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Steps to a Better Quality Control Process

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Over the course of his 20 years working at CARSTAR Arnold (Mo.), Heath Harris has tried his hand at a multitude of tasks, from washing cars to assisting the paint department. Before long, his roles expanded to that of parts manager, estimator, and then general manager—all before he became the owner in 2010.

Harris has used his vast expertise to streamline the suburban St. Louis facility’s in-process quality control system. In fact, he has refined the system so thoroughly that CARSTAR Arnold won a 2013 Mitchell International CSI honor, along with Missouri’s 2014 Farmers Shop of the Year accolades. 

“Heath is a very plugged-in owner,” says CARSTAR COO Dean Fisher, who nominated Harris for an annual FenderBender Award. “He has created a great atmosphere for his customers.”  

Harris learned long ago that a thorough, in-process quality control system can virtually eliminate costly comebacks, and also help the business achieve KPIs that often meet or surpass benchmarks: His shop boasts a cycle time of 7.2 days, length of rental of 8.8 days, and a net promoter score of 95.1 percent. 

“In the lean collision repair process, there’s no real room for redos or re-paints,” Harris says. “To achieve the good KPIs that our insurance companies are looking for, we have to do things correctly the first time around.” 

Harris details his tips for equipping your shop with an in-process quality control system that would be the envy of your competition.

 

Establish a Stellar Culture

According to Harris, a close-knit staff is a prerequisite for a great quality control system. He accomplishes that by often promoting from within, which leaves the staff at CARSTAR Arnold well versed in the his preferred processes. 

“If you don’t have a strong team in place, or a team that works well together, or shares common goals,” Harris notes, “then it’s not going to work.”

Harris says employees will typically buy into shop processes if they believe in their boss. 

 

Clearly Define all SOPs

At CARSTAR Arnold, Harris long ago established detailed standard operating procedures for each department. Those SOPs shape staff members’ thought processes during repairs, which typically leads to an efficient facility.

As a result, “KPIs are better—touch time gets better, our cycle time gets better, our length of rental gets better,” Harris says. “Once they do start seeing that benefit, it almost drives itself.” 

 

Get Everyone Involved

The in-process quality control system that Harris uses calls for quality checks at three points in each vehicle’s overall repair process. He requires thorough checks of repair elements such as the quality of welds, and the quality of the color match. 

Harris demands that elements of the repair process are signed off on at various stages by either estimators or his shop’s parts manager, depending on availability. One of the quality checks occurs inside the shop, while the following two occur outside in natural light. The quick checks are meant to take note of oversights like extra polish on a door jam, or swirl marks.  

The main purpose of the quality checks “is holding everybody accountable, in each repair phase,” Harris explains. 

Harris has technicians move vehicles to different parking spots throughout the repair process, which acts as a clear visual indicator that keeps his entire staff on on the same page. The repair process is also updated by the CARSTAR Arnold staff via their CCC ONE management system and posted on a production screen on the shop floor. 

 

Encourage Constructive Criticism

Perhaps the toughest element of establishing a quality control system is the fact that many people are hesitant to be critical of their co-workers’ work. Harris says that initial hesitancy can be overcome by stressing to your staff the importance of avoiding costly delays in the repair process. 

“Once they understand that they only really get paid to do things once, and they start realizing the benefits of the in-process quality control,” Harris says, “that’s when things really start to tick.”

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