The Key to Consistently Solid Cycle Time

Dec. 20, 2018
A technician from Alabama explains the keys to getting an entire shop floor to work with a sense of urgency.


In the words of his boss, Jimmy Hickman has exemplary attention to detail.

In the words of Hickman himself, his high standards are a point of pride.

“When I was a kid, I made a lot of models—airplanes, cars, tanks, a little bit of everything,” explains Hickman, who nowadays is an I-CAR certified body technician at Professional Collision in Foley, Ala. “With the models, you want to do everything right—any little details really make things stick out. And that’s something you take pride in.

“And that’s the same with my work—I take a lot of pride in my work.”

Hickman, in his fifth year in the auto industry, takes pride in the fact his employer has a CSI score of 95.3. He also gains gratification from the fact that Professional Collision’s cycle time (2.7 days) is nearly a day better than any nearby competitor.  

Hickman, a recent FenderBender Award nominee, explains how he has helped Professional

Collision continuously improve its shop performance.

Embrace a Teamwork Concept.

In a few short years, Hickman has ascended from the role of a detailer to becoming an accomplished structural repair technician. And, Hickman did so by receiving mentorship early in his career, he says, which has inspired the technician to pay that selflessness forward.

Now, during each workday at Professional Collision, Hickman gains fulfillment by helping co-workers make every repair as smoothly as possible.

“I like to come in and help everybody out, and make sure everybody’s got everything they need,” Hickman says. “If somebody’s got a problem with something, I don’t mind going over there and helping them figure it out—I talk to them, find out what they’re struggling with, and help them solve that.

“Say they can’t get something lined up right; I’ll go over there and help them figure things out and try to talk them through it.

“But I won’t just do it for them. Because, if you do something for somebody, they’re not learning. And, they’re going to keep coming back to you, asking you to do it all the time. But, if you show them and talk to them—and walk them through it—then they might actually pick up on it.”

Take Pride in Training.

Greg Hagan, the general manager of Professional Collision, doesn’t need to be prompted to sing Hickman’s praises. Hagan will tell you that the body technician “has an attention to detail and standard of quality that’s second to none.

“He has such … passion for learning and perfecting his abilities, and gaining knowledge of the repairs,” Hagan adds of Hickman. “He’s the young ‘draft pick’ you can build a team around for decades.”

The technician earned his blue-chip prospect status in part because of his eagerness to take training courses, like those offered by I-CAR.

“Cars are constantly changing,” Hickman notes. “And, if you don’t keep up with the repair process it takes to fix these cars, then you’re going to end up with a bad repair, and that’s going to come back on you. And I fully believe that the person who repaired that car is responsible for that car; if it’s not repaired correctly, then the shop’s not to blame—you are, because you’re the one that didn’t take the time to make sure you did things right.”

Focus on Cycle Time.

Of all the KPIs that Professional Collision tracks, Hickman takes the most pride in the shop’s stirling cycle time of 2.7 days.

He says the shop’s key to producing such an unparalleled cycle time is working with a sense of urgency, along with doing a prompt, complete tear-down on vehicles early in the repair process.

“Say we’re replacing a bumper, fixing the fender, and fixing a door, for instance,” Hickman says. “I would tear down everything—get the bumper completely apart, get the fender off the car to make sure there’s no damage behind there, get the door completely tore down. Then, as soon as that happens, we’ll write the estimate. … And we’ll go over that two or three times, to make sure nothing was missed.

“I want to make sure that, when you pick up that car and you’re looking at it, you can’t tell I ever touched it. I want it to look exactly like it did when it came from the factory.”

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