Thursday, 27 February 2014 23:25

In-Process Quality Assurance

I am not a theory guy, and happy to admit that. After nearly 20 years of managing body shops, and MSOs, I have discovered that technicians do not respond well to theory. So, I prefer a more real-world, shop-floor, “boots on the ground” approach when it comes to improving the quality process of a collision repair facility and coming up with a strategy to execute.

When it comes to the quality challenges facing our industry, many would agree that there is too much talk and far too little action. The issue is that most of us use quality control (QC) systems to assure that less-than-perfect repairs don’t reach the customers. At Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, we believe a more effective system should introduce standards for identifying and correcting quality defects at each stage in the repair process, or in-process quality assurance (IPQA).

IPQA focuses on the process, not just the outcome. Too many body shops focus on the outcome of repairs or service and not the process. By mapping processes, you are able to reduce or eliminate persistent quality problems. Processes that are poorly constructed lead to poor quality.

In terms of quality improvement, we must begin with a paradigm change, which means a change in the way we view the world of collision repair. The world of collision repair and our view of it have developed over many years and have many traditions of which most are not healthy. I am amazed that I can have basic service or tire work performed on my vehicle and it is taken for a test drive after the work is performed. Yet, in our industry, a vehicle can have mechanical and structural work performed and the technician will never drive the vehicle.

Our first order of business is to revise or change our view of the world of collision repair. Remember that small revisions in your world views will generally cause small behavioral changes, yet incremental increases in quality performance, while significant revisions cause significant behavioral changes and large quality performance improvements. To earnestly begin your IPQA system, you and your teams will need a paradigm change

Problems with repair quality are frequently the result of a misunderstanding or a miscommunication rather than a reflection of the technician’s ability to repair the vehicle correctly. There are two principals at the core of an IPQA system:

  1. Each step in the repair process must include a well-defined set of individual and departmental responsibilities.
  2. Each technician must know exactly what is expected of him when he assumes the responsibility for a repair process.

Though these principles do not seem very difficult or complicated, they have proven to be elusive to many shops. You might say, “No problem, we are doing this today and our quality is fine.” The intent is to implement a process that is consistent and predictable, with as little effort from management as possible. The opportunity is to eliminate the internal redos that cost a shop far more in productivity and through-put than any come-back. Certainly we want to eliminate come-backs, but the real gains come from eliminating internal come-backs, repairs returning to body from paint, to paint from body, from detail to body and paint, etc. These internal come-backs are far more costly than customer come-backs. Just because they are not as obvious to the P&L statement and are not reflected in policy adjustment, we have become accustomed to accepting them. Even when the final results of our quality are good, the pain and amount of effort to achieve and complete the delivered vehicle does not justify the losses in productivity and through-put. By implementing an IPQA system in your shop, you can ensure the vehicle will move from department to department, eliminating stops and starts and internal come-backs.

Each step in the repair process includes a well-defined set of individual and department responsibilities, from front-end sales and service to production. We are quick to point out the quality defects of a technician’s repairs, however very remiss to point to our own defects in sales and service. The product we produce in the front end of the business is as important to quality assurance as the repairs are to the vehicle itself. From the accuracy of our damage analysis (100 percent accurate RO) to parts correctness (100 percent mirror-matched parts), the management of sales, service, and production coordination are equally accountable to quality assurance as is the technician’s repair of the vehicle. Once we realize that improving the repair means improving the process, we can begin to focus on the solution, and not the problem. By identifying the critical to quality (CTQ) characteristics, we can standardize the methods that best-produce the desired quality of repairs and services our customers expect.

Let’s look at an example of each.

Quality Assurance Responsibilities in Sales and Service

Because problems with repair quality are frequently the result of a misunderstanding or miscommunication, it is critical for the front end of the business to ensure the quality of work is such that it provides all the necessary information to production. By specifying each step in the repair process and including a well-defined set of individual and departmental responsibilities, quality can be built into the product and service provided.

CTQ for Sales and Service

1. Complete customer information form
2. Document customer concerns and requests
3. Complete vehicle check-in form with customer
4. Identify preexisting damage
5. Have customer sign the authorization to repair form
6. Explain the payment process to the customer
7. Explain the communication process to the customer
8. Explain the CSI process to the customer
9. Mark the repair order information on the glass
10. Move the vehicle to the damage analysis staging area

When employees know exactly what is expected of them, they will assume responsibility for that repair and the customer’s experience. Without clearly-defined expectations, they will never assume the responsibility. After all, would you assume responsibility for something that has not been explained to you clearly—written and discussed to ensure everyone understands?

Once CTQ expectations are understood, it is important to set up the process by which the expectations are to be managed.

Key Elements of the Sales and Service Process

The CSS or CSR has overall responsibility for the completion of the sales and service vehicle drop-off process.

1. Complete, verify, and document all process steps before removing a vehicle from drop off to staging for DA.
2. Verify DRP requirements and the approved billing and inform all involved personnel.
3. Contact and update the customer every other day on the repair progress in a professional manner.
4. Obtain insurance approval or complete DRP documentation.
5. Refer any vehicle that is on hold for more than two days to the facility manager.
6. Use the correct formula to calculate the projected delivery date.

Quality Assurance Responsibilities in Production

The intent of the production quality assurance responsibilities is to establish processes, standards, and accountability for: 1) identifying and 2) correcting quality defects at each stage in the vehicle’s repair process. The production process should inform and educate the technicians about the production quality assurance process and use the appropriate CTQ characteristics. These CTQ expectations should be listed on a quality assurance inspection (QAI) form, and all steps necessary to complete a QAI should be addressed. Proceeding in this manner should result in the quality being built in from department to department.

Metal Technician Accountabilities

* Structural areas properly welded
* All welds cleaned and ground
* OEM seam sealer applied properly
* Clamp marks repaired inside and out
* Corrosion protection applied to all metal repairs
* Parts labels removed from all replaced parts
* Sound-deadening panels applied
* Trim removed for paint as per repair order
* No sand scratches, pin holes
* Body lines correct
* Gaps match other areas
* Interior of vehicle properly protected

Key Elements of the Production Process

The production manager, or the person designated as such, has the overall responsibility for the completion of the quality assurance process and should:

1. Verify all inspections before moving a vehicle to the next department.
2. Verify and sign the QAI and inform all involved personnel.
3. Discuss all failures with all involved personal.
4. Obtain QAI approval and complete sign offs as soon as possible.
5. Be assertive and disciplined with QAIs.
6. Refer vehicles that are on hold for a failure for more than two days to the facility manager.
7. Document all failures for quality assurance review.

Once these responsibly and the process is defined and understood, the production manager, or the person designated as such, has the overall responsibility for the completion of the in-process quality assurance process and will have the overall responsibility to make sure this process is completed according to expectations. However, the repair technician is responsible for completing the inspection of their own repairs and signing off on the QAI. Now, I know what you might be thinking, “If I can get them to sign the QAI, how can I be sure they will judge themselves correctly?” Remember, our first order of business was to change our view of the world of collision repair and with that a new expectation.

Given the need to connect the dots between the grand concepts presented to us by the visionaries in our industry and the managers and technicians at the shop level, Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes has developed the Managed Collision Repair (MCR) program. MCR is a tactical, shop-level approach to lean implementation designed by collision operators for collision operators. MCR uses a series of workshops to help operators clearly understand each lean tool and develop a custom strategy to implement these tools in their own shops.

The MCR program is not your traditional training, but a customized approach focused on the real-world challenges we face when implementing lean tools within our shops, such as IPQA. With the emphasis on workshop, the MCR program is designed to help your collision facility take the implementation lessons we have learned in the past to formulate a sustainable program to drive process improvements moving forward.

By connecting the dots, together we can improve overall quality, productivity, and profitability through the use of IPQA. The point is that you don’t have to be a lean expert to take advantage of the many lean tools available in the industry today, such as IPQA. We just need a simple, clearly-defined standard operating process and a strategic plan of how to implement in your facility.

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