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Running a lean paint shop

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - 08:00
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What is lean material management in collision repair? Simply stated, it is the application of lean management principles to paint and material usage for body shops. With the advent of lean processes as applied to auto body repair, there seems to be one area left out of many, if not most, body shops’ lean initiatives or programs — paint and material management. 

With paint and materials (P&M) making up about 10 percent of the average repair order (R.O.) sale, the effective use of material, and therefore the P&M profitability, can have a significant affect on the bottom line. To be truly lean, every area of the business needs to be lean or working toward lean.

Let’s take a look at the six steps to lean material management

1.     Establish SOPs

2.     Less materials authorized list

3.     Ongoing management involvement.

4.     Training and input from all employees.

5.     Measure and share the results.

6.     Repeat as needed

Not all carts are created equal; neither is the house keeping of all employees.
There needs to be a well-organized and labeled stock area and work carts, not all carts are created equal the right cart will provide easily organized and ample storage for the task. This is an example of a non-structural repair cart.

Most of these steps may look familiar as those taken with other lean evaluations and implementations. For example, many shops have established standard operating procedures (SOPs) and involve employees in the process of continuous improvement. Let’s take a look at these steps in a little more detail.

Standard operating procedures
SOPs are more than just a method of doing repairs. They establish a set of rules that enable a shop to have a firm grasp on quality and costs. For example, when all work is finished with the same grit as it moves from body shop to paint shop, the paint shop can apply the appropriate amount of primer surfacer. Material usage becomes a more defined quantity (two coats vs. four coats). Establishing who is responsible for each procedure and quality control during the repair process helps to eliminate re-work. While every repair is slightly different, the significant steps in a repair can be standardized.  There are plenty of sources for SOPs for body shops that can easily be modified to suit each shop’s particular practices.  Many of these are free from jobbers and paint manufacturers.

Less materials
Using less materials starts with an authorized stock list. This is as simple as having a pre-printed order form. Employees, management and the jobber/supplier can create a list with the understanding that only the products needed on a regular, ongoing basis can be purchased and shipped by the jobber/supplier. Anything that is not on this list needs shop management approval. A simple write-in area on the form with a place for the manager to sign can keep this from becoming cumbersome.  

There needs to be a well organized and labeled stock area and work carts. Not all carts are created equal. All too often a shop is sold on a new super duper, money saving, more efficient, easy to use poly-razzmatazz or other comparable name. Many times these new so-called innovative products are better, and some even save the money or labor time they claim to. Sometimes it may not be a great benefit for the shop. Does this product fit into our established SOPs? Do we have a method to analyze and review its impact on quality and production?

Sometimes this analysis is a matter of perception and opinion, but we should make changes for the right reasons. If we have good measurement tools in place, we should be able to measure the impact of significant changes in material. If the claim is that this new product will reduce your per-RO material cost by $2, then you should be able to see those results after implementing the new product into the shop system.

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