I have been in the collision Industry for most of my adult life. Not having worked in other fields, I wasn’t exposed to some of the buzzwords that are part of daily life in those fields. I think generally, all of us share this same industry-specific ignorance. It is true that if you watch the news, or read at all, you will be exposed to some of the terminology used in other industries, and have a general understanding of it, but not like the understanding you would have by working in those fields daily. Obviously, the same would hold true for people that do not work in the automotive field.
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One such term is the word lean. We have all heard of it, and have a general understanding of it. Lean manufacturing is where we generally categorize, or associate the term, but lean principals can and have been applied to many other industries with success.
In recent years, many shop owners and managers have been trying to find ways to apply lean principles in the collision Industry. Some have been very successful in improving their operations and others have failed miserably. I am pretty sure most shops that have experimented with lean give up too early and fall back into what they believe are their tried and true methods.
Why? Because implementing lean is hard and takes a commitment from every person in the shop. It will not happen overnight, and it requires real discipline. What I want to describe to you here is what lean truly is and what it attempts to do. You should digest this information, and consider how to implement lean into your shop. Contrary to popular belief, there is no “cookie cutter” implementation method for this process. Implementation depends on your shop, shop management and your shop personnel.
In the past, I felt that if you were to implement lean in your shop, you had to jump in with both feet and go in all the way. I feel slightly different now, and think that small bites of the process added gradually can be beneficial and less painful. Even small parts of a lean process should improve your overall processes.
In order to implement a lean process in your shop, you will first have to implement what is called 5S. Last September, I wrote an article detailing 5S that you can read here.