Body shops have essentially operated the same way for the last 60 or 70 years. Across the board, everybody has been utilizing the same processes, and there is much waste in the system.
The industry as a whole is still plagued by many of these wastes that we identified in the early 2000s. I think the primary reason is that we haven’t trained managers to manage their businesses any differently. We continue to hire managers who have experience in the collision repair industry but don’t necessarily understand how to transform business into a leaner operational platform.
Q: What advice do you give shops looking to implement the lean process?
A: I tell them that you have to become a student in lean. Lean only works when the owner(s) and management team embrace the process improvement and philosophy.
Employees are managed differently using the lean process. Rather than dictating to them what you want them to do, you instead bring them into the problems that the business encounters and work together to make improvements. Management becomes more of a facilitator than a dictator of operational processes.
Training at the top of the tower is an absolute must. I think that is where most companies can derail---when the top people don’t understand the importance of continuous learning, embracing it enough and fully believing in it confidently before they try to roll it out to the shop floor. That’s where it fails---and fails ferociously in many cases.
Many people attend one 20 Group meeting or one lean process training session. I caution those who are first introduced to the lean process that they aren’t going to learn enough in one session to transform their business successfully. They can often do more damage than good. You need to attend many sessions and read books such as “The Toyota Way” by Jeffrey Liker. That’s the first book I recommend and the bedrock of beginning to even consider implementing lean in a process improvement way that will be sustainable.