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Take time up front to analyze damage, blueprint correctly

Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 00:00
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A FEW months ago, I ordered one of those build-it-yourself office desks. I figured, "Hey, I can build anything because I'm a body man." That's usually true. Body men, or ex-body man, in my case, can build or fix anything.

The desk was delivered to my office in three huge, heavy boxes. I opened them and found a maze of parts, thousands of screws, and even more little wooden and steel dowels. It looked like it would be difficult to assemble. I rationalized that when I found the directions, it'd be a snap to put together. After all, I'm a body man.

A few minutes later I found the directions – one page of poor drawings and lots of Japanese or Chinese writing. Because I don't read Chinese or Japanese, the directions were pretty much useless. How was I going to put the desk together?

I managed to assemble the desk, but it took much longer than it should have. Office furniture assembly illustrates how a clear set of directions helps you assemble just about anything, even a wrecked car.

Here's another example to help cement the idea that proper repair planning is important.

Remember last Friday night when you were talking with Mrs. Jones, who was picking up her finished car? The minute you hung up the phone, your tech came to you holding the door handle of her car, mumbling something about forgetting to tell you it was broken when it was taken apart. He can't put it together now, because he wants to go home early and the car isn't going to be done anyway. (You can't get a handle at 4 p.m. on a Friday.) I wonder what Mrs. Jones will think when she shows up, having returned her rental car already. If this sounds too familiar, start blueprinting.

Stick to it

Industry buzz words such as blueprinting and damage analysis have been tossed around often during the past 10 years. All of us are familiar with them and understand what they mean. Most have experimented with the concept at one time but never stuck with it because change is difficult and we have a tendency to do what we've always done, even if it doesn't work the best or isn't the most efficient.

But it's not an option to not change. To survive and have a chance at excellence, you have to be willing and want to change and try new things. You must commit to the process first and stick with it.

Blueprinting is about initiating new practices, processes and behaviors. You can't initiate a program and do it only on occasion. It has to be followed on every single repair to achieve desired results.

Think about how backward the traditional estimating process is. You look at a damaged vehicle, and know it has internal damage, but you don't report it because you can't see it. So you write the obvious, and schedule in the job. Once it comes in, you assign it, and your tech tears it down. After it's disassembled, you report all the supplemental damage, get approvals and order all the additional parts. They're not in stock, so you should be able to get back to work on the car again in a few days.

Meanwhile, the essentially dead vehicle is tying up your productive stall space. Because it can't be moved, you can't bring in other cars to be worked on. Essentially, you've doubled the administrative work involved in the repair and caused the parts supplier to do the same. They also have to make an additional delivery to you that costs time and money. In addition to these issues, the rental bill increases as you do nothing.

Sound like the normal process in your shop? This system is broken and needs a fix fast. The key to solving these cascading problems is to write a complete and accurate estimate upfront. I've heard all the excuses about why we can't do this. Bull. Here's how to get started.

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