News : Grappone Automotive Embraces Sustainability

May 24, 2016

This article first appeared in Foster's Daily Democrat

By Michael McCord

CONCORD — At Grappone Automotive Group doing things a little differently isn’t just a slogan, but a daily fact of life for its team members, guests and the greater Concord community.

“We know there are a lot of better ways to get the job done, and it’s our mission to find as many as we can,” said Amanda Grappone Osmer, the fourth-generation owner. “If you’re allowing your team to be creative, that’s gigantic.”

Sustainability has become an expanding definition for Grappone Automotive Group which was founded in 1924. A few years ago, the Toyota-Scion dealership became the first Toyota facility in New England with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The renovated Toyota-Scion dealership met extremely high standards across six different categories, from environmental quality to innovation and design.

On her own initiative, Osmer immersed herself in learning about lean manufacturing techniques and was fascinated most by the focus on human capital. “The more you look at the world through a 'lean' lens, the more you realize how many great ideas aren’t being heard. For me, that’s the most egregious form of waste: the waste of human creativity,” Osmer explained. “When leaders don’t listen to the great ideas their teams have, who knows what kinds of environmental or other problems are going unsolved.”

As an example, Osmer doesn’t have to look far. Her collision center manager Moe Gagnon invented and patented a new paint stand apparatus that allows for a more efficient process for the painting of vehicles in the body shop.

“It’s ingenious. It cuts down on material waste, on everything from paint to the large amounts of paint tape, and it provides the painter with the ability to match panels more effectively,” she said. Gagnon had had the prototype idea of the Lean Line Paint Stand for a while but he was spurred to action by the relocation of the collision center – and a desire to find the most efficient way to maximize the process.

“It’s our first patented invention, which I’m really proud of. Our team can be so creative and I want to celebrate that,” Osmer said. “You can’t get invention or innovation by doing things the same old way and this (the automotive) industry can be a dinosaur when it comes to making change. When you’re making a profit, it’s sometimes hard to justify change. One of Grappone’s vision statements, though, is to be nimble so we can adapt to the world around us. I know that if I used the same techniques that my grandfather did, that we wouldn’t be as relevant as we could be to our guests. And I know that if my kids work in the business someday, that they’ll need to assess the business landscape and adapt too.”

That willingness to adapt and change is one of the reasons why the composition of Grappone’s sales teams looks so different than most car dealerships: presently: 40% of their Product Specialists are women. This is four times the national average.

The vision to adapt also drove the creation of the LEED-certified Toyota Dealership. The 77,000 square-foot sales, parts, and service facility was renovated instead of rebuilt. The choice allowed 60 percent of the original structure to be reused, and over 250 tons of construction waste to be recycled and diverted from landfills. Grappone Toyota has 32 400-foot-deep geothermal wells that help heat and cool the building while reducing the building’s natural gas consumption. Energy use is projected to be reduced by 36 percent and water use by 30 percent. Outside views and natural daylight can be seen from nearly every regularly occupied space and the interactive “green” education wall, highlighting the building’s features, provides a spot for customers of all ages to learn about Grappone’s design choices.

Grappone Automotive Group staff sells and services Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Toyota and Scion vehicles. They also maintain a collision center, weekly wholesale auction, and wholesale parts operation. Grappone Automotive Group is a business partner of the Green Alliance, the Portsmouth-based organization that connects green businesses with green-minded consumers.

For Osmer, connecting to the community is deeply embedded in the company’s DNA and forms the basis of Grappone’s updated mission statement. The mission statement was created by the collective input of team members and calls for a “dedication to building lifelong relationships with our team members, guests and community by serving with integrity, kindness and respect.”
Osmer, a University of New Hampshire graduate, believes sustainability is both action and attitude.

“You can operate out of fear or out of love,” she said. “Our mission is to serve, and our team members come first in that. If we can serve the team by creating a safe and stable place to work, our hope is that that spirit of service flows naturally through to our guests. It’s a lifelong endeavor for me, because you can only ever improve upon what you’ve already done.”