Thursday, 21 August 2014 17:00

Better Blueprinting, Part 1: Why is Blueprinting Important?

Written by

In the collision repair business, the only time the shop makes money is when the technician is actually working on the car. So for a shop to optimize profitability, systems must be put in-place to ensure that wasteful delays are eliminated. Some of the more common delays are.

■ Techs wandering around looking for parts, fasteners, or information
■ Missing, damaged, or incorrect replacement parts
■ Waiting for approval and parts on supplemental (missed) damage
A great way to reduce or eliminate such delays is through the process of damage analysis or “blueprinting.” Blueprinting is one of the most important processes a shop can implement to reduce or eliminate delays and can have a dramatic effect on important KPIs such as cycle time, customer satisfaction and profitability.

Click HERE to download the PDF version of this article.
The Goal of this Article

Blueprinting is not a new concept by any means, but many shops still fail at either successfully implementing it, or if they have implemented it they are not getting the results they expected. My goal is to guide the reader through some reasons why shops fail at Blueprinting and then in part two give some proven simple techniques that are being used by shops that do have successful Blueprinting programs.

Why Shops Commonly Fail at Blueprinting

We Make it Too Difficult for the Real World

When lean concepts including Blueprinting were first introduced to our industry, the initiatives were often led by well-intended paint companies that had over-complicated curriculum. Lean was the “new kid on the block” and came with all the bells and whistles; in many cases, too many bells and whistles. When concepts such as these are taught to us by people from the manufacturing industry from a 30,000 foot level, many of the basics were over-looked or misconstrued. So as the years progressed, most people stopped doing Blueprinting, a lucky few figured out better and simpler ways of performing it. Those that were successful found ways of using lean thinking and applying it to Blueprinting in a “real world” manner, a manner that would work on the shop floor and not from a philosophical 30,000 foot high vantage.

Lack of Visual Mistake Proofing Systems

As someone that has been teaching Blueprinting for many years, I hear excuses all the time why damage was missed during Blueprinting. The one that kills me is “We are only human.” Tell that to a surgeon or a Blue Angels pilot some time. The point is, that yes, we are human, so in order to be successful at Blueprinting, we have to put systems in place that make mistakes VISIBLE so that we can catch them before it’s too late. This is an old trick introduced by Japanese manufacturers. This mistake proofing is a technique called “Poka Yoke.” So if you want to have a successful Blueprinting program, mistake-proof it by using some of the “Poka Yoke” techniques in this article.

No Written Repeatable Process

The lucky few that were able to achieve Blueprinting success at some level often doomed the process from future success by not carefully documenting the Blueprint system they worked so hard on into a Standard Operating Procedure. Because of this lack of standardization, the program was susceptible to failures caused by new employees, lapses of memory, or many other reasons. If a process has simple written instruction, and people are well trained, the likelihood that the vital steps needed to produce a consistently accurate Blueprint is increased immensely.

Technicians are hired to Repair Vehicles, Not Write Supplements

To this day, most shops continue to ask their body technicians to perform a teardown and then write a supplement. This IS NOT Blueprinting! Please keep in mind that the only time a shop is making any money is when the technician’s hands are touching the car. So if we ask them to perform supplement writing for us, not only are we inviting problems with estimate accuracy, we are also not making money! Technicians are a very integral part in the Blueprinting process, and can offer a lot of insight into good damage analysis, but their involvement should be limited to collaboration during the disassembly plan, and damage analysis, then disassembling the vehicle and placing the damaged or R&I parts in their designated areas.

A Common Misconception

Having a dedicated Blueprint Analyst or Department always causes bottleneck delays

The reason that many say that they don’t like having a dedicated Blueprint Department or Analyst is because it often causes a bottleneck and delays. All the repair jobs have to go through one resource, so by definition the Blueprint guy is a bottleneck, but here’s what some people don’t understand. Every system is going to have a bottleneck that dictates the shops throughput ability and that is okay, the problem is that shops continue to bring all their work in on Monday. If smarter scheduling was practiced, the bottleneck will manage to produce the needed amount of work. This misunderstanding of production management is another main reason people abandon their Blueprinting attempts. In the real world, even when using good scheduling habits, bottlenecks do become a problem at times. When Blueprinting starts getting behind schedule, it is extremely important to stick to the program with discipline and not abandon it. Instead additional resources or extended hours may occasionally need to be dedicated.

In next month’s continuation of Better Blueprinting by David Luehr, we will discuss how to setup a proper Blueprinting area regardless of the size of your shop, and then we will discuss some great techniques that will allow you to get consistent and positive results with your Blueprinting efforts.