Monday, 26 June 2017 14:32

Lean Thinking of America’s Greatest Body Shops

Written by Dave Luehr


Variable reduction

A big part of lean thinking in collision repair involves removing the variables from a vehicle repair prior to entering it into our production system’s flow lane. It is a process of adding some “essential waste” in order to remove a much larger amount of “unessential waste” later on. Like an attempt to get all the cars traveling down the proverbial freeway at the same rate and making sure none of them break down and stall the roadway for everyone else. The most popular method for achieving this variable reduction is what we all know as repair planning or “blueprinting.”

Many other industries remove variables in their systems, and they don’t call it lean, they call it preparation. Imagine if in an operating room the doctor would cut open a patient before prepping the person; forgetting to verify what part of the body is supposed to be operated on, and not locating the tools in advance he or she may need to keep the patient alive throughout the process. In the restaurant business, chefs frequently perform prep work (Mise en Place – French for “put in place”). Chef would quickly be terminated if he just heated up a pan, threw in the chicken, and then began searching for the kitchen tools, spices, diced vegetables and other things required to successfully create a delicious dish. Unfortunately, these are the very behaviors that many body shops make when working on a modern, high-tech, vehicle! They stick the car in a body man’s stall and start the repairs before we even know the full extent of the damage. This madness must stop!


In the lean world of America’s greatest body shops, they are disciplined enough to take the extra time required at the beginning of the process to properly diagnose vehicle damage by incorporating OEM information, scanning for diagnostic trouble codes and then disassembling the vehicle completely to find any potentially hidden damage. Only then, do they order the parts and have them delivered in one single order on one invoice to further reduce wasted activities. This my friends, is lean thinking.

At many body shops they employ a person with the title of “production manager.” At most shops, this person would be more appropriately be titled “Chief Fire-fighter!” In a lean shop, most administrative efforts are laser focused on the pre-production activities such as blueprinting, mirror matching parts for correctness, etc. When vehicles are properly prepped, the guys out in the shop don’t usually require much supervision or “management” because they will have everything they need to properly repair the vehicle without all the obstacles experienced in traditional shops. At many of America’s greatest body shops that apply “fire-prevention” a production manager is non-essential!


Dave Luehr is co-author of “The Secrets of America’s Greatest Body Shops” and founder of the collision coaching and consulting organization “Elite Body Shop Solutions.”

To learn more about The Secrets of America’s Greatest Body Shops, visit www.bodyshopsecrets.com.

To reach Dave Luehr email david.luehr@elitebodyshopsolutions.com

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