Problem solving culture leads to continuous improvement

Jan. 1, 2020
For shops that want to improve cycle times and institute long-lasting changes that can help boost efficiency, encouraging a "problem solving" culture is one reform that will have long-term benefits. Mike Anderson, principal at CollisionAdvice.com, ou
For shops that want to improve cycle times and institute long-lasting changes that can help boost efficiency, encouraging a "problem solving" culture is one reform that will have long-term benefits. Mike Anderson, principal at CollisionAdvice.com, outlined this type of continuous improvement strategy at NACE on Friday.

During his session, "Understanding Continuous Improvement," Anderson focused on cycle times. Anderson has talked to dozens of shop owners with excellent cycle times, and has tried to evaluate exactly what they did to create that kind of performance.

"I've looked at these shops to see if their reported cycle times are what they say they are," Anderson said. "Then I've looked over those shops and tried to see what they did differently."

Anderson highlighted these best practices during the session.

"Some of these shops are using team systems or flexible hours; others paint parts off the car; others really aggressively use load leveling," Anderson said. "The one thing they have in common is their culture; it's a problem-solving culture."

In other words, these shops look at the root cause of their problems, and then use objective, structured methodologies to come up with solutions.

"They make sure they attack the process, not the person," Anderson says. "They have found ways of identifying areas of opportunity."

Some have developed creative ways to track their problems. In one example, the shop put up a flow chart, and every day staff recorded their problems on post-it notes and then put the notes on the areas of the flow chart where they thought the problem originated. Those issues were reviewed every morning.

Often, shops with fast cycle times will be accused of doing shoddy work, but "not every shop that has a good time is providing poor repairs," Anderson said. "If you look, they are working with a team system, or they have something else going on behind the scenes that gets them to that number."

Anderson said that behind every shop with great cycle time is a hidden story about how they got there.

 

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"One shop had a cycle time on drivable vehicles of 1.2 days, and a touch time of 13 hours per day," Anderson said. "But they were running seven days a week, and 60 percent of the work is from GEICO. That's a different thought process. When you have 60 percent of your work coming form one source, you can manage the workload better, versus having five other major insurers coming in and trying to get priority. And if your cycle time is 1.2 days, it will be harder for that insurance company to kick you off their DRP."

In another example, the shop Anderson evaluated opened at 4:30 a.m. "They do all of their drop offs and supplement writing in the morning, so when the insurance company opens up at 8 a.m., everything is already written," Anderson said.

Leadership is important. Owners have to encourage this type of culture, and get buy-in from the rest of the staff. "As owners and managers, we need to develop and facilitate the skills to lead employees to solving problems, rather than sitting around and complaining about them," Anderson said.

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