The pandemic recovery effort has started and states have begun letting their citizens participate in more activities. Traffic has been increasing, and that’s good news for the autobody shop at dealerships. The coronavirus shelter-in-place order in California saved taxpayers around a half-billion dollars due to reduced vehicle collisions, but a good portion of that would have been income for collision repair shops.
The lost income is trying for dealers, even though labor is typically at a reduced rate and parts are negotiated with insurers. But courtesy cars are sitting idle and employees are waiting it out at home. What is usually a department that has steady income has become an expense.
It is, however, an opportunity for dealerships to streamline their autobody shops. A department that often carries high parts inventory and has vehicles packed into a tight lot can now be modified to a lean production process.
Aside from the pains of physically implementing lean production in the body shop, there are no downsides on the back end. It results in shorter repair times, less inventory to carry, faster repair times, and happier customers.
The challenge, as with everything, is in what is necessary to make it work. These are core tenets of lean production for autobody.
For vehicles driven in, not towed in, the pre-inspection is an opportunity to take control of the work order and set the tone. Identify the insurance coverage immediately and begin the dialog with the appraiser. Complete a thorough pre-inspection that gives a comprehensive list of parts the repair will require, nothing less. If anything is in question, have an idea of its availability.
Assuming the normal process is followed to determine who’s paying for what, the next step is to order all the parts. Inventory parts that arrive so it’s easy to find and there isn’t any time wasted searching for missing pieces.
Set the appointment for the repair when everything has arrived and there is time slotted into the shop. Here’s one key for lean production – the vehicle has to hit the shop on schedule or it’s all for naught.
Lean production hinges on the whole team knowing what everyone else is working on, and what’s coming to them next. A quick team meeting needs to be scheduled mid-morning and mid-afternoon so you can put it all on the table. If anyone is falling behind, decide what needs to be done to catch up. Whether it’s the mechanic, prep guy, painter, or assembler, everyone needs to be aware of the shop’s flow.
Lean production only works when the whole team has bought into it. Typical body shop employees are 8-to-5, clock-punching staff members, but lean production demands more. It requires accountability, and that’s best done with a reward/consequence strategy.
Every team member must be aware that their job has to be timely but most importantly, flawless. There’s no time for mistakes or paint job redos. When everything is going on schedule, a healthy bonus structure should reward it. When production suffers, the team has to be penalized for the performance. That could be extended hours to catch up or a cut in bonus pay.
Lean production isn’t just about cutting costs or lowering parts inventory, although those are important. Its primary purpose is to give customers back their vehicles restored perfectly to their pre-accident condition and make them completely satisfied. It’s all with the hope that they’ll return for their servicing and their next vehicle.