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8 Overlooked Ways to Increase Touch Time

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There is a golden rule of thumb driving Shawn Gates’ business and it begins at the start of the repair.

For Gates, general manager for North Canton Collision in North Canton, Ohio, the golden rule follows that if a technician knows he or she is going to lose efficiency on the bigger jobs, it’s imperative to make up the time on the smaller repairs.

Following that rule, Gates and his team currently produce 4.7 hours of touch time per job, he says.

 Across the country, most shops average a touch time of 2.1–2.3 labor hours, but to be relevant to an insurance company, the shop should have an average of at least 3 hours, says Leroy Rush, manager of business development for Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes. Rush spends each week traveling to shops and consulting on the shop process to improve not only touch time, but also reduce cycle time. He has over 20 years of experience managing MSOs and collision centers, such as Sterling Auto Body Centers, ABRA Auto Body and Glass, and Manheim ABR.

Rush says the industry’s biggest problem is a lack of process and implementing the right kind of process. Not only does touch time affect other shop KPIs, touch time is also the only metric the shop can use to truly demonstrate how productive it is.

Through a fast-track system, North Canton Collision is able to produce $3.5 million in sales and work on an average of 150 cars per month, all done by a staff of 20.

Gates and Rush share the top overlooked steps of the repair that a shop can focus on to gain more hours on each car.


How to Calculate Touch Time

According to Tony Nethery, a client solutions advisor with CCC Information Services, touch time is defined by the hours a technician or estimator spends on the vehicle. To improve touch time, the shop has to continuously work on the vehicle.

For example, if a car enters the shop on a Monday and is delivered on a Friday, and the technician spent a total of 20 hours on the job, the shop would average the hours worked on the car per day, Rush says. Take the total hours and divide by five days to get an average touch time of 4 labor hours per day.


1) Reduce downtime at the beginning of the repair.

In the beginning of the process, the shop needs to focus on cutting downtime in areas of disassembly, blueprinting and researching the part, Nethery says.

First, define what level of blueprinting the shop will implement, he says. For example, is it going to be all vehicles, or all insurance vehicles? Will the boss hire separate technicians and estimators for this process?

Complete disassembly prevents hold-ups in the repair, ultimately getting the car out faster.


2) Focus on damage analysis.

The shop should focus on the damage analysis in the repair, Rush says. Three elements are key to this process, he says. When a technician performs the process of analyzing damage on the vehicle and making a blueprint of what will be done to the vehicle, the technician should keep in mind that this data is important and needs to be accessed promptly. Rush says to stop using pen and paper and make the access quicker through smartphones.


3) Spend time researching the proper procedure.

In addition to understanding OEM repair procedures, the shop can research the parts needed for the repair through CCC, Mitchell and ALLDATA. If the information is not at these sites, the shop can look at OEM1Stop, which includes position statements from the manufacturers, Nethery says.

Repair research is critical in this age because of the increasing complexity of vehicles, he says. Nethery recommends using a database in which the repair procedure is already embedded in the estimating software to save time.

Gates says it always helps when the shop knows how OEMs want the vehicles fixed from the start. At the beginning of the year, North Canton Collision became Honda and Acura certified. Then, the shop went and became Nissan, Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram, Hyundai and Kia certified.


4) Mirror-match parts.

There needs to be “parts correctness” within the damage analysis as well, Rush says. This means the technician should mirror-match parts and not wait to open the parts at the last minute.

A risk of waiting to open parts at the last minute is opening a box of damaged or incorrect parts, he says. Then the repair is on hold and the technician loses those hours until the correct part is delivered.

Mirror-matching parts helps prevent delays, Nethery says.


5) Make smaller jobs into “fast-track” jobs.

Label the smaller, fender jobs as “fast-track jobs,” Gates says. By taking a smaller job and trying to get the car out in one day, this can help offset the cycle time. For example, Gates’ team could reduce a 15-hour job to 8 hours.

Similar to Gates’ process for fast-track jobs, Rush says it is critical for a shop to have an express repair process.

The express repair process is a process that captures opportunities to reduce cycle time and increase touch time on Category 1 and Category 2 vehicles, which include light, medium and medium-heavy repairs, Rush says. These repairs include single-panel repairs or smaller metal repairs.

In order to gain more hours on smaller repair vehicles, the shop can make these vehicles visible at all times but color-coding them or placing a type of marker on them they should never be “hands-off”, Rush says.

“The express repair is performed best when it is specialized,” Rush says.


6) Dedicate a technician to lighter repairs.

Specializing the process into a successful fast-track process stems from dedicating a technician, possibly a junior technician, to the lighter severities. Now, the technician does not need to stop another repair to finish a one-day job.

Rush says that if a facility produces 10 units a day and it is two to three days for each repair, the process will speed up and not stop and start when a technician is pulled from one of those heavier jobs to another smaller repair.

Technicians would no longer be moving from vehicle to vehicle at different stages of the repair, he says.


7) Keep the right technology on hand.

Often, shop owners opt out of some technology that can help speed the repair process and make it possible for technicians to work on more cars all because of the cost, Rush says.

Rush recommends a shop has air dry primers and clear coat technologies on hand within the paint department to speed dry paint on the smaller jobs.

Refinish technologies can allow a technician to complete one- to three-panel repairs in 50 minutes or less, Rush says. The 15-minute air dry primers do not even require a bake cycle, saving more time.


8) Pre-detail all qualified vehicles.

Rush says to pre-detail all qualified vehicles. If it is determined that a smaller job needs a new bumper, then the vehicle should be sent immediately to detail while waiting for the bumper to be repaired.

This process of pre-detailing a vehicle can be applied to any vehicle with a light repair. Rush says that often the staff wait until the end of the day to send the car to the detailing department and then the staff in that department are piled with work. Pre-detailing vehicle while a small place is prepared to be replaced can help move the car out faster, he says.

“Often these take place a the end of the day and then that department is overwhelmed at the end of the day,” he says.

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