Cycle Time Reduction

July 30, 2010

Mark Mueller on continuous workflow

Making quality repairs in a timely fashion is increasingly important for repairers, and implementing waste-reducing standard operating procedures (SOPs) on the shop floor is a good place to start. But which SOPs ensure your shop maintains its quality of work while claiming those time savings?

FenderBender talked to Mark Mueller, senior manager of business solutions for PPG Industries, who is a black belt in Lean Six Sigma with 26 years of experience in the collision industry. He offers advice on how to cut cycle time by creating continuous workflow.

Five years ago, repairers were treating cycle time as just one of the latest things coming down the pike, and many thought it would fade away. This was when we were first creating our greenbelt training. Clearly, the significance of cycle time is still gaining momentum.

Shops should continue to look for ways to reduce cycle time:
• Vehicle owners tend to be more satisfied with the quality of the repair when their vehicle spends a shorter time at the repair shop.
• Insurers tend to be more satisfied with shops that help them reduce costs associated with the repair of vehicles. Insurers have found a strong correlation between shorter cycle time and increased customer satisfaction.
• Reducing cycle time helps shops improve cash flow. Shops that reduce their cycle time get money back faster on their investment for parts and materials.

Shops are seeing a three-pronged benefit from reducing cycle time, which we call the “quality, speed and cost equation.”
• Shops improve high quality repair standards.
• Shops reduce waste in the repair process.
• Shops reduce costs associated with that waste.

The big factors that help reduce cycle time include evaluating your shop’s work in process, balancing the load into the system, and eliminating anything that stops technicians from working on vehicles. Some of the ways that shops manage claims cause vehicles to get stopped. If a car stops during the production process, technicians need to have another car to jump on to stay efficient.

Shops need to understand how their system operates; a value stream map reveals it. We break the process into buckets: administrative, disassembly, repair, refinish, reassembly, detail, and ready-for-delivery. We do work-in-process counts in each of those areas to see where cars spend the most time. Then we drill down into that part of the process to better understand when technicians are working on a car and when a car is sitting idle. The value stream map quantifies value-added time versus non-value-added time. That helps shops see the waste that needs to be eliminated.

The X-Ray repair planning process consists of five steps that we recommend shops implement pre-production:
Visual mapping. Identify what your shop is repairing—and what it isn’t repairing—and represent that visually on each vehicle.
Meticulous disassembly. Take apart the vehicle 100 percent and create a reassembly kit.
Pre-production repair. In this stage, shops get components ready and staged for reassembly. They take out stationary glass, and remove and retape moldings.
Discovery. Discovery entails the final writing of the true estimate. Completely identify all damage, set up a reassembly kit and answer all repair questions—before the vehicle enters production.
Parts procurement. Parts procurement entails ordering parts and mirror-matching the parts when they are received. Upon receipt, parts should be unboxed and compared to the old parts to ensure accuracy.

This process also helps shops make significant gains in cycle time. I’ve seen shops implement this process and decrease cycle time from 15 days to six. I consult a shop in Minneapolis that was averaging an eight-day cycle time, and now turns cars in less than four days. When a vehicle stops in production, there’s an opportunity to improve. Usually some type of waste is causing that stop.

It usually takes shops a couple of good solid runs at major improvement in order to develop the consistency needed to focus on continued improvement—and to be able to sustain it. I’ve seen shops take a year-and-a-half to get acceptable improvement, and I’ve seen shops do it in just three months.

Repairers need to educate employees about the goals for the shop. It’s not about working faster. It’s about creating a smarter process that works more continuously on each vehicle by eliminating the steps that cause waste in the process—multiple parts orders, the subsequent wait for the delivery of parts, insurance approvals.

Technicians need to be educated on the types of flow and the types of waste. This allows them to clearly identify waste so they can find solutions to problems. In successful shops, ideas to eliminate waste come from the shop floor. Successful shops engage the technicians who are actually doing the work to fix the problems. Shops need to meet with their team to define their objective and create a sense of urgency around the need for improvement.

We’re in an oversupply industry; there’s more capacity to repair than there is need for repair. Shops that deliver high quality repairs in the shortest time—with the least amount of cost and waste—are the ones surviving in this environment.

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