Customer profile: Maki Body and Glass

 The second and third generations of Maki Body and Glass agree on at least one thing: technology has made huge changes in their business.  Brian Maki, the owner, and his son, Dylan, both have seen developments in their business that have challenged them but yet made them more competitive.

 “We are the first “green” auto body shop in this area,” explained Brian Maki.  “We made the conversion to water-based paints from chemical-based paints, and it’s been a break-through for us.  The filters in the paint booths are inspected routinely, but the switch to water-based paints should greatly reduce the number of times the filters are changed out.  We lowered our costs while also reducing the impact on the environment; it was a win-win.”

 Brian recently acquired his brother Kevin’s share of the business.  Their father, Rayno, started Maki Body and Glass in 1968 at its present location on Highway 2. 

 “My mom grew up just across the tracks from this location,” explained Brian, “in the area that is now the Blandin wood yard.  My brother, Kevin, started working with my dad 10 years before I joined the business. 

 “I had been working at Ray’s Sport and Cycle, and my dad welcomed me by saying that I had to learn all aspects of the business.  I spent 10 years in the body department, one year in glass and only about two to three months in the paint shop,” Brian continued. “I don’t think painting was my calling.”

 Maki Body and Glass now employs 14 people in two buildings along the south side Highway 2 in Grand Rapids only a short distance from UPM-Blandin’s No. 6 paper machine building. 

 Dylan, who earned a degree in accounting and business administration from ICC and now manages the finances and advertising, is just one of the Maki family members to work there.  Kelly (Brian’s wife) and Lindy (Kevin’s daughter) work there, too.  In earlier days, Brian’s mom, dad and two sisters also worked in the family business. 

 Working on insurance claims accounts for about 90% of the business.  The Maki’s have three computerized estimating systems, and they need these systems to comply with the 12 different insurance companies they work with.  They are a “direct repair” shop” which means they are the estimator, adjustor and repair company for those claims. This tight relationship means they must do some rigorous recordkeeping. 

 “We need documentation and photos for everything we do,” explained Dylan.  “We can’t bluff our way past the insurance auditors who check in on us routinely.”

 Technology has even found its way into the body and paint work. 

 “We take digital readings on our frame racks, and these laser-aided machines help us make sure we know exactly what pieces of the vehicle were damaged,” said Brian.  “And our paint machine is matching colors online so that we have the exact shade and tint of the various colors that automakers have ever used.”

 Auto body and glass repair used to be seasonal work, but that’s not the case anymore. 
“We used to be slower in the summer,” added Brian, “but things have changed.  We mirror the general economy.  When the economy slows down, we slow down.  People will tend to take longer to repair minor dents and scrapes, or they may drive cars longer before buying the next one.  But we’ve enjoyed an uptick in our business the past couple of years as the economy in our area has improved.”

 For a third-generation family business, that’s good news. 

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