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4 Steps to Reduce Supplements

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Byron Davis, owner of Auto Body Specialities in Springfield, Ore., says every poor estimate written with damage found later on the vehicle costs his shop about $130. After switching to a focus on repair planning and disassembly about five years ago, Davis has been able to reduce delays and mistakes in the repair process.

Supplements are commonly referred to as a “mistake” or “error,” but the effects reach far more than a mere slip-up. Supplements can affect a shop’s cycle time and cause delays in other parts of the repair process. A 10-hour job could turn into a 15-hour job simply by not scheduling the cars right, Davis says.

Results from the 2018 FenderBender Industry Survey show only 8 percent of respondents had a supplement ratio lower than 5 percent.

 And more than 20 percent of respondents have a rate that is higher than 25 percent.

So, how can shops reduce cycle time?

Ted Williams, manager of business consulting services for Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes,  visits a shop every week to help implement new processes. He’s seen every time a technician finds another part needed in the repair process and causes a delay.

The fact is, he says, high supplements are a customer service issue. And your shop can no longer afford to have that issue. Williams, with over 25 years of experience with Sherwin-Williams, and Davis outline four steps for reducing supplement ratios.


Step 1: Define a goal.

Before implementing a process to reduce supplements, make sure the team understands the goal and the language involved, Williams says.

“Supplement ratio is typically an insurance term,” he says. “Sometimes it doesn’t resonate with the tech if you say that.”

Instead, Williams says shop owners should phrase the process as a way to increase touch time and create more repair hours for the technician.

Right now, Auto Body Specialities has a cycle time of roughly 7 days and a touch time of 4.2 hours per day, Davis says. To aid the team in keeping these numbers below and above the national averages, respectively, he says his team is able to reference the morning’s goals on a scoreboard in the shop.

And for a benchmark, encourage your team to continually improve and get a better rate than the previous week’s number, he says.


Step 2: Tighten up scheduling.

For Williams, the essential step that shops miss is the scheduling process. If staff does not have enough time to work on disassembly of a vehicle, he says they are more likely to miss or skip checking parts that don’t outwardly appear damaged.

Take a look at your scheduling process and make sure it’s as effective as possible. For Davis, he’s found that the best approach is one in which they schedule the repair jobs starting on Friday and plan for any extra cars towed in during the weekend. For example, if a shop can accommodate eight cars in and eight cars out in one day, the schedule for Monday should only encompass four. That gives room for any jobs added over the weekend.

Davis says his shop schedules hours per job per day on Thursdays. In addition to scheduling at the end of the week to account for an influx of vehicles at the beginning of the week, his team will also conduct daily release meetings at 9 a.m. every day. For 15 minutes, the staff will cover what hours each part of the repair process needs to complete.

A morning scheduling meeting allows for drops in repairs and non-drivable vehicles that occur spontaneously, Davis says.


Step 3: Create an effective disassembly process.

Any delays can be managed from a solid estimate plan, Williams says.

Even though the guidelines for informing customers and insurance companies about supplements depends on the DRP the shop is on, a shop should always contact the customer about additional damage found within the first day of the estimate being written, Williams says.

On the other hand, Davis says writing estimates is not the main issue and can ultimately lead to a waste of time if focused on too long.

“You’ll only be able to capture about 80 percent of the damage in an estimate until you tear the car down,” Davis says. “Blueprinting is about analyzing damage and mainly a way for you to be proactive on the front end instead of reactive on the back end.”

So, he says to go back to the front-end processes and perfect the repair planning. To do that, have a pre-op checklist on hand that outlines common items to look for and verify when performing disassembly, he says. One example is to check off when the estimator inspects the tire alignment.

Davis has a team of three, which includes a blueprinter, estimator and parts person, working at all times in the disassembly stage of the repair. The team of three acts as a way to check each other’s work.

The technician needs to make sure to not only disassemble the bumper from the car for instance, but also to remember to disassemble the bumper itself once it is separate from the vehicle, Williams says.

Take pictures of the damage as it is being found in disassembly, he says. This saves time compared to other tear-down processes in which the estimator has to recreate photos from a checklist of damage the technician handed to them.

And even a simple step like prewashing a vehicle can reveal hidden damage, Williams says.


Step 4: Form a parts visual.

Williams and Davis each recommend organizing parts on parts carts. Other strategies, like displaying parts on the floor, can cause tripping hazards and potential for injury or broken parts because someone stepped on a piece.

As the technicians put parts on the cart, they should be doing what Williams calls the “arrow-down” method. This method is where the technician scrolls down the parts database and pulls a diagram of what the part needs to look like as he organizes it.

The cart becomes a good tool to visualize which parts are broken and which can be replaced right away on the vehicle. Damaged parts go on the bottom of the cart and parts ready to be replaced immediately go on the top, he says.

 “It’s an easy way for an insurance adjuster to come in and go directly to the damaged parts and knows exactly where they are,” Davis says.

Bag any small hardware items, Williams says. Davis says to keep interior parts of the car, like seats, in a clean and safe room.

If there are concerns over having the right part and being able to mirror match the part, Williams says a good resource would be an estimating database that has access to the manufacturer guidelines and training guidelines, like ALLDATA or I-CAR.

These databases act as a second check for photos, he says.

For Auto Body Specialities, the last-minute reliance goes to using technology and messaging their vendors. The team will take photos of the parts and send it in via text message or email as a way to digitally record that the team asked about the part, Davis says.

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