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What Would it Take to Eliminate Supplements?

Order Reprints

Does the order of activities best serve downstream operations? To whom or what is the order of operations subordinate?

Consider a late-model, familiar vehicle, hit in the left front. Without dismantle, the gaps tell us it needs a pull.
The wheel scrape tells us it qualifies for an alignment. Opening the hood and letting the demolished headlamp
capsule fall away evidences a weld-on core support in need of replacement. From the outside, we know we
need a bumper cover, grille, fender, headlight, hood, right fender blend and left door blend. From experience,
we suspect we will also need a reinforcement, probably one or both coolers, maybe fans, and a bunch of other
plastic crap that will fall out in pieces when we initiate the teardown.

If you have more than one estimator, do they all follow exactly the same series of steps when creating an estimate? The answer is likely no, but why not?

Do they all enter everything they can see in the estimating system, then request a teardown? Or do they request a few assemblies off and then start writing? Is one way better than the other? Why? If the left rail is swayed over with noticeable distortion to the inside, does the pulling get done (all control points restored) as part of the estimate process? Or do you elicit a tech's opinion, and then leave the pulling for later, once he pulls the job in to repair? What’s the reason for that order?

During the "teardown," does each technician completely remove every single part, nut, bolt, molding etc., so nothing is left to remove later? If not, why not? (Supplemental damage discovery is always preceded by someone "taking something off or apart.")

Do you do the wheel alignment during the estimating process (where the customer presumes you are figuring out everything the car will need, in order to provide an accurate cost and target delivery date)? Or do you do it near the end after the car is painted and reassembled? Why? Is all the trim removed from the blend panels during the estimating step, or later, at some time before the car enters the booth? Why? What if something bends or breaks (trim is not necessarily made to come on and off)? Shouldn't it be part of the repair bill and ordered with the rest of the parts?

Do you scuff (prep) the repair and blend panels during the damage analysis step? Or do you wait until it gets to the painters, shortly before going in the booth? Why?

Do you detrim the right fender and left door (blend panels), remove them, and send them with the new hood,
bumper cover and left fender, to be painted, while waiting for the parts (that you couldn't see at first glance), to come in? If not, why?

Whose fault is it if something is missed at teardown (a broken temp sensor in front of the radiator), the teardown tech or the estimator? Does it matter to the customer?

What would it take to virtually eliminate a supplement from a parts intensive job like this—to see the future?
Simple. For missed parts and missed damage, take everything off and completely apart (especially assemblies) during the estimate, regardless of whether it immobilizes the car or takes all day.

"Taking it apart" is where supplements are discovered. Do it at the beginning. You will see the future (which could be the $3 retainer that holds the whole job up two days). Make a blend ruler to end the arguing in front of the booth about bodywork that got "too big.” Do the pulling and wheel alignments in the estimating phase. If their outcome is uncertain, performing them is the only way we have to be certain about what their outcome will be. Dedicate a smart, engaged person to physically check every part against the damaged one for accuracy or any damage before it's released to production.

We find and rectify each of these eventually, before the car leaves. Why do we discover each as we go, at an almost predictable stage in the repair instead of doing it all on day one and two? There is certainly a reason, we just have to definitively answer "why" (don't guess, ask why over and over until all vested interests—estimators, body techs, painters—clarify why they prefer to do what they do today) and then see if that reason meets the customer litmus test. What steps, in what order, would be best for them? Ensure every task is done correctly on the first try, in the shortest total time, from beginning to end). If you get through this exercise thoroughly, the answers will uncover the next set of questions to ask.

Aaron Marshall manages Marshall Auto Body in Waukesha, Wis. He can be reached at

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