Adding a Second Shift

Dec. 1, 2011
Implementing a second work shift can improve productivity and workflow, but the concept has its challenges, too. Three shop operators weigh in.

From your office window, you see a shop floor loaded with cars and a parking lot full of waiting jobs. It must be time to implement a second shift, right?

Many shop operators have mulled that over. A second shift can add efficiency to your operation—reducing cycle time and increasing insurer and customer satisfaction. But finding a crew of employees to work evening hours isn’t simple. There are other considerations to account for, and a second shift may or may not work for your operation.

FenderBender asked three shop owners who’ve implemented second shifts to share the benefits and challenges. Plus, they offer tips to help you decide whether this is something for you to pursue.

Henry Oviedo,
collision center director,
Santa Monica Ford Collision Center,
Santa Monica, Calif.

Henry Lischner,
body shop director,
Kendall Collision Repair Facility,
Miami, Fla.

Solomon Parsley,
International Collision Repair,
Columbus, Ohio

Roughly a year ago, Henry Oviedo was notified by an insurance company that he needed to undergo a performance improvement process to improve his shop's cycle times.

“Insurance companies have become more strict on the way they hold body shops accountable,” Oviedo says. “I started getting written up by them. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t comfortable, and I took it personally.”

Oviedo had had success running a second shift at another shop, so he decided to try again. Now, he runs a day shift from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., and an evening shift from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“You can have all the efficient processes and procedures you want, but none of it matters if you don’t have the right people who can execute.”

Technicians work together to get things done. The first shift of technicians often gets started on jobs and the second shift is able to finish them up. Cars get worked on for 14-hour days rather than 8-hour ones.

To make that work, technicians aren’t assigned to one specific job. Oviedo empowers his technicians to communicate with one another, figure out their own process flow and help each other out. They’re paid based on the labor hours they put on each car.

What improved: Oviedo says implementing a second shift has made the shop more efficient and reduced cycle time. That has improved both customer and insurer satisfaction.

It’s also improved repair quality, Oviedo says. If there’s a job that must be delivered the next morning, the first shift technician doesn’t have to rush the process to finish before they go home. The second shift can complete the work to ensure on-time delivery.

The biggest challenge: You must have trustworthy people working the second shift, Oviedo says. If they don’t do their job properly, unfulfilled promises could get you in hot water with insurers and customers.

Oviedo had a second shift estimator who wasn’t doing the job properly when the evening schedule was implemented. One time, a customer was informed that their car would be ready for pick-up at 9 a.m. the following morning. The second shift estimator didn’t follow through to make sure the job was completed the night before, and the car was still in reassembly when the customer showed up.

That defeats the purpose of having a second shift, Oviedo says. “You can have all the efficient processes and procedures you want, but none of it matters if you don’t have the right people who can execute.”

Oviedo’s advice: Shop operators should evaluate their facility use and processes before thinking about a second shift, Oviedo says. Make sure your operations are running as efficiently as possible.

Many people think they need a second shift simply because their parking lot is full. Sometimes, a backlog of work is the result of an inefficient operation. Analyze your facility, technicians and processes to ensure you’re making the most of the resources you already have, Oviedo says.

Henry Lischner had a good problem on his hands. The shop was growing with work volume, which caused bottlenecking in the paint department. He had eight painters, but only four spray booths. It was impossible to get everything painted within the shop’s normal 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. workday.

“The process worked great, we just didn’t have the right amount of work to continue.”

Lischner implemented a second shift solely for the paint department. He schedules six painters during the day, and two painters who workfrom 5 p.m. until the necessary work is completed.

What improved: Lischner says adding the second paint shift allowed him to use 100 percent of his shop’s capabilities without expanding or remodeling his facility.

That improved relationships with insurers that had high cycle time demands because cars repaired during the day could be painted at night and reassembled first thing the next morning.

The process also put more pressure on painters to work faster, Lischner says. With the second shift, competition increased for every job so they had to work quickly to get paid as much as possible.

Those factors led to a 1.5-day cycle time improvement. It also freed up more space on the shop floor because cars weren’t waiting in front of the booth.

The biggest challenge: A second shift cannot be sustainable if you don’t have enough work, Lischner says. It’s difficult to assess whether you’ll have the appropriate volume for the long term, and you don’t want to keep switching back and forth—from having a second shift to not.

He operated with a second paint shift for nearly two years before the shop’s workload dropped 30 percent, causing the program to be terminated.

“The process worked great, we just didn’t have the right amount of work to continue,” Lischner says.

Lischner’s advice: You need to have painters who can make small body repairs if you implement a second paint shift, Lischner says. There are times when body technicians don’t fully repair dents to get the vehicle to a paintable state.

At night, painters don’t have the luxury of asking a body technician to fix imperfections, Lischner says. Painters need the skills to make corrective repairs on their own.

Solomon Parsley says no other shops in his area run nighttime operations. He thought doing so would give him a competitive edge because he could promote faster repairs.

“Your technicians will be dead in the water if you don’t have all the right parts.”

So he implemented a second shift. The first shift runs 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the second shift, made up of one painter and two body technicians, runs 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.

What improved: Parsley says the second shift dramatically improved cycle time. The shop completed 25-hour repairs in just one day.

Although speed is a good thing, it also caused Parsley to end the program after about nine months. Technicians repaired cars too fast, quicker than new work came in.

“You can almost double the amount of work that runs through your shop,” Parsley says. “My technicians ran out of things to do.”

Parsley’s work volume has since picked up again, and he recently re-implemented the second shift at his facility.

The biggest challenge: You need to make sure your technicians have everything they need to get jobs done without stopping, Parsley says. Vendors and insurance companies don’t do business at night, so supplements can’t be approved and new parts can’t be delivered until the next day.

Parsley implemented a full disassembly and blueprinting process to identify all vehicle damage and parts to be ordered. That allows second shift technicians to have everything they need for their work.

“That’s critical to making a second shift work,” Parsley says. “Your technicians will be dead in the water if you don’t have all the right parts.”

Parsley’s advice: Technicians need to operate on a team system and work together to complete jobs.

You won’t improve cycle time if second shift technicians do their own jobs—you just have more cars in progress. When that happens, you’ll have many disassembled vehicles taking up space on the shop floor, and a second shift could do more harm than good.

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