The Roadblocks to Better Blueprinting
As we continue our quest to develop a robust and detailed standard operating procedure for blueprinting, it’s time to move on and discuss procedures that are critical to overcoming preventable roadblocks in your workflow. I have found that most interruptions to flow are preventable, but shops without a viable SOP for blueprinting continue to experience the self-inflicted delays that rear their ugly heads most often near the very end of the repair.
The first roadblock to discuss occurs when there is no accurate diagnosis of the vehicles structural integrity and conformance to OEM specifications. Simply put, it is the job of the blueprinter to discern whether or not corrective pulls are going to be required to restore the structure of the vehicle back to its originally designed dimensions. Failure to notice structures that are out of tolerance will cause huge delays and potential quality issues part way into the repair. Because one of the objectives of blueprinting is to discover and address all damages before putting the vehicle into production, adding a structural integrity check into your SOP is mandatory. Not every repair requires this check so it is not necessarily expedient to put a rule in place to measure every vehicle. Perhaps an adoption of the practice to measure every vehicle that has evidence of previous repair work will work for you.
In addition, any vehicle that visually or logically could have structural movement should be measured. You could implement two-tiered approach to this. Level one could include simple basic digital tram measurements in damaged and undamaged areas, and level two would include electronic measuring or benching with fixtures of the vehicle if the blueprinter detects any anomalies while using the tram bar. You will have to make your own rules based on how your shop is equipped, but, at the very least, your blueprinter needs to be trained on the detection of structural damage. I-CAR has some good classes as do the manufacturers of frame and measuring systems. Insert this maxim into your SOP: “When in doubt, measure it out” and you’ll greatly reduce the number of delays in your repair flow.
The second area of opportunity to prevent delays and surprises involves completing a diagnostic scan of every vehicle before commencing with the teardown. This diagnostic or pre-repair scan procedure has been a hot topic in our industry for several years, but I’m not sure that there has been the large-scale adoption of this necessary operation that one would expect. Several OEMs have weighed in on the topic and insist on having diagnostic scans done on their vehicles after a collision. Several more OEMs highly recommend that this procedure be completed. Some collision repair pundits have stated that these OEM positions should be sufficient reasoning for adding pre-scans to your SOP. The bottom line is that I agree all vehicles need to be scanned prior to disassembly. There are too many unknown issues that can go undetected without a scan, but these unknown issues or faults will surely cause a delay at the end of a repair when you do a completion scan.
There is still a fair amount of friction between shops and a few third-party payers of repairs, i.e. insurance companies. The encouraging news is that most insurance companies understand the importance and value of the pre-scan operation. While getting paid for this operation is important, I would hate to find that you choose to not do a pre-repair scan just because a particular company doesn’t want to pay you for it. I suggest you do the scans anyway and I think you’ll find that, in many cases, a DTC will pop up, which will be enough to justify the prescan.
More importantly, there are so many components that can malfunction because of a collision without any outward evidence of damage to the component. Blind spot sensors are notorious for failing after a collision and, without a pre-repair scan, you will not know of this issue. You will be the one scrambling to locate a replacement sensor on the day the vehicle is supposed to be delivered but the BSD system is malfunctioning. This is a preventable delay that easily remedied by implementing a prescan process into your SOP.
It is not hard to teach your blueprinter and teardown technician to use and interpret the scan tool and reports. Probably the hardest decisions you will face relate to the method you use to do the scans. Your options include using OEM scan tools and software, using aftermarket scan tools, using mobile sublet vendors, or using a company that has licensed the OEM software and connects to the vehicle remotely. We use a mix of the aforementioned options currently, but I favor the use of OEM software overall. The bottom line of this topic is that scanning must be part of your SOP.
Your blueprint SOP also needs to include researching and documenting resets, calibrations and tests that will be required to complete the repairs on any particular vehicle. Again, the intent here is to prevent a supplement near the end of the repair. An example of possible resets or calibrations include occupant classification or detection system calibrations, also sometimes known as seat weight sensor calibrations. Many manufacturers require this calibration after a collision.
Your blueprinter should research and document this and put the operation itself on the initial repair plan. Most OEMs require that the steering angle sensor be calibrated after a battery disconnect or an alignment is performed. Again, the blueprinter needs to research this and get it onto the repair plan before starting the actual repairs. If you have a damaged park assist sensor needing replacement, will you need to calibrate it, test it, or aim it, or is it a plug-and-play sensor? Feel free to refer to some of my previous columns that discussed the numerous resources available to blueprinters to ferret out these required operations. Make sure to make this research process a mandatory part of your blueprinting SOP.