Steady production is what makes a collision center successful. When I am called into a shop to help with production, the first thing I look at is the shop’s touch and cycle times. While shop managers know that touch time is a metric they need to hit, getting there is sometimes evasive for them. For me, a shop’s touch and cycle times tells a story about how effective a manager is in running their business. Low touch time can be caused by poor estimating, poor production management (technicians working on multiple vehicles) or poor scheduling. Generally, low touch time creates high cycle time, so I will show you how those two numbers relate to each other.
To define the relation, I dive into other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to see how their sales per RO and paint hours per RO match up to the benchmarks. If those two numbers are low, I head to the office to review initial estimates and the number of supplements per RO. If I see low initial estimates and multiple supplements, it tells me a poor estimate was written and the repair was probably put into production without a complete disassembly. Putting a repair into production without a complete disassembly creates situations where technicians work on a repair until more damage is found. That repair is then idled until a supplement is approved and repairs can proceed all while adding to the touch and cycle time.
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If sales per RO and paint hours per RO are at benchmark, I start looking at the production side of the shop reviewing the following: productivity – overall, booth cycle time and vehicles per day per booth, looking for an indication of a choke point. I always explain to shop managers that you can have high productivity overall yet still have low touch time and high cycle time. This is because a technician can account for hours on several vehicles to stay productive, all while not moving any one vehicle completely through the production process. A technician works on a vehicle until a repair issue creates a stopping point and then to ensure he stays productive, he will pull in another vehicle to start the cycle all over again.
When that happens, you will see higher booth cycle time and lower vehicles per day per booth because work flow to the paint shop is not steady. When a technician works on multiple vehicles at once, generally they will all move to the paint shop one right after another, causing ebbs and flows in paint shop production. If all those KPIs look good, I turn to scheduling.