Don’t Just Change—Improve

June 1, 2010
D-Patrick Downtown Body Shop in Evansville, Ind., uses lean principles to increase net profit.

D-Patrick Downtown Body Shop, Evansville, Ind.
Began the Lean Journey In: 2009
Key Results: Increases in both bottom line and net profits

For Greg Hagan, body shop director of D-Patrick Downtown Body Shop in Evansville, Ind., the status quo just wasn’t cutting it. Tired of trying to compete on price, Hagan took the leap into lean last year after learning about the concept from Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes’ peer-moderated groups and conferences.

“The big thing about lean that I had to grasp is: lean is not something you do, it’s something you become,” he says. “You have to change the mindset and mentality in your shop. It’s a culture change.”

Yet for Hagan, part of his early success in energizing his five employees about lean came from avoiding the word “change.” “Change can be positive or negative,” he says. “I don’t call it change; I call it improvement. That gives them a clear understanding that it’s not just change for [the sake of] change, it’s continuous improvement.” In meetings, he showed PowerPoint presentations with pictures of employees’ messy workbenches and cabinets and asked, “Who wants to work in this clutter?” Employees quickly agreed to get rid of those workbenches. He explained lean principles like 5S (sort, set in order, systematically clean, standardize, and sustain) and wrote them up on a board in the break room. He introduced rolling parts carts. And he celebrated small victories. “Every shop is different,” he says. “Part of lean is just becoming the best that you can in your facility with your resources.”

Hagan has yet to make large-scale changes—er, improvements—and won’t share specifics about financial benefits, but he has seen an increase in his bottom line, and says that incorporating lean principles into his shop, which has revenues of nearly $1 million, helped it earn a “much greater” net profit last year than it’s had in the past.

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