Albert Hutten operates the shop he’s always wanted to have.
Albert Hutten started working in the collision repair trade in 1976. He found that he was good at painting cars and it became a full-time profession. In 1983, he decided to go into business with this brother John Hutten and they opened a shop in Elora, Ont.
Today, Albert Hutten owns and operates CSN – Blue Mountain near Collingwood, Ont. It’s a purpose built 1087 sq m (11,700 sq. ft.) facility with 20 staff and state-of-the-art equipment.
In its current configuration the shop can process 6.5 vehicles per day. “That’s up from 2.5 when we opened this facility a couple of years ago,” says Hutten.
Symach FixLine system
A key ingredient to that significant ramp up in productivity has been due to the installation of the Symach FixLine system.
Before moving to the existing location, Hutten had operated two consecutive shops in the Thornbury area, but realized that with the volume of work his business was handling, needed a new facility to allow further expansion to continue.
“Our insurance partners and some of the dealers we worked with suggested moving to Collingwood,” says Hutten. With a clean-sheet option available, Hutten and his team were able to look at efficiency on the shop floor and see how it could be maximized, creating a steady, uninterrupted flow of repairs. “Every previous facility we’d operated out of had been an existing building modified into a collision centre. With the Collingwood site, we could plan it out exactly as we wanted.” Partway through the planning stages, Hutten came in contact with Osvaldo Bergaglio, CEO of Symach.
“With the equipment and processes Symach was able to offer through its FixLine system, building this facility really was a dream come true for us,” says Hutten.
With FixLine, CSN – Blue Mountain has able to really ramp up both the efficiency and quality of repairs, eliminating traditional bottlenecks that often take place during the actual paint application and drying process. Another has been investing heavily in training and support for staff. “We’ve developed a repair plan for our technicians, allowing them to carry out specialized tasks,” says Hutten, “but we’ve also structured it so they’re capable of doing different tasks within the shop and we can move them around. That way, a specific job doesn’t become too monotonous.
CSN – Blue Mountain has also made very significant investments in repair equipment, including dedicated aluminum tools and stations, extraction equipment and silicon bronze and spot resistance welders. 3D Measuring and scanning have also become a staple of the repair process, ensuring each vehicle that comes in can be scanned for any pre-existing faults and trouble codes; can be precision aligned to factory specs following a significant hit and thoroughly checked once repairs are completed to ensure no issues remain.
Customer pay work
While insurance/DRP work remain the bulk of business at CSN – Blue Mountain, Hutten says the shop also receives a lot of customer pay work. “Due to the growth of the community and a lot of well-heeled people moving up this way, we see a lot of premium vehicles and a lot of owners who’d prefer to pay for repairs themselves to keep them looking their best,” says Hutten.
He notes that the high visibility of the location, combined with a pristine, purpose-built shop and well-trained staff, make the concept of customer pay repairs a highly attractive proposition.
Hutten and his team feel that moving to the Collingwood area has not only been good for business [literally] but also in terms of community support and also finding good employees.
“We’re very thankful for our staff,” says Hutten. “We want to ensure we’re able to provide a good place to work—an environment that is clean, organized and safe,” he says and we also provide other incentives including a benefit plan.
Two years after opening, Hutten says the team has really begun to gel at CSN – Blue Mountain and the technicians have really embraced co-op students and apprentices. “It’s a long-term investment,” says Hutten who notes that it can take four years for a co-op student to become a technician, but he feels it’s worth every penny. “We place our students alongside seasoned technicians and before you know it, they’re able to handle small repairs on their own. It’s really great to see them develop and succeed, because when they do, we all do.”