How to implement scheduling best practices

April 1, 2017
There is a lot more scheduling that needs to take place in the collision shop besides repair scheduling. Let’s take a look at the three key components of creating an effective repair scheduling process.

Over the last couple of years, there have been numerous articles on repair scheduling best practices. These “best practices” are core to building a scheduling plan or process. But there is a lot more scheduling that needs to take place in the collision shop besides repair scheduling. It all affects the key performance indicator (KPI) of cycle time that is so important to the insurer. You will also find that once you embrace scheduling throughout the repair process that your repair capacity will increase in the same plant with the same staff.

Let’s start by looking at the three key components of creating an effective repair scheduling process.

What are your financial goals for the business? Gross sales? Gross Profit?  Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA)? What are your short-term and long-term growth goals for the business? Are you going to need additional revenue for that growth?  Where are you in your business life cycle?

You may wonder what this has to do with scheduling. Having written financial goals and understating is the foundation of your business. Without them, the business can easily go off course. Without solid financial goals it is difficult to determine how many ROs/dollars/hours the shop has to complete on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

The exercise of creating and delivering on a budget is critical to the success of any business. It is the road map to achieving your goals. It establishes what your daily/weekly/monthly sales needs are. This is the next step in determining your daily scheduling goals. These goals could be a certain number of vehicles in/out on a daily basis or a certain number of labor hours to process and/or sales dollar completed. Any or all of these categories tie back to meeting or exceeding the budget.

The next element is do you have the capacity to accomplish your goals.  There are two sections in this area, plant capacity (tools, equipment, and building) and human resource capacity.

Let’s start with plant capacity. There are very few shops in this country that have a plant capacity issue for the mere fact that we are traditionally an 8-5, five-day-a-week business. When almost every service business is open 7 days, we continue to be a five- to five-and-a-half-day business. If a shop just added an additional day at 8 hours, they would open up 416 hours of additional capacity! Another part of the plant capacity issue is materials and equipment. Do you review your equipment on a regular basis to see if it is as efficient as it could be? Are there upgrades that could either speed up the process or give you more capacity that would allow more hours to be scheduled? When we upgraded to Squeeze Type Resistance Spot Welders (STRSW) in our shops, I was amazed at how much faster we could install panels and the fact that the post-weld cleanup was substantially reduced over plug welding.

What about the materials that you use? Advances in chemistry and technology are shortening cure times, making sanding and shaping easier. Panel adhesives are the norm, and along with STRSW provide the best-case attachment method and corrosion protection. Refinishing products continue to advance, are safer to use and are better for the environment. These continually evolving products allow for faster overall turnaround once again adding to capacity.

The next capacity component is human resource. What is the capacity of your staff to produce the hours that you need to achieve your goals? How many customers can your reception staff handle at any one time along with their other duties? How many estimates/supplements can your appraiser/repair planner handle per day along with their other duties? How many vehicles can you blueprint within two hours of drop off? How many hours a day can your production staff produce? How many vehicles can your cleanup staff process a day? These are all important questions you need to answer in order to build out a successful repair scheduling plan.

Once you have thought through the three key components of scheduling you can now build a plan. There are many types of scheduling plans from the most basic set up on a desk calendar to computerized systems with advanced algorithms that take into account work in process, average supplements ratios etc.

One of the most basic systems out there is the Dollars In Dollars Out system. After doing my homework, I determine that I want to achieve $1.2 million a year in sales. I have a budget in place to do this and have reviewed my capacity to make sure that I can complete this work, maintain a low cycle time and a high CSI. As I break this down, I need to complete $100,000 a month in sales, or $25,000 a week, or $5000 a day five days a week. So I need to schedule in $5,000 a day and deliver $5,000 a day. This can be done on a paper desk calendar or in a public electronic calendar like Outlook or Google.

There are several variations to this. You could break it down and determine how many hours a day you need to take in and deliver to achieve your goals. I also know of shops that determine an average RO amount and schedule that many ROs in/out per day to achieve their sales goals. The important lesson with this scheduling system is if you don’t deliver the same as you take in, it will blow your schedule and you will need to double up somewhere to get back on track.

So what happens if do fleet work or on a program that just drops vehicles? I suggest that you look back at your history to determine on average how many vehicles/hours /dollars they drop on what days and leave “open space” to accommodate that program. You can always fill it when the next opportunity comes in the door. With tow-ins and non-drives you can do a quick visual inspection and place a hold in the calendar for that vehicle. Once you have a blueprint completed, you can update the schedule.

The next level of scheduling gets into scheduling by job size and gets more complex. Mike Anderson had a great article in this publication last year on that system.

To improve back shop flow, schedule sublet in advance of the vehicle arriving and drive the repair process to meet that schedule. Schedule your techs or blueprinting teams so that the vehicle is blueprinted within two hours of drop off. Some shops schedule the vehicles time in the paint booth prior to repairs and then “pull” the vehicle through the repair process to meet that schedule.

Scheduling shouldn’t be limited just to the repair portion of the process. If you want to improve administrative efficiencies, work on scheduling vehicle drop offs, vehicle deliveries, repair planning consultations (estimates) etc.

Proper planning and preparation in determining what your shop goals and capacity are will help you make sure that your scheduling process will be a success. Good scheduling processes that are followed will also improve your cycle time KPIs and CSI scores.

Be prepared to revise your goals as you implement solid scheduling processes. You will find that you have more capacity to do more work as your efficiencies improve!

About the Author

Bob Keith | Bob Keith is the AAM Senior Director - Operations Training for CARSTAR Franchise Systems Inc.

Bob Keith is the Senior Director of Compliance and Education for Assured Performance Network. He currently owns two CARSTAR franchises in Nebraska and two CARSTAR franchises in Kansas.

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