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Segment Your Shop by Repair Type

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Since we’ve operated an auto body shop, we’ve been challenged with the same things that all body shops have been challenged with: You never know what is going to come through the door. Each car is different, the damage is different and the customer’s needs are different. We wanted a way to reduce warranties and improve speed and quality with the ultimate goal of making our customers happy. We decided to present this challenge to our employees. They know the challenges that come up, how to get around them and how to get good throughput in a shop. 

Thanks to their feedback, we decided to implement a new repair philosophy in all eight of our shops: segmenting repairs into light, medium and heavy hits. The purpose is to improve cycle time by dedicating teams of technicians to specific sizes of jobs from beginning to end, and to move light work out the door within one day.

We started by calculating the capacity of each of our shops on any given day. We did that by looking at the capacity of our paint booths and the administrative staff. We then broke down the capacity into repair categories: light, medium and heavy. You want to find out exactly how many of those jobs your shop can effectively handle in one day. 

While it’s not an exact science, we do have some technical parameters that go along with each category:

1. Light hits have a target repair of 1–2 days. Light body repair includes feather edging; small dent repair; moderate R&I of trim; cleaning and re-taping of molding; light body pulls; restoration of corrosion protection; doors; bumpers; headlights; and aiming of lamps. The biggest thing is that there is no welding, sublet repairs or structural repairs.

2. Medium hits have a target repair of 3–5 days. They include set up and pulling to achieve sheet metal alignment or sheet metal repair of weld-on components, quarter panel, rear panel, door skin and core support replacement.

3. Heavy hits have a target repair of 5–8 days. A heavy hit is a car that’s not drivable. It’s a car that comes in on a tow truck. It might include frame repair, replacement of structural components, or where damage is not confined to one zone due to impact.

The way our daily production process works is that a customer will call our central call center. Our call center can look at the capacity for all of our locations for each of those categories, and based on what the scheduling calendar tells them, they can make a recommendation to the customer or the insurance company as to what location the car should go to in order to maximize cycle time. After the car comes in, we will do a repair plan and upload it into our scheduling system, which will categorize the job. The job is then funneled into the appropriate repair category and each job is prioritized based on the delivery of parts. It will be assigned to the corresponding team who will work on the job from beginning to end.

We do have the staff organized in teams and assigned a team leader. We split those teams based on their skill sets and the managers identified the way each employee best works. One unique thing about our shop is that the teams at the locations were given the freedom to figure out how they’re going to hit these capacity goals and move the cars quickly. We needed teams of technicians who could work efficiently as cohesive units, so we let them establish a process that is best suited for that particular location. 

While each repair category has its own dedicated space, we didn’t make any changes to the structure of our facility. That means that one shop might have a more lean process, while another might have a more traditional process with some elements of Six Sigma.

Segmenting repairs has significantly improved cycle time and has helped speed up efficiency. Those improvements happen because technicians get really efficient and productive when they focus on one specific type of work. They learn the most effective methods for certain repair functions and develop a strong eye for detail. Cars get fixed faster and more accurately overall. 

The most important part to this is analyzing your shop’s current mix to identify the number of repairs you perform in each category. You need to have enough jobs in all three categories to keep technicians busy and prevent uneven workloads.  

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