Running a Shop Operations Lean in the Shop

5 Keys to Going Lean

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John Spoto has stern words for the heavy-duty truck industry:

“In this industry, there’s always competition looking over your shoulder,” says Spoto, national heavy-duty truck and commercial fleet manager at 3M. “This is a stealing industry. If the independent heavy-duty truck segment doesn’t start looking at ways to make their process quicker and faster, they’ll get left behind.” 

Six years ago, Spoto was approached by his supervisors at 3M about working with a truck MSO to bring standardization to their repair processes. Now, Spoto speaks at industry events around the country on heavy-duty trucks (HDT) and trains facilities and technicians on ways that the repair process can be improved. 

Going lean in HDT differs from traditional collision repair because of the sheer size of the vehicles that are being worked on. Spoto explains that a complete teardown for HDT requires more people and more space.

“It’s not uncommon for cycle time to be into the twenties,” Spoto says. “If a truck is in the shop, that’s lost revenue for that company. If you can lower cycle time by even two days, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it will make your shop a much more desirable option.”

Spoto goes on to say that independents will not survive in this segment if they refuse to adapt. MSOs are infiltrating the market and independents need to be able to compete, he says, and in order to do that, they need to adjust repair processes. Spoto shares his tips for going lean and what shop owners can do to decrease their cycle time. 


1. Identify What You’re Doing Now.

Spoto says that in order to go lean, HDT shop owners need to understand what he or she is doing now. The industry is getting older, and many people are stuck in their ways, he explains. If a shop owner really wants to go lean, they have to be willing to adjust what they’re doing. 

When Spoto goes into a HDT shop, he has the shop owner explain what he or she sees going on in the business and then he has the technicians do the same thing. Then, he brings them together and identifies similarities and has the team identify where the constraints are. A common area where Spoto says that the HDT segment has a problem is breaking the car down. 

“These are huge, bulky vehicles,” Spoto says. “If you put all of the parts on the floor, it might take up three entire bays.” 

Spoto says that he challenges shops to think about how they can remove these constraints. Spoto says a great way to save on both time and space is to invest in a borescope, which can help technicians get a look inside of the car before breaking it apart, saving time and space.


2. Ditch Your Pride.

After your employees have identified problems that they see, Spoto says that many shop owners can get offended. They need to remember that this is a way to make his or her business better, not a personal attack. 

“I’ve had three different owners come up to me after we spoke as a group and say, ‘I had no idea that’s how my staff felt about me,’” Spoto says. “It’s not about you. It’s about the business.” 

In order to go lean, the entire staff needs to be open to changing the way things are done, something that Spoto says can be especially difficult for this industry.


3. Remind Staff Why.

“If you went to a football game and there was no scoreboard, you wouldn’t be very invested in the game,” Spoto says. 

The same can be said about implementing lean procedures. 

“A lot of shops pay on an hourly rate,” Spoto says. “If a truck doesn’t get finished, it’s no real skin off of their back.” 

Soto says that once a change—like implementing lean practices—goes into place, it’s important for the staff to see how it’s working. Posting results weekly for everyone in the shop to see is a great way to get everyone on board and will inspire the team to stick with lean and not fall back into what they’re comfortable with, Spoto says.


4. Break the Process Down. 

Spoto says that in his experience, front office and disassembly procedures are the places where the most wasted steps occur. When a shop decides to go lean, the entire staff needs to get together and create a value stream map, which is where you post how many steps are in a processes and how much time should be allocated for each step. 

When implementing lean procedures, HDT shops should break a truck down into smaller segments and look at what can be prepared beforehand to get it into production quicker. 

For example, if there’s damage to a side panel, the technician can start sanding it right away so that when it’s ready to be worked on and have rivets put in, it’s ready to go.  

“It’s all about breaking the process down and prepping everything to do so that when the part arrives, everything is ready to go,” Spoto says.


5. Eliminate Constraints.

Once a value stream map has been created, Spoto says that constraints can be identified more easily. 

Because these facilities need to accommodate HDTs, they’re generally much larger than traditional collision repair facilities. This makes the amount of time that technicians spend walking a constraint. 

“You increase walking distance and you decrease productivity,” Spoto says. 

What that means is that every time a technician needs tools or materials, they’ll have to walk somewhere to get it. Walking back and forth 300 feet can quickly add up to wasted time, says Spoto. In a lean process, all of the materials that the technician needs should already be by them.

“Figure out what you need before you do the teardown,” Spoto says. “There are tools that help you calculate exactly what you need. If you need adhesive, why not order that up front?”

Recently, Spoto worked with a shop that identified “waste walking” as one of their constraints. Spoto gave the staff a cause-and-effect observation form and the staff realized through watching their processes that by having technicians walk around the shop to get different parts or communicate, it was taking them away from their jobs and resulting in a lower touchtime. The staff brainstormed how to solve the issue and decided to implement texting as a way to cut down on walking. 

Another common issue for the segment is not mirror matching the parts. Spoto says that parts for HDT come in huge boxes and most of the time, the staff doesn’t open the box until it’s time for the repair. For instance, a side panel for a freight liner is shipped to a shop in a 12-by-12 foot box. Spoto says it’s not uncommon for the parts person to pass it right to the shop floor without looking inside, which means it won’t be looked at until the repair process has started. This is a problem. It should be done right away to make sure that it’s the right part and that there’s no damage to it. Spoto says that by waiting until right before the repair, shops are adding to cycle time by having to stop the process to order an entirely new part. He also adds that it’s discouraging to a technician if they have to keep starting and stopping on a particular vehicle, which can impact the repair.

 The 2017 edition of Oversized is brought to you by 3M Automotive Aftermarket Division.

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