Vendor Affinity Program Spotlight: Designer Systems

by Alana Quartuccio

To say that computers are everywhere would be an understatement…it’s 2024 after all! Just about every step involved in auto body shop operations is linked to some type of computerized system, but that’s nothing new. In fact, repairers have been referring to vehicles themselves as “computers on wheels” for a number of years now. 

The good news for the Massachusetts body shop world is that they have a team of experts at Designer Office Systems who will serve as their partner and a gateway to this ever-changing technological world of repair. 

Designer Office Systems is an IT provider that specializes in catering to the collision repair world. According to owner and founder, Ed Rachwal, 90 percent of their clientele is collision-focused as they support the needs of shops and insurance appraisers, which makes them the obvious choice for these businesses when seeking a computer/IT provider. Not only does Rachwal’s team have the right experience, but they have been growing with the collision repair industry for the past three decades and know all the ins and outs of their day-to-day needs. 

 Rachwal got in on the ground floor with selling management software to body shops at the time when things weren’t computerized at all, back when estimates were written by hand. After graduating college in 1989, Rachwal worked for his older brother Mark, who had a company that sold what was known as Digitree, one of the first management systems that would later be bought by Mitchell. After three years, Rachwal bought his brother’s business and began to shape it into what it is known for today –providing technology and business solutions to body shops. 

“Very few body shops had any computers around back then,” recalls Rachwal. “Maybe you’d see a fax machine, but it was rare to see computers in the shops. Because shops were hand-writing estimates, a lot of operations were being missed. Our focus was to show them how they could make sure they were getting paid for everything they were supposed to get paid for. Back then, one had to buy a management system in order to get the estimating system. That was the way it was sold, so I focused on trying to get customers to use as much of the software that made sense to them, getting them to use software that was important to helping them run their business.” 

That methodology continues today as Designer Office Systems’ mission is to lead their customers to the right solutions to help them thrive. 

Although they can provide solutions for any estimating software out there, Designer Office Systems is the exclusive provider for Mitchell in the New England area. At one time, Mitchell had 40 dealers around the country, but the company has since gone into direct sales, except here in New England as Rachwal’s company is the only private dealer left, thanks to having the highest customer retention rate in the country. 

“A lot of people think of Mitchell as an estimating system, but there is a lot more offered, including a paint calculator, access to OEM procedures, management software and – more recently – ADAS diagnostics and calibrations,” explains Rachwal. 

Over the years, most computer/IT companies who served small businesses began to go after larger clientele, but Designer Office Systems stayed in their space, serving small businesses like collision repair shops. “We decided to focus on this industry, and we do it well,” says Rachwal of the family-owned business. Whereas his older brother Mark is no longer affiliated with the company Ed built, their younger brother Scott has been working on the sales side for more than 20 years. 

As technology advances, the Rachwals are there to help educate shops and provide them with what they need, whether it’s setting up remote access for business so employees can work at home, setting up estimating via a tablet or helping shops see if they can bring ADAS calibrations in house. “We help them find the best way to manage everything they need to run their business efficiently,” says Rachwal. 

A longtime supporter of AASP/MA, currently as a Vendor Affinity Program Bronze sponsor, Designer Office Systems stands behind the work of the Alliance and their fight for proper repairs and fairer labor rate reimbursement. 

“AASP/MA does fantastic things for Massachusetts auto body shops,” believes Rachwal. “I can never understand why a shop would not choose to be a member. There is just a ton of information they provide.”

He referenced the Alliance’s recent “Breaking Free in ‘23” meeting where he and his brother Scott addressed shops on ADAS. Rachwal  said he learned a lot as well listening to all the discussions involving how shops can utilize the copay and balance billing method. He also commends the association for their work at the legislative level trying to get the insufficient labor rate elevated substantially. 

Rachwal is grateful to serve the body shop world in Massachusetts and is proud of what makes his company unique in this market. 

“Body shops can just pick up the phone and call us when they have a problem. We service from an IT point of view for a fraction of what any IT firm would charge because we serve this one market and we know it so well. Not only can we do it for a fraction of the cost, but we offer service geared specifically to the needs of these shops. If someone has an OE Connection problem, we know what the problem is as we’ve dealt with the same one for countless other shops. Most IT companies would not be familiar with the OE Connection software like we do. We deal with hundreds of body shop customers day after day, and we have a unique sense of what they need.” 

Want more? Check out the January 2024 issue of New England Automotive Report!