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Reducing Supplements in Collision Repair Shops
Simple ways to reduce the number of supplements in your shop.

In last month’s column I spoke about the 42 million reasons we should all be designing and implementing a blueprinting/repair planning process in our shops. I listed some of the basic parameters required to get started with an effective process and, as promised, will provide some additional non-negotiables for your consideration today. Each of the ideas I’m suggesting are the result of a decade of research and testing. Ultimately, these procedures are all designed to help reach the goal of having “zero supplements” after teardown. By adopting the mindset that supplements are preventable, you’ll quickly realize why the following procedures were developed.

One important step in your blueprint process is the actual disassembly of the damaged area of the vehicle. While this sounds simple, I see many shops stop short of a complete and thorough teardown. A complete teardown starts by exposing all the damage until you can’t find any more damage. Damage travels into areas that are often covered by trim, moldings, carpeting, undershields, etc. If you remove all of these pieces during the teardown process, you will expose all damage and not have surprises in the middle of a repair. A complete teardown anticipates the actual repair process and includes the de-trimming of blend panels and the removal or setback of components that will impede the repair and refinish processes. Some examples might help you here: If you are doing structural pulls on a frame machine and rocker moldings cover the pinch weld area, take the moldings off now. If you’re replacing a rear body panel, get the muffler and heat shield moved or removed now so they’re not in the way of the body technician or the painter later on. If you’re blending a door, get everything off the door now.

There are many benefits to this approach, but two in particular will help you achieve your “zero supplements” goal. First, sometimes parts bend or break when you remove them. It’s better to find out now if you’re going to need a new molding or new fasteners (clips, rivets, etc.) rather than at the end of the job. You’ll probably get paid for these components and won’t go through the last-minute stress and drama of watching your techs dig through a barrel of old clips hoping to find some that might work. Secondly, the job won’t stop as it progresses through the shop. The painter won’t have to wait for someone to come over and remove additional parts so they don’t get overspray on them.

Another non-negotiable is implementing a process that eliminates PPI (part price increase) supplements and incorrect parts receiving and returning. As you know, there are a lot of gaps in the estimating platforms when it comes to parts identification and the accuracy of part numbers, and some of the estimating systems don’t have VIN scrubbing capabilities. But, there are many tools available to you to assist in this process.

One such tool is the electronic parts catalogue (EPC) published by the vehicle manufacturer. The EPC is what your dealership parts department uses to look up parts and you can have access to the same tool because numerous dealerships across the country have published the EPC on the Internet. They are fairly straightforward to use and the cool thing is that you are accessing VIN-decoded part number and pricing information. In addition, the parts diagrams are so much more extensive than the ones in the estimating systems and you’ll be able to locate the hard-to-find clips, fasteners, retainers and other small parts that often don’t exist in the estimating systems. With the help of the EPCs, you can make the correct parts selection and avoid the parts return and re-order scenario. The parts procurement platforms such as OPSTrax and CollisionLink have parts scrubbing capabilities and you may find them useful for this purpose. I’ve seen parts diagrams inside of CollisionLink that look a lot like the OEM EPCs. Finally, you can consider enlisting the help of your friendly neighborhood parts department by sending them the parts list from your estimate and ask them to verify pricing and part number accuracy for you using their EPC access.

Another process to implement in your quest for zero supplements is to do an electronic alignment check prior to doing the teardown on a vehicle. Conditions that would warrant this step include impact to a wheel or tire and whenever there is suspected structural damage. It is very frustrating to get near the end of a job and be told that there are damaged suspension components that need to be ordered and supplemented. Doing an alignment check up front can identify struts and tie rods that are slightly bent, lower control arms that have low caster, engine/suspension cradles that are misaligned, and numerous other conditions and symptoms that are not visible to the naked eye. I have found that most customers and insurance companies are OK with this process and they feel it is fair to pay a reasonable fee for this diagnosis. All you need to do is ask.

So there you have it. As a follow-up to last month’s column you now have several key tactics and processes that can save you time and money and, more importantly, relieve you of some of the liability that would otherwise exist should you choose to ignore the 42 million reasons for implementing a robust blueprint process.

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