Careful repair planning improves work flow, reduces chaos

Jan. 22, 2018
How many repairs are in the dead zone because they are waiting on a sublet vendor, the frame machine or mechanical work? This chaos can all be prevented through repair planning.

After the estimate has been completed, the vehicle has been dropped off for repair, and the disassembly and blueprint process is completed, it’s time to plan the repair. 

This important step often is missed because the work order is handed to a technician like a bag going through airport security. You put the bag on the conveyor belt of the screener and hope it comes out the other end without any problems to slow you down.

A simple process of reviewing the repair order to see what is required and determining which step in the repair process should happen first will eliminate the “hope” that the repair goes smoothly.

Some repairs are very simple with only a couple steps in the process while others can be quite complex. Reviewing those steps, organizing the repair process and communicating the repair plan will prevent repair dead time. 

Look around your shop right now and see how many repairs are in the dead zone because you are waiting on a sublet vendor, the frame machine or mechanical work. This chaos can all be prevented through repair planning.

The repair plan begins after the vehicle blueprinting process where all damage and repair needs have been identified. Using a vehicle that needs a left rear quarter panel with some minor suspension damage as an example, let’s review the steps needed to complete this repair. 

1. Body Repair

2. Refinish operations

3. Remove back glass

4. Reinstall back glass

5. Replace L/R lower control arm

6. 4-wheel alignment

7. Set-up and measure

8. Align rear quarter

This repair requires eight basic steps. If they’re not accomplished in the correct order this repair could cause chaos in the shop and put a vehicle in the dead zone.

Most management systems allow you to establish a repair plan by moving repair steps into a logical order. Some are more rigid while others offer flexibility in positioning the steps. The more flexible the system, the easier it will be to establish an accurate repair plan.

Looking at all the steps required, we can put them in a logical sequence creating a smooth repair plan.

1. Set-up and measure

2. Align rear quarter

3. Remove back glass

4. Body Repair

5. Replace L/R lower control arm

6. 4-wheel alignment

7. Refinish operations

8. Reinstall back glass

Once the repair plan is established you will be able to determine time lines for each step based on the repair time allowed. This will allow you to schedule the glass removal and reinstallation, mechanical repairs, alignment and even the frame machine at the beginning of the repair process eliminating the wait. Being able to schedule the repair steps in advance keeps the vehicle moving by ensuring the vendor or equipment needed is available when the vehicle reaches that point in the repair process.

When the repair plan is completed it should be printed and handed out with the repair order or noted in the repair grid on the vehicle. With everyone in the repair process aware of when to expect the vehicle and where the vehicle should go once each technician is finished with their step, the repair process should be a steady, fluid process.

Each technician will mark their portion complete and notify the next person in the process. Since everyone is aware of what needs to be done and when, it will be easy to monitor progress through production meetings as well as the ability to hold those in the process accountable for their portion.

Additionally, having a solid repair plan will help you keep the customer informed on the repair progression. Since keeping a customer informed is the No. 1 CSI question asked of a vehicle owner, knowing exactly what is going on with a repair will keep those updates accurate.

I think Glen B. Alleman said it best, “A plan is the strategy for the successful completion of a project, any project without a plan is a project wandering in the wilderness.” Replacing hope with a plan will reduce chaos. I wish I could say it would eliminate chaos but we all know there is always a little chaos in collision repair.

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About the Author

John Shoemaker

John Shoemaker is a business development manager for BASF North America Automotive Refinish Division and the former owner of JSE Consulting. He began his career in the automotive repair industry in 1973. He has been a technician, vehicle maintenance manager and management system analyst while serving in the U.S. Air Force. In the civilian sector he has managed several dealership collision centers, was a dealership service director and was a consultant to management system providers as an implementation specialist. John has completed I-CAR training and holds ASE certifications in estimating and repair. Connect with Shoemaker on LinkedIn.

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