Running a Shop

The Key to Efficient Repairs

Order Reprints

​We’ve discussed some of the details of a solid blueprint SOP and how you may be able to implement a blueprint process at your shop. I’ve made suggestions on how to outfit your blueprint/teardown area in the shop. Now it’s time to review some detailed steps of the process once a vehicle comes into your repair facility.

When a vehicle is dropped off and the check-in process is completed, you’ll need to have a process for notifying your blueprinter that there is a new job in the queue. This notification can be electronic, if your management system has this capability, or it can be as simple as moving copies of pertinent paperwork to a dedicated file holder at the blueprinter workstation. With the manual method, you can include a copy of the client questionnaire and your in-process quality control document, with the understanding that these documents are going to be in the vehicle throughout the whole repair process.

Once the paperwork is in the blueprinter queue and the notification has been made, the first thing the blueprinter will need to do is review the questionnaire. As we talked about in a previous column, this questionnaire will help the blueprinter understand the facts of loss and any client concerns and expectations about the repairs. Also, the blueprinter will need to review the repair order file to make sure that all systems and processes you have for your drop-off SOP have been followed. Then the in-process quality control (IPQC) document should be signed by the blueprinter acknowledging that he or she has accepted the job from the front office.

Next, armed with the knowledge gleaned from the processes above, and prior to bringing the vehicle in for teardown, the blueprinter will need to go to the vehicle to write a comprehensive preliminary estimate and map the vehicle for teardown. I call this “prewriting the repair plan” and the part of the process is critical for many reasons.

Prewriting the repair plan enables the blueprinter to understand the scope of the damage prior to bringing the car in for the teardown process. Not every vehicle will need to go through a full teardown process but could actually move to body immediately after authorization of an estimate amount. Having a well designed fast-track system for light hits is a good ancillary system that you can deploy. You can develop a triage process and decision tree that the blueprinter can follow for damage such as key scratches, minor body damage to one or two panels, where 95 percent of the damage is completely visible and the remaining 5 percent is potentially a clip or fastener that needs replacement after the panels are detrimmed for paint. 

The vehicles that qualify to pass up blueprint and go straight to body can be de-trimmed in body and moved to paint very quickly. Parts that might be needed after de-trimming can be communicated to the blueprinter for supplementing to the pre-written estimate and often ordered the same day the vehicle goes to body. If the blueprinter doesn’t prewrite repair plans, the opportunities to reduce cycle time will be hampered.

Prewriting the repair plan enables the blueprinter to make judgements about potentially performing an alignment or alignment check prior to doing a teardown. Generally speaking, if there is an impact to a wheel and/or tire you’ll want to address potential alignment and suspension issues very early in your teardown process, rather than wait to the end of the repair to perform an alignment where you are susceptible to discovering bent wheels or damaged suspension components that will delay the delivery of the vehicle. 

Prewriting the repair plan allows the blueprinter to address potential prior damage or previous repair issues early in the process. I think we have an obligation to our customers to inform them of any financial impact that occurs as a result of prior damage being present in the area of new damage. If your front office personnel have already discussed prior damage issues with the customer, that should be documented on your client relationship questionnaire. 

If they haven’t had that conversation, it would be detrimental to you to complete a teardown and have an insurance company tell the customer that they are going to be responsible for charges above and beyond their deductible. Surprising a customer in this fashion won’t reflect well on you and it may set you up for a situation where you end up reassembling the vehicle for free if the customer declines to complete the repairs due to the additional financial burden.

Prewriting the repair plan gives the blueprinter the opportunity to triage potential total loss vehicles. There is nothing more frustrating and inefficient than putting a vehicle into blueprint, doing a thorough teardown that make take several hours, only to discover that the vehicle is an economic total loss or a borderline total loss. I’ve seen this happen way too many times when vehicles are not prewritten, and every time it happens, it is a complete waste of time and a real money loser for the shop. 

Most insurance companies have well established guidelines and thresholds they use for calculating vehicle values and total loss triggers. Many insurance companies also have a threshold on what they will pay for a teardown in the event a vehicle is a total loss. Learn what these formulas are for the companies you deal with. If the blueprinter and the teardown tech each spend four hours on a teardown and the insurance company wants to pay two or three hours, you’re in the hole for five man-hours of wasted and unreimbursed time.      

Prewriting the repair plan creates a road map of the research the blueprinter will need to complete relative to OEM repair procedures, inspections required after a collision, and other necessary processes. Without a strong sense of what the repairs are going to look like on a vehicle, the blueprinter will struggle to figure it all out while the vehicle is being torn down. 

In my next column I will describe in detail a systematic approach for your blueprinter to use for researching, gathering and documenting all of the information your techs will need to complete the repairs properly and profitably.

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