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Scheduling repairs for anticipated vacancies is sustainable

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 07:00
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Often when I am researching a cycle time problem at a shop I generally end up teaching scheduling. There are many ways to schedule repairs. Most people are familiar with the “In on Monday out on Friday process.” Even though that process is extremely outdated it is broadly used at the insistence of insurance carriers.

I have visited shops with full parking lots who think they are busy, but realistically, nothing is moving. The repairs are all scheduled, regardless if a technician is available to work on them, just because it is Monday.

I recommend scheduling for anticipated vacancies, a process that requires a little work upfront but, once in place, it is very effective. To schedule effectively you must know your capabilities. How many repairs did you perform over the last 90 days?  Now, how many of those were delivered on time? Next, how many of those repairs were below $1,500? Were you aware that on average more than 45% of all repairs are $1,500 and below? 

OK, enough of the questions, let’s look at an average week at an average shop. To me average is five repairs a day in and five repairs out. Your shop will probably be a little different but the idea will work in any shop with a few adjustments.

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In a 90-day period there are 60 working days. Using five repairs a day for these calculations we would have 300 repair slots within that 90-day period. As we break this down to a weekly schedule 48% of those repairs will be below $1500 or Level 1, the remainder will be split up between Level 2 = $1,500-$2,500 (20%), Level 3 = $2,500-$4,500 (16%), Level 4 = $4,500-$7,500 (12%) & Level 5 $7,500 and above (5%).

Weekly Schedule = 25 Repairs

(Rounding adds one additional Level 1 Repair)

Level 1

12

Level 2

5

Level 3

4

Level 4

3

Level 5

1

 

Now that we know the repair mix let’s put them in a scheduling table to see how it looks.

Monday

Level 1

Level 1

Level 1

Level 2

Level 4

Tuesday

Level 1

Level 1

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Wednesday

Level 1

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Thursday

Level 1

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 5

Friday

Level 1

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

 

 

While I used five repairs a day for this example, this table can be expanded to allow for eight, nine or 10 repairs a day. Just use 90 days of data to determine what percentage of each repair level you should bring in each day.

Before you call me crazy and tell me you can’t bring repairs in on Thursday and Friday because you’re trying to get cars out, remember, we are bringing five repairs in a day and sending five home. You may also say I can’t bring big repairs in on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. My response to that is, when a repair is going to carry through a weekend, you should be able to pick the weekend.

Let’s say you bring a big repair in on Thursday. If you disassemble it, create the repair plan and order the parts by early Friday, you will have what you need to start working on that repair Monday. Doesn’t that sound better than doing your disassembly on Monday and not having the parts until Wednesday or Thursday? When you order the parts on Friday they should transit over the weekend. Now you’re not eating up valuable repair time waiting on parts.

To create the schedule, it is best to use a color coding system to provide a quick visual on your calendar. You can use an Excel spreadsheet, Microsoft Outlook or any program that can be shared among your customer service staff and the estimators. The key is to stay within the parameters of your shop’s capabilities. When you share the schedule with your staff you can be proactive during the estimate phase, knowing when the next repair slot is available.

One of the hang-ups I find in scheduling surrounds towed-in vehicles. You can account for towed-in vehicles within the same schedule process we just created. It will take a little math to plan for tow-ins but not as much as we needed to create the schedule. Calculate the number of repairs that were towed in or non-drivable using the same 90-day period we used earlier. Keep track of the repair level as you count them so you will know where they fit in the schedule. Once you have the total and repair levels you can tentatively block those repair slots shown in your weekly schedule. I say, tentatively block, because there are never two weeks the same in the collision world and you might need to make minor adjustments. As a tow-in vehicle arrives find the reserved spot for the size job you believe it is and assign it on the schedule. Don’t be afraid if it is a couple days away, being a tow-in should not give it a priority over scheduled jobs.

Scheduling like this takes some adjustments because it is somewhat of a culture change but it will make your life easier as you move forward with a sustainable system. I put this process in place at a large dealership and after a couple of months the general manager called telling me to come fix his scheduling problem.

 I went by the shop and found repairs per day had increased, cycle time was down and his customer satisfaction index score was up. I explained what I discovered to the general manager and he replied “I didn’t see any cars in the parking lot so I thought we were slow.” I told him the process was to bring repairs in as they can be repaired not create an inventory in the parking lot. He agreed with my thoughts and said he would keep an eye on it. Today the parking spaces that were holding “repair inventory” are now available for used car sales inventory, a much better use of space.


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