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Finding success in SOPs and supply lists

Small changes can make all the difference in shop efficiency and profits
Friday, March 14, 2014 - 07:00
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As with many competitive activities, success comes down to finding the small changes that can greatly affect the end result. At the Indianapolis 500 or in the Olympics, the race is often won by tenths of a second. In business, specifically the collision repair business, finding changes that shave small amounts of time or cost off of each job will markedly improve the profit for each repair and the overall profit of the business.  

Many operations view standard operating procedures (SOPs) as helpful; but not many have taken the time to establish procedures for each type of job. Operators often look at the task of creating SOPs as more work than they are worth. Some get bogged down with what they perceive as an impossible job: to write a procedure for each type of job that comes into the shop.

If you think having SOPs means that you must have a procedure for how to change every make, model and year of door skin, you would be correct in deeming it a never-ending job. But SOPs are useful for large categories of jobs, such as masking, surface prep, new part replacement, welded-on part replacement and air conditioning evacuation and recharge. When using established SOPs, the shop can increase productivity, reduce cost, increase quality, reduce job time and build a sense of teamwork within the shop.  Engaging employees to help build the SOP also further helps ensure it is followed. 

SOPs and productivity
Establishing a standard for each major activity in the shop informs workers of what materials will be needed for those jobs. The technician can then gather them prior to starting the work, getting the job done faster. For example, an SOP may indicate that if a fastener is broken during disassembly, a replacement should be ordered by the parts person. This ensures the part is ordered at the beginning of the job, and not when the job is being re-assembled, possibly causing a delay. Checking ahead that all parts for the repair are on hand (and are correct) increases productivity. If the manufacturer gives specific procedures for the repair, they should be reviewed before the job is started. If specialty items for that repair are needed, they can be gathered prior to starting the job. Sublets that cannot be carried out in house should be dealt with at the beginning of the job, with an appointed person held accountable to ensure it is carried out in a lean, cost-effective way.

Figure 1

Blueprinting the repair — that is, writing directions on the repair vehicle itself — is a form of SOP. If the vehicle is marked (Fig 1), the technician can see at a glance each R&R or repair, where to refinish and if blending is written on the estimate. Many businesses agree that this method makes it less likely that items will be missed. Some argue that all the information is written on the repair order, and that blueprinting is redundant; however, small items can and are missed. Also, many technicians are more visually acute when inspecting the vehicle and so are more comfortable following directions with a blueprinted vehicle, as opposed to finding the needed information on the work order.  Blueprinting also aids the repair process in the event a technician or team member is off or sick. It’s a good way to communicate customer requests and concessions to other team members that may not be on the repair order, such as, “please touch up front bumper scratch.” It also protects the shop by identifying pre-existing conditions or damage. Green markings for related repairs, yellow for supplemental repairs and red for not related or approved repairs is also nice visual indicator.

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