Final Inspection Department

June 1, 2010
Steve Trapp on adding a final inspection department to your shop

Waste elimination is the foundation of lean principles, and a cornerstone in building success for your shop. But what can your shop do to identify potential repair errors before vehicles are handed over to customers?

FenderBender’s Andrew Johnson asked Steve Trapp, collision services development manager at DuPont Performance Coatings, for advice on establishing a final inspection department in collision repair shops.

A final inspection has a two-pronged purpose: to make sure you’re delivering an appropriate repair to the customer, and to provide feedback to technicians so they can learn from their mistakes. Look at a whole estimate line-by-line to make sure you’ve done everything it promised. Document the reasons it fell short, and understand what can be done to build quality into the process in the future. Slow down and reward quality rather than speed. It’s cheaper to do repairs right the first time than to repeat the activity.

Measuring internal repair orders is the best way to analyze post-repair problems at your shop. Internal repair orders are those that actually required the customer to come back to your facility for rework. If you make a final inspection using a formal checklist, wiggling every part and looking line-by-line through an estimate to make sure you did everything you said you were going to do, you’re going to substantially improve your quality of work.

No additional staffing should be necessary for a final inspection department. I’ve never seen a shop add an additional person to specifically oversee quality control inspections. Shops might be able to decrease the workload of their estimator or blueprinter by 16 percent to allow them time to do final inspections. Instead of handling 25 vehicles each week as an estimator, they might only take on 21.

If you look at the return on the investment, implementing a final inspection department becomes pretty easy to justify. Every time a shop has an internal repair order on a vehicle, the shop needs to set up a second repair order, schedule it in for repair, receive the car, tag the keys, move the car back, prewash the car, pull it into the body stall, complete the rework, redetail the car, close out the file, pay for any missing parts or materials, and deliver the car back to the customer. The cost of each internal repair order is dramatic. And final inspections typically take just 15 to 20 minutes. If you look at the additional labor cost of having someone do a 15-minute final inspection compared to the number of internal repair orders your shop might have each week, it’s fairly easy to justify adding a final inspection.

It takes a management commitment to make a final inspection department work.
I tell shop managers, “You’re a lean leader.” As the leader of your organization, people have to know that you’re committed to quality. You have to sell that commitment to quality to everyone within the organization and reinforce it.

I ask shops to consider two things: What is your commitment to quality? And are you reinforcing that commitment? Shop technicians need to understand why a final inspection is beneficial. Once you get your employees to think about the potential benefits, it’s not a hard sell to get them on board. It’s just a refocus of their energies.

A final inspection process is an essential part and a logical outgrowth of a shop’s lean implementation. Ultimately, lean is trying to achieve a consistency of workflow and a consistency of quality. As an industry, we all care about quality. That commitment and formalization of the process to achieve quality is why we’re advocating a final inspection department. This will be a definite trend in collision repair in the years to come.

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