Operations Cycle Time Management

The Key to Reducing Supplements

Order Reprints
The Key to Reducing Supplements
Detail on the front end can help alleviate potential delays.

Last month, we talked about scheduling and the importance of scheduling. We talked about not over promising and under delivering. What we didn’t get into, however, is what I feel is the biggest reason for under delivering: supplements. I think we can all relate to the issue of thinking you’re scheduling 100 hours but then realizing that was just a mere guess and you actually are completely overbooked.

There are a few things that we do to combat the supplement issue: First, we don’t give a delivery date until we take the car apart, parts are ordered and there’s a sublet operation. When a customer asks, we let them know that we can’t tell them the delivery date at the time of dropoff. We want to be very accurate once we take the car apart so that we can hold the vendors to their commitment, We’ll do the mechanical side, but once we take the car apart, we really want to know down to the details what is needed.

Customer perception can be interesting. It’s our job to inform them of what they think. You can have really bad perceptions to where they start thinking, “What is the body shop truly doing?” With us, a lot of people want a date really bad. They have a life, this is their car, they need a plan. We don’t let the customer push us to give them bad information. You can do it, but it’s going to bite you most times. Don’t let them dictate that side because when we do give them a date, it will be accurate.

We have to explain to them that we don’t have x-ray vision and that there can be things we can’t see until we take the car apart. They usually understand that. Our lingo isn’t something the average customer understand. R&I, R&R—that means nothing to the customer.

However, we also promise teardown will be done in a reasonable amount of time. For a bumper cover job, for example, they should know the estimated completion date within one hour of dropoff. Now, a tow truck could be four days, but the point is that we have to set those expectations and tell them that as soon as we know, they will be informed. With a lot of the management systems, you can have it all automatic so it sends the customer a text or email that says your blueprint was done and here’s your date. We don’t even have to make a phone call.

Photo estimating is getting much more popular these days and that just adds to the variables. It’s not uncommon for the photo estimate to say it’s a $1,000 job and it ends up being a $3,000 job. A lot of shops get mad that they’re garbage; some people think the insurer is doing it so the customer cash out. But the way I see it, it’s just a starting point. It’s an opportunity for us to learn where the damage is and what kind of car it is. But we absolutely need to take it apart. My suggestion to everyone is don’t get mad. That stuff is not going away. It’s going to get refined more with smart estimating and whatnot. People don’t want to stop by three shops and get estimates anymore; they want to snap a photo and be done. It’s not worse than writing an estimate in the parking lot and thinking you got everything. I can guarantee you’ll have a 100 percent supplement ratio when you write it in a parking lot, just as if you write one based off a photo. So, yes, photo estimates have changed our supplement ratio, but we don’t count as a supplement until the car is taken apart.

Here’s why: When we take the car apart, we touch our hands on everything. Then we know at that point, exactly what we need. So with that process, we want 0 supplements after blueprint teardown and then we final bill the insurance company and finalize the paperwork as soon as the car is taken apart. Now, what we find is that we are more in the 10 percent range but that’s acceptable after the car is taken apart.

We don’t always hit that. The busier the shop is, the more apt the technicians are to tear down and not tear down all the way. We have to reevaluate that constantly. We use our inner customer to hold us accountable. When the guy is putting the car together, come to me and say, ‘“We’re constantly doing supplements on reassembly.” First and foremost, I want them to put real numbers to it: how many, what cars, what were the supplements, how could it have been avoided, etc. What they find is they have a rough day and it seems like every car had a supplement, but that’s not true. Once we know that, we can hone in on it. Maybe they didn’t take everything off that door so you have nuts and bolts. Or a guy screwed up and he missed something major because of human error.

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