"Tailor-made" multi-service workshops
Being multi-service must be viewed as a vital prerequisite for many automotive aftermarket operators. However, a willing spirit just isn’t enough, new ideas and investments are needed, and even the right “look”. With its furniture, products and set-up projects, Filcar offers tailor-made solutions for every workshop.
In spite of the popular saying, a book can be judged by its cover, at least sometimes. And this is certainly true when it comes to multi-service centres: the fact of having a workshop designed to integrate new skills in a dedicated space and suitable working methods must be considered a vital prerequisite for success, just as adequate tools, instruments and solutions which are certainly not lacking. Time and investments can make a difference but not as much as new ideas. Filcar - a company belonging to the Cofise group, founded in Reggio Emilia 27 years ago – proposes itself as the ideal partner in this complex process of transformation from specialized car repairer to multi-service aftermarket workshops, designing and producing not only vehicle-exhaust extracting systems and specific processes, the company's core business, but also workshop equipment. What Filcar offers are "global solutions" (the name of a specific division created in 2007) and projects able to optimize and transform working spaces, allowing workshops to expand their services.
The idea of enriching its range of products came about eight years ago, as Filcar’s managing director and sales manager Andrea Cangiano says: "a customer asked us to design and produce furniture for his body shop. We worked with him shoulder to shoulder following his instructions and listening to his needs. This experience inspired the creation of a new division. The latter is, in a sense, the result of all our activities, as well as a wide-ranging vision. Walking into many workshops, we are often faced with inadequate work benches hardly suitable to hold new equipment or poorly used spaces - explains Andrea Cangiano. Starting from the workshop plan, we redefine and rationalize all the spaces." Filcar offers two lines of technical furniture, Classic 2.0 and Evolution, both of which include several elements (counters, work benches, cabinets, drawer units, trolleys, shelves, panels and much more), ready to be assembled in many different ways, with the added possibility of integrating specific components, possibly produced by third parties. "What we do is provide a tailor-made approach to an otherwise industrial product - specifies Filcar’s CEO. In order to meet our customers’ most diverse needs in terms of set-up, we create a unique workshop layout, customizing it with our furniture and components, despite the fact that we always start from a number of standardized basic elements."
Reacting to the aftermarket’s evolution
The recent transformation of the aftermarket fully justifies the company’s endeavours in expanding its traditional business: "from the very beginning we realized that we were not faced with the needs of a single workshop, but rather we were faced by what could be considered a widespread necessity expressed by the entire aftermarket sector - explains our interlocutor. And we were not mistaken." In a short time, the words ‘business diversification’ were the most commonly used by dealers, mechanics, coach-builders and even tire specialists. However, the latter, indicates Cangiano, have just started ‘breaking out of the shell’ - a bit late compared to other players in the supply chain – and are now looking at new organizational models. During the last Autopromotec event (held in Bologna at the end of May), we had some rather timid visits from tire specialists who were thinking of creating a couple of alternative working stations, besides their traditional tire business, within their premises”. The most commonly expressed idea, as confirmed by Filcar’s CEO, was to follow what repair shops and car dealers had already done, creating real “pit stop” areas within their workshops for tire replacements and repair. "The intention of many tire specialists is to create similar areas in their workshop dedicated to light mechanical operations and maintenance, keeping them separate from the tire section . We strongly believe that the best solution would be to merge the different activities together and create a single multi-service centre. This solution can optimize resources, improving the quality of the work performed." The transformation, therefore, must take place above all at organizational level. "It's a mental process really - says Andrea Cangiano. I suppose this new approach will probably take some time to be established, but I’m convinced that its growth will be relentless in the future. Even tire dealers should take into serious consideration the multi-service option as something worth betting on. Whoever gets a head-start and does things properly , will reap the best rewards."
In defining the spaces dedicated to multi-service activities, investments in advanced and cutting-edge products is crucial: "our equipment allow a 30% to 40% time saving in routine maintenance work", says Cangiano. Filcar’s electric or pneumatic fluid supply systems are a clear example of this (a specific division dedicated to marketing this type of products was created in 2014, editor’s note). In this case, not only time is saved by directly eliminating exhausted fluid through mobile drain units, but the large use of automatic systems involves very little training on the part of the operators called upon to carry out the work with guaranteed results.
Although the economic crisis dampened initial enthusiasm, Filcar’s new approach started bearing the desired fruits in the last four years. The garage furniture business today accounts for a total of around 25% of the group’s turnover. The Filcar Global Solutions division, involves a number of Filcar activities across the board (furniture, vehicle-exhaust extraction, distribution of oils and so on) and on its own accounts for about 50% of the company’s turnover. Every year, Filcar installs between 30 to 50 Global Solutions projects for a total value ranging between 15 to 20 thousand euro up to ten times as much depending on the project.
The modularity of Filcar’s offer allows companies to access highly customized and competitive solutions . "Among our customers we find large service centres as well as small and medium sized workshops - confirms Cangiano. The latter, in particular, can obtain the best benefits from optimizing spaces and reducing working time." Filcar’s offer, though, is not limited to its National territory, in fact several of its product ranges are also offered well beyond the National borders. "We sell all over the world: from the Middle East to Far East Asian countries not to mention North America and we also have a subsidiary in France. But the heart of our production is in Italy, in Reggio Emilia, where we design and produce all our products." The ambitions are clear: "We want to be present with our products and our “global solutions" in every country where vehicles run - says the CEO. We aren’t interested in selling only extractors, we’re looking at getting in touch with as many workshops as possible offering them additional business value and opportunities through our "micro-competence". Creating a workshop capable of being competitive guaranteeing motorists on the quality of its work is a huge responsibility. When we find people who share our same passion, then quality projects are a natural consequence. We like to say that we produce with passion for people with passion."
Despite its recent focus on designing and developing technical furniture, Filcar has certainly not neglected investing in research and development, especially in relation to its "core business", extraction systems. Two recent patents are a clear proof of this fact: first is Armtel, Telescopic arm for motor vehicles and motorcycles exhaust gases which doesn’t need a nozzle to be attached to the vehicle muffler, thus avoiding accidental damage to the vehicle. The great arm flexibility allows it to be used whether the vehicles are placed on the lift bridge and/or the ground, without changing the nozzle. The handling system of this arm (two patents have been issued) never comes into contact with the exhaust gases : in this way the arm efficiency remains unchanged in time. The arm has a closing valve which opens automatically with the arm lowering. It can be used on all the existing Filcar’s tracks. It can be installed either on the ceiling or on the wall and on all the existing Filcar’s tracks. "This product, covered by two patents, answers a question that we have always been asked - says Andrea Cangiano: is there a universal nozzle? Yes, now it exists." The second most recent product patented by Filcar is Darwin, an electrically driven automatic hose reel that can be controlled by a button or remotely . "Innovation in this case lies in the very competitive price for this type of product, concludes Cangiano.”