One of the commonalities between most collision repair shops is chaos.
Many shop owners have become complacent with chaos, chalking it up as a “normal” part of the industry. This belief, in my opinion, is insanity.
Having been involved with collision repair for over 35 years now, I have witnessed an interesting progression and growing separation in shops around the world. While some shops are progressing, many have not changed much in terms of production systems since I began my career all those years ago. Even many of those that have changed by adding bells, whistles, and lean techniques are still experiencing excessive chaos, missed deadlines, stress, and often lackluster performance all around. So why is this the case?
To explain this, I will categorize shops in three general categories. Keep in mind that most shops are often in between the categories in many different levels of progression, but just play along.
The first category is what I call the “traditional shop.” Most shops in this category have not changed much in the last forty years. They tend to operate using commission or flat rate pay systems. The techs essentially run the shop as sub-contractors and with all the behaviors one should expect. Techs need to make their own way financially and thereby expect to have multiple stalls to work out of in order to have enough work to keep them busy. In most of these shops, the technicians are expected to write their own supplements, check in their own parts – essentially manage their own little business.
The traditional business model requires journeyman level techs and excessive amounts of work in progress so each tech can stay busy while bouncing from repair job to repair job as they discover a never-ending supply of process defects, supplements, wrong or missing parts, etc. In short, massive chaos!
The Journey Shop
The second category of shop is what I like to call the “journey shop.” I call them this because they always seem to be on a journey from a traditional business model to a “leaner” business model, desperate to make more money and reduced chaos.