CARSTAR Oakville East: A Cut Above

(Left to right) Sandra Arnott, Lorenzo Pellicciotta and Neil Thomas.

(Left to right) Sandra Arnott, Lorenzo Pellicciotta
and Neil Thomas.

CARSTAR Oakville East is a model of modern collision shop efficiency, service and quality.

Walking into CARSTAR Oakville East, it becomes readily apparent there’s a winning system and culture here. And it’s something that President Lorenzo Pellicciotta and his team have worked hard to cultivate.

Pellicciotta, who’s been involved with the collision industry and CARSTAR for two decades (and who owns another collision location—CARSTAR Oakville West—as well as a mechanical auto service business) says he didn’t envision getting into collision repair. But that all changed when he met Sam Mercanti. “I trained as a technician and worked in service repair, with the goal of owning my own shop,” says Pellicciotta, “Then Sam convinced me to buy a CARSTAR franchise (the thirteenth such shop in Canada as it turned out).”

In the early days, Pellicciotta recalls that the going was tough. “It was very different from what I was used to on the mechanical side. I really knew nothing about collision and nobody knew me in this industry.”

Today however, things are different. With its two locations, CARSTAR Oakville is now a well-established brand in the community, receiving multiple awards (including being voted consistently as the Number 1 Diamond Choice by the Oakville Beaver Readers’ Choice poll) and high CSI scores.

New Facility Needed

CARSTAR Oakville East, at 916 Winston Churchill Boulevard, is a result of Pelllicciotta needing to find a new premises when the lease on the Trafalgar Road location (the original second facility), expired in 2013. Finding a suitable replacement wasn’t easy, especially in view of zoning regulations and business requirements.“

This building here used to be an assembly plant for truck rear ends,” he says “But was empty when we got it.” With a roomy 14,600 sq.ft. floorspace, the facility has a galley-like design and as a busy collision centre, this concept functions very well. “One thing we had going for us was that we could start from scratch with this location,” says Pellicciotta.

Today, CARSTAR Oakville East is a model of efficiency. There’s a logical step and flow through the entire shop, from disassembly, to parts storage, from repairs to prep, paint and reassembly. And with Pelliciotta’s background as a technician and an eye for developing effective processes, watching CARSTAR Oakville East at work is akin to seeing a humming assembly line in action.

Vehicles come in and a careful visual mapping is done on each with the customer. “We assess the damage and show the customer what we’re going to do as a repair process,” says Director of Operations Neil Thomas, “Plus, we also look for pre-existing damage. It’s paramount that we capture everything in the estimate which also offers the potential for an upsell if the customer wants it.” The rental car supplier is contacted while the appraisal is taking place so the customer is mobile the instant the appraisal is completed.

Seamless Procedures

Parts are ordered and the vehicle is placed in a holding location at the back of the shop ready for when they arrive. Once the parts are onsite the repair process begins. “It’s about creating a seamless procedure,” says Thomas, “Seamless in terms of touch and cycle time and delivering a result our insurance partners and customers expect.”

Aiding the process is the fact that in each disassembly, repair station and paint booth there is a state-of-the-art Spanesi lift. This mean that technicians can adjust the height of the vehicle to their requirements, not vice-versa. The result, says Lorenzo Pelliciotta is more comfort and access for the technicians and painters and better results. “If you’re spraying or repairing a rocker panel, you’re not going to miss anything and the work is going to progress faster than lying on the ground.”

CARSTAR Oakville East also has its own dedicated parts room to ensure everything is kept in the right place at the right time while jobs are under way. “Everything has to be part of the process,” says Pelliciotta.

Sandra Arnott, who handles Finance and Administration for both CARSTAR Oakville locations, says that working with Mitchell Repair Center has been a big benefit since the business started using it around a year ago. “It’s always a challenge when you bring in a new management system,” she says, “Still, it’s been phenomenal for us to use.” Arnott says that having access to any information through CARSTAR’s corporate structure at the touch of a button is a huge benefit, as is the training available. “What we can get through CARSTAR University is a windfall,” she says, adding “Regular visits asking what the locations need more of, is also a huge help.”

The Right People

As part of CARSTAR Oakville’s mission to strive to be the best at what it does, Pelliciotta and his team place a strong emphasis on finding the right people and training them. “I really believe we need to train our staff the best we can.” I-CAR Gold training certification plaques on the wall are testament to how seriously the concept is taken.

Pelliciotta notes that as the collision industry changes, so does the kind of people attracted to it. “More and more training is needed to work with the equipment we have and the vehicles we repair.” On a positive note, he points out that bright young men and women are increasingly finding career opportunities in the collision industry and the shop frequently gets requests from people wanting to work at CARSTAR Oakville East.

Pelliciotta notes that shop rates continue to be a challenge but the nature of the business today means the opportunity for innovation and better processes has never been greater. He cites joining BASF’s Advanced Process Solutions (APS) program as one. “It wasn’t easy to get buy-in from everybody at first,” he says “However, since we implemented it last August, our shop team has told us repeatedly it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done.”

CARSTAR Oakville East has built a reputation for quality work and service.

CARSTAR Oakville East has built a reputation
for quality work and service.

Creating a top quality work environment is an integral part of CARSTAR Oakville’s strategy. (Photos: Huw Evans)

Creating a top quality work environment is an integral part
of CARSTAR Oakville’s strategy. (Photos: Huw Evans)

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