatings market is currently segregated into clear coat, primer, base coat, filler, activator, and others. Of these, base coat holds the top position in the market and is also expected to hold a 31 per cent share of the global market by the end of the assessed period. On the other hand, the activators segment is predicted to display high growth during the same period, ensuing in a minimal rise in its share by 2024 with North America anticipated to hold the dominating position in the market.

TMR analysts say the ongoing trend has forced many manufacturers to concentrate more on development of effective waterborne varieties of automotive refinish coatings, a trend that is likely to have a significant impact on the market’s dynamics in future. It is expected that the global automotive refinish coatings market is likely to display a 5.7 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during the forecast period 2016-2024. The market, which was valued at US$6.6 billion in 2015, is likely to touch US$10.8 billion by the end of the assessed period.

According to the researchers, developing countries across the world are likely to witness a surge in their automotive market over the years. Countries such as China, South Africa, India, and Brazil are expected to remain at the forefront of this surge, due to rising populations and increases in disposable income. The rise in these developing countries is likely to, in turn, act as catalysts in the growth of the automotive refinish coatings market.

Another finding of the report is the numerous strict rules and regulations regarding emissions and how these have been levied for declining usage of certain elements and chemicals in automotive refinish coatings. This has seen the sales of solvent-based products dwindle, including higher levels of organic compounds in comparison to water-based products. Several efforts made by government and environment sustenance bodies are likely to increase knowledge amongst consumers, and this has seen a steep decline of sales in solvent-based coatings in recent years.

Thatcham’s Online Programme Helps Bridge The Knowledge Gap

Thatcham Research has announced the launch of a new online technical awareness programme to be known as “ecademy”. Businesses working in the automotive repair sector can use ecademy to keep employees up-to-date with developments that may have a significant impact on repair processes.

“The pace of change within our industry makes it challenging for repairers on two levels,” explains Dean Lander, Head of Repair Sector Services. “Firstly, when we surveyed customers recently, specific concerns were raised about the impact of ADAS, hybrid and electric vehicles, and new materials such as carbon fibre on future training needs. Secondly, customers cited the biggest barrier for training was not being able to afford time out of the business. Ecademy is a product to help our overcome these barriers.

“In other industries, learning management systems have long-since proved an effective method for delivering training,” continues Lander. “Of course, where in-depth subject knowledge or accreditations are an essential part of a role, nothing beats the face-to-face practical training courses we offer at our Automotive Academy. But reaching a level of technical awareness in a wide range of subjects is achievable through good quality online content – a sentiment that 87 per cent of those who took part in our survey agreed with.”

Less than a quarter (22 per cent) of the companies surveyed by Thatcham Research said that they were confident that all areas of their business understand the technical issues faced by repairers.

Features within the ecademy portal include:

  • CPD-approved interactive modules in subjects such as ADAS and calibration, hybrid and electric vehicles and vehicle design and materials
  • Progress tracking via learner and manager dashboards
  • Access to additional Thatcham resources such as new vehicle releases and technical bulletins
  • Communication with other learners via an online forum.

BASF Opens Modular Lab For Automotive OEM Coatings At Its Münster Site

BASF’s Coatings division has opened a new laboratory for automotive OEM coatings at its Münster site in Germany. The modular “Lean Lab” concept aims to ensure optimised, digitalised and transparent processes and efficient use of resources in the laboratory area throughout Europe.

BASF says its lab employees’ discrete working processes and the use of standardised and automated processes allow the company to meet future market requirements quickly and flexibly. In line with this, the workforce in Münster is supported by a lab dosing machine that was specially developed for BASF and is the only one of its kind in the coatings industry, according to the company.

“BASF cooperates very closely with all major automotive manufacturers worldwide to develop advanced coatings technologies,” said Dirk Bremm, President of BASF’s Coatings division.

“Through the digitalisation of processes, optimised use of resources, and automation, we can respond even more efficiently and address our customers’ needs.”

Since 2014, BASF says it has invested €24 million to completely overhaul an existing laboratory building for this purpose, which included adding an extra story. The building now features four bright and airy laboratory levels with spacious offices and state-of-the-art lab workplaces that are all digitally linked. Discrete work processes are intelligently designed to foster customer-specific product developments, manufacture paint samples and perform application tests.

An optimised logistics concept also ensures that all materials for daily work – and for this work only – are available, which positively impacts resource efficiency. A lab dosing machine that is unique in the coatings industry and was specifically built for the lab in Münster, facilitates work and assures quality. At 12 metres long and weighing eight tonnes, it can manufacture standard formulas from over 300 liquid raw materials.

“It is said that digitalisation affects everyone,” said Karl-Josef Laumann, Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. “BASF’s Lean Lab clearly demonstrates how certain occupations, such as that of a laboratory technician for coatings, are being redefined.

“It is still about researching the features and appearance of colours and paints, but it takes place in a high-tech environment today. Young people who take this job need knowledge in chemistry, technology and IT alike. This proves to me that vocational training is modern. It is attractive. It is the starting point of a career.”

All job orders and the associated experiments within the lab are digitally stored and documented, which promotes transparency, reproducibility and knowledge transfer among the individual sites.

“The Lean Lab in Münster is our pilot project,” said Wolfgang Reckordt, Product Development Europe Automotive OEM Coatings at the BASF Coatings division. “Since late 2017, we have been gathering experience that we can use for introducing the Lean Lab at other sites in Europe – in Würzburg, Germany; Guadalajara, Spain; and Clermont, France.

“Lean Lab is our new European standard and will open up many possibilities for us to intensify product development and respond flexibly to new challenges.”

(From left) Minister Karl-Josef Laumann; Wendela-Beate Vilhjalmsson, Münster City Mayor; Susanne Richert, Lean Lab Project Manager; and Dirk Bremm.

PPG To Build New Paint And Coatings R&D Centre In Tianjin, China

PPG has announced the acquisition of land in Tianjin, China where it plans to build a new, state-of-the-art paint and coatings research and development (R&D) centre.

Plans for the facility, which will be located in the Tianjin Economical and Technological Development Area (TEDA) and is scheduled to be completed in 2021, are currently being finalised.

The company says the new facility will be part of its efforts to continue strengthening its R&D footprint to better serve customers in China, across the Asia-Pacific region and globally. It will service all of PPG’s strategic business units.

“PPG continues to enhance its research and development capabilities to ensure consistent, ongoing innovation and service to customers,” said David Bem, PPG Vice President Science and Technology, and Chief Technology Officer. “The new Tianjin R&D centre will best position the company to leverage scale, promote collaboration and continue enhancing our capabilities.”

AMA / Gemini Joins Tradiebot And Swinburne University In Repair Technology Collaboration

Australia’s AMA / Gemini Group has thrown its weight behind Industry 4.0 innovator Tradiebot Industries’ Repair-Bot project being developed in conjunction with Swinburne University.

With backing from the Australian Government’s Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), the stage one, A$1.2 million collaborative Repair-Bot project is making use of 3D printing technologies and robotics along with novel materials to enable automated rapid repair service for plastic car parts.

Welcoming the new partnership, Tradiebot Industries Founder Mario Dimovski said: “Commitment from leading industry players such as the AMA / Gemini Group is a positive indication we are on track in solving current obstacle in the automotive collision repair industry around the repairs of plastic components.”

“We look forward to building our relationship with the AMA / Gemini Group as we work together towards developing new technologies, skills, materials and complex automated collision repair systems,” Dimovski said.

Dave Calder, Corporate General Manager, AMA / Gemini Group, summarised: “With advances in vehicle technology, parts costs rising and skills availability ever challenging, we are constantly looking at ways to advance the industry, refine our operation and continually deliver on our ability to provide value to our clients and customers.”

“Innovation is core to our business and we are delighted to be collaborating with the leaders in this space, Tradiebot Industries and Swinburne University. The research and development of augmented repair processing, 3D printing, robotics and the advancement in industry 4.0 technologies is a perfect fit and positive outputs of our collaboration will generate immense value to the automotive repair industry.”

Swinburne University of Technology’s Dr Mats Isaksson said: “The Swinburne research team is excited to welcome AMA / Gemini as a collaborator on the Repair-Bot project with Tradiebot Industries. My team and I look forward to the added industry expertise that David Calder and his team will offer.

“This sector is highly concentrated and ferociously competitive, so a solution like the Repair-Bot has the potential to be truly transformational, using Industry 4.0 technologies to reduce material wastage, ease the pain of ever more complex and restrictive design elements, and take on routine tasks in an increasingly tight skilled labour market.”

As well as improving procedures in the automotive repair industry, the collaboration is being seen as a further sign that the A$7 billion Australian industry has started down the path of digital transformation, with technologies that have the potential to lead the world.