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Load Leveling

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Solid cycle time is critical for every shop. It maintains high customer and insurer satisfaction, and workflow in your operation. But some shops lucky enough to have overcapacity in work volume may experience challenges adhering to strong key performance indicators (KPIs). Sending work to another facility through a load leveling strategy can improve efficiency for any shop organization with two or more locations.

FenderBender talked to Lee Rush, regional strategic accounts manager for Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, about how your operation can implement such a strategy, and the procedures necessary to make it successful.

Load leveling is about managing the work volume at each of your facilities. It’s a strategy in which you transfer jobs from locations with overcapacity to locations that can handle the work. There are three reasons to load level:

  1. Free one shop location from overcapacity to improve throughput and cycle time.
  2. Improve work volume and revenue for a location with low capacity.
  3. Make the repair process more convenient for the customer. Shops aren’t always able to begin repairs immediately, and load leveling helps get the process started quicker.

It’s counter-intuitive to think about sending work and revenue away to another shop. But load leveling curbs the negative impact of taking on jobs beyond your capacity. Ultimately, it increases revenue and profitability for your company as a whole.

There are a few main points to consider when implementing a load leveling process. First, understand the purpose and objective of doing it. The objective should be to move larger severity jobs to other locations in order to improve your collision center’s workflow and cycle time. That allows the shop to accommodate the customer’s needs, focus on vehicles already in production and have capacity to capture additional light jobs.

Have a clear process in place for the various scenarios when you would need to load level: walk-ins, tow-ins and phone calls. It’s important to have a plan for how the load leveling idea will be conveyed accurately and professionally to the customer if your shop is already at capacity. Have a specific script that you present to the customer during your initial interaction so you don’t stumble through the explanation. Explain the load leveling benefit, and ask for the customer’s permission to do it so you can promptly begin repairs.

Load leveling needs to be organized within the first 24 hours after acquiring a job. That’s a mistake shop operators commonly make when they’re not educated on the purpose of the activity. They tend to load level their most disastrous job—the one that’s been sitting on the property for days with no progress. That’s the wrong vehicle to load level, and defeats the main objective.

Define your load level process—the actual methodology you’ll use to transfer vehicles from one facility to another. Facilities used for load leveling should be relatively close to one another. Carve your city into four zones if you’re in a major metropolitan area. Load level between facilities located within similar zones.

You have to get permission from the receiving shop before you send a job there. All facilities within one company should constantly know their location’s capacity and status of high severity jobs. Regular communication between locations is important.

You don’t necessarily need your own towing capabilities to load level. Third-party companies can be used, too. That’s an economic decision you have to make. Either way, there is a financial cost associated with transporting vehicles. You need to decide which strategy is most cost-effective for your business.

Develop a strategy to effectively carry out the repair process. The vehicle has to be completely transferred to the repairing shop, which requires a few extra steps. Go through your normal process to check the vehicle in with the customer. Cancel the DRP assignment if it is one. Then communicate with the receiving shop. Ask them to request the DRP assignment from the insurer, and let them know exactly when the vehicle will arrive. Give the customer all of the necessary contact information for the shop where the vehicle is moving. In addition, provide the receiving shop with all of the customer’s contact information.

This process allows for complete connectivity between the repairing shop, the customer and the insurer. It’s a mistake to think that the customer service representative (CSR) at the original shop should communicate in a triangle between the repairing shop and all other parties. It’s ineffective and people get frustrated. The repairing shop has to assume full responsibility over all aspects of the job.

Finally, consider the delivery process of vehicles that are load leveled. Let the customer decide where they prefer to pick up the vehicle. There needs to be a specific process in place when customers opt to pick their vehicle up at the original drop-off point. You need to ensure that all necessary repair documentation, bills and paperwork get back to the appropriate facility.

The delivery of load leveled vehicles needs to be handled like any other job. You cannot neglect the customer just because your facility may not have made the repair or earned the revenue. Make sure you have a feasible process in place to provide customers with convenient solutions for any post-repair problems. Customers shouldn’t feel like you’re unwilling to help.

Be cautious that your load leveling process remains in compliance with all DRP guidelines. The process should be seamless for the customer and insurer. It should not cause any problems or inconvenience, and neither party should be able to tell the difference regarding where the vehicle was repaired.

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