In last month's column, I argued that quality control issues in this industry are more related to estimators and shop management than technicians. In that column, for example, I argued that most shops today have a quality control system in place; management just isn’t ensuring that it’s being followed.
I can point to shops that I’ve worked with where the owners or managers keep a close eye on how vehicles are being repaired. In those shops, it doesn’t matter which body technician is assigned to any job; there’s a pretty consistent product reaching the paint shop.
Technicians in those shops tell me that in previous shops where they’ve worked, one technician may be gluing everything, another one is welding, while another is MIG brazing everything — no mater what repair method is actually appropriate for a given job. In those shops, I can almost guarantee the estimators are inexperienced or poorly trained, or the management is focused only on certain numbers — CSI and gross profit, perhaps — and not on quality control.
I’ve tracked quality levels over time for both individuals and shops as a whole, and I can pretty much assure you what you will experience when you hire a new technician — or acquire a new shop of them. Initially, the quality will be fantastic. You’ll be convinced it was a great hire or great acquisition.
But shortly thereafter, quality will drop a bit. Technicians will think, “I wonder if I can cut this small corner to save some time? I’ll make more money, and I bet no one will probably notice.”
That downward spiral, if not immediately halted, will only continue, until finally someone says, “Whoa, what is going on?” It’s not until that moment that the technician (or team) knows the lowest acceptable quality level. They know that all they have to do is keep it one notch above that. That’s become your quality standard.
It’s human nature, folks.
Conversely, if quality gets addressed as soon as it starts to decline just a bit, it will rebound and stay more consistently high over time. That proves it’s a management issue, not a technician issue. I can point to example after example of the same crew at the same shop having widely differing quality levels over time based solely on the current management at that shop.