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Tips for Improved Shop Floor Throughput

Order Reprints
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In mid-March, during the height of the coronavirus crisis, I noticed that a White House press conference touched heavily on the term throughput. The topic arose because U.S. officials were focused on fast-tracking testing capabilities for COVID-19.

That serves as an example of how valuable efficient throughput can be. 

Of course, if you’re in the body shop business, you’re well aware of throughput’s importance. Great throughput can boost your monthly car count and aid your bottom line. Conversely, poor throughput can leave your shop’s painters, for example, feeling overwhelmed. 

If you ask me, achieving solid throughput in a body shop comes down to a staff taking a handful of steps. Those key steps are as follows. 

Schedule carefully.
The first key to great throughput is figuring out your shop’s repair scheduling. If you’re overscheduled or underschedule, both can affect throughput significantly. 

Batch your work.
Next, you need to watch how work flows through your shop. We call it “batching work.” It doesn’t help for body technicians to keep sending cars to paint if the painters are completely backed up. They’d be better off focusing on, if you’re in a team environment, either helping the painters get caught back up, or concentrating on reassembles so that the painters can catch up before you’re sending them more work. 

Because, if you just keep sending, sending, sending work, then problems start to pile up on the shop floor. We’ve had times where our painters are backed up with almost 30 cars that need to be painted. And my response to my technicians then is “Why are you sending more cars to the paint department when they’re that far behind? You’re not helping the problem when you do that.” 

“Pull” together as a team. 

Throughput is better when the work is being pulled rather than when it’s being pushed. We want the scenario to be such that the paint department just got done with a vehicle, and now the body tech is going to send them another one.

The more you can concentrate on pulling work rather than pushing it the better off you’ll be. To focus on that, you have to create somewhat of a team environment. Move your people to where the bottleneck is—for a week, a day, or even a half hour, depending on how bad the bottleneck is. The more resources you can move to a shop bottleneck, the better your throughput will be. 

Monitor shop metrics. 

To help with throughput, we look at how many ROs are closed per day. And, we have goals per location. We also look at how many booth cycles are done per day.

We aim for 10 ROs closed every single day, and we want 100 cars out of that location every two weeks. We watch to make sure that we’re averaging that. If we start to fall behind on those goals, then we know we probably have a problem with our scheduling, or in the way we’re moving the work from department to department. 

Address issues early. 

It’s important to work with your admin staff to identify any throughput problem early on, and to quickly make adjustments. Show employees how, by pulling the work in rather than pushing 10 cars at once to another department, you’ll get more cars done faster. 

It’s a lot of coaching, it’s a lot of just training and talking, and letting it soak in to employees. Your core group will likely catch on fairly quickly, to the point where they’re automatically moving themselves to help address a shop bottleneck.

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