In today’s repair process, shops have less profit centers than they did a few years ago, says Chuck Frieberg.
One profit center is available almost every day for shops to take advantage of - small repair jobs.
Frieberg admits that capitalizing on small repairs is a fine balancing act when the shop has a lot of DRPs, but success stems from simply allotting time to jump on the car’s repair the minute it comes through the door.
For Devin Fischer, however, a small repair job that’s scheduled correctly could mean the difference between getting a car out on time and a car staying in the repair facility for significantly longer.
There’s no reason cars can’t be repaired within three hours if it’s a car with smaller damage like a front fender replacement, says Chuck Freiberg.
Freiberg, president and CEO of CDE Collision Centers, has the process down flat and it shows: for three years his first collision repair facility had a cycle time, keys-to-keys, for driveables of 3 days. For nondriveables, that metric was 7 days.
Fischer, the owner of Fischer Body Shop, says a small repair can be a small dent, ding or bumper repair on a car. According to the 2019 FenderBender Industry Survey, the most common job-start-to-job-completion cycle time is around six business days. About 33 percent of shop owners reported 5-7 days, with another 18.8 percent reporting 8-10 days.
That means, close to 50 percent of shop respondents have a cycle time that most operators would consider long, and Kye Yeung, president of European Motor Car Works in Costa Mesa, Calif., in an April 2019 FenderBender story, predicted that figure to only increase as an industry average in the future, as cars become more complex to repair with ADAS features.
So, maximizing small-repair work can increase a shop’s revenue to a meaningful extent, Freiberg says.
“Small repair jobs produce good money and can get through the shop fairly quickly,” Fischer notes.
Not only do small repair jobs help with cycle time, but they also add up. Fischer’s jobs can bring in as much as $1,200 for a repair order.
Fischer and Freiberg recently outlined how other shop owners can maximize efficiency on smaller jobs and in the long run turn into a useful marketing tool for the facility.
Scheduling the Jobs
Scheduling small repair jobs throughout larger repairs requires time to analyze the week’s schedule.
Fischer says he schedules by hours produced by technicians per day. Typically smaller jobs take one to two days to complete but could be as short as a few hours. He dedicates one mechanical technician to performing work on all mechanical work like suspension and alignment repairs.
Fischer typically walks around his shop and informs technicians about small repair jobs as they come in. He’ll outline that he'll have one or two, and then ask who would like to work on them for the day.
“My goal is to give each technician 2-3 smaller repairs every week,” Fischer says.
Freiberg’s team schedules small jobs the same day, aiming for a fast-lane type of repair. He says that the team determines if the job is small enough to repair within the same day based on the estimate’s cost. Jobs with estimates between $2,000 and $3,000 are categorized as small repairs.
Both Fischer and Freiberg say delegating small jobs to only one technician is not time efficient.
“I can put two of my veteran technicians next to each other repairing the same job and one will do better than the other just because their skill sets are different,” he says.
Saving Time in the Repair
To save time and move small jobs easily through the process, Fischer has his team work on tasks to make it faster for the customer. Two such tasks he has his team perform are painting a part ahead of time, or scheduling the repair in during slower periods of the week’s schedule.
Fischer’s top three tips to saving time in the repair are:
Focus on scheduling to the technician strengths.
Streamline the plan on each repair and communicate that to all departments.
Prioritize based on actual hands-on time of the repair.
Freiberg also recommends painting parts ahead of the repair, but he says that must be done with caution. Even a small change in process, like bolting on parts instead of welding them, which takes longer, can shave hours off a repair.
“Always think two days in advance,” Freiberg says. “Think about how the immediate task impacts the schedule within two days.”
A good rule of thumb is to make sure your work in progress, or WIP, never exceeds your cars scheduled for the week.
Avoiding Common Mistakes
One task that can waste time on the repair, and that frequently occurs, Freiberg says, is when technicians try to upsell on estimates. For instance, a technician could replace the bumper but might want to sell it as a repair. In the long term, this process won’t give the shop enough money to justify the longer repair.
And, stop painting parts before the customer signs off on the repair. Freiberg and his team ask for a deposit from the customer for very short repairs because, if the part is painted, then the supplier won’t accept returns. Always wait for that deposit or assurance of some sort, he says.
One strategy for speeding up the repair process includes mirror-matching parts; parts should be mirror-matched before ordering new ones. Freiberg often sees technicians accidentally ordering a right side part when the team needs a left side. By incorrectly mirror-matching parts, the customer could end up in a rental vehicle past most shops’ three-day policy.
Any delay in the repair can lead to more money spent on rental vehicles, more money given to insurance companies and a disgruntled customer.
Marketing Repairs to Customers
“Smaller jobs are the easiest jobs to use to impress a customer,” Fischer says.
Fischer remarks that smaller repairs boost a customer’s trust in the body shop. By repairing even small damage can show the customer that the shop puts him or her above all else.
While the customer is in the shop, Fischer emphasizes the ease of the process for the individual. He makes sure his team hypes up the fact that small repairs can be done in 1-2 days for the customer’s convenience.
After the small repair is completed at Fischer’s facility, the customer receives a lifetime warranty ticket in the mail. The customer is also added to the shop’s mailing list in order to stay front of mind with the customer in case of future, larger repairs.
Freiberg says you will have a customer for life if you follow these three steps:
Turn the job around promptly and give it back to the customer quickly.
When inspecting damage on the repair, get as much information as possible to the customer and really listen to his or her request.
Address any customer concerns with professionalism and confidence.
SHOP STATS: CDE Collision Centers Location: Chicago Operator: Chuck Freiberg Average Monthly Car Count: 1,500 cars Staff Size: over 200 Shop Size: smallest- 5,000 square feet / biggest-28,000 square feet Annual Revenue: $42 million
SHOP STATS: Fischer Body Shop Location: Jefferson City, Mo. Operator: Devin Fischer Average Monthly Car Count: 155 cars Staff Size: 19 (13 back end/6 front office) Shop Size: 27,000 square feet Annual Revenue: $5 million