Best Body Shops’ Tips: Effective Repair Planning Utilizing PCE (Process-Centered Environment)

Camille Phillips,Todd Stogdell and Gary Higa
L to R: Camille Phillips, Island Fender; Todd Stogdell, Island Concepts; and Gary Higa, Island Fender

Many collision repairers are familiar with the process improvement methodologies such as Lean, Theory of Constraints and Six Sigma.

AkzoNobel has taken components of each of these disciplines specific to the collision repair industry and labeled them as a Process-Centered Environment (PCE).

Those who have implemented repair planning in their businesses, but are still experiencing supplements and other delays, have found success after incorporating collision industry-specific PCE principles, according to Tim Ronak, senior services consultant at AkzoNobel.

“A body shop might be clean and tidy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the best processes are in place to support repair planning,” said Ronak, during a presentation to a group of body shops in Honolulu, Hawaii, which was sponsored by Island Concepts. “Once a facility has assessed the effectiveness of its current repair planning process, the next step is to identify the best practices that drive improvement and standardization.”

In part two of a two-part series, Ronak talked about the building blocks of AkzoNobel’s PCE principles, which include 5S, standardization, waste reduction, visual management, continuous flow, in-process quality and continuous improvement.

Q: How would you describe 5S?

Ronak: 5S is a systematic approach to creating and maintaining a manageable work area where everything has its place. The facility is specifically organized to create a visual environment that “talks to you” through visual guides that support the repair planning process, which makes it conducive for employees to do their jobs in a consistent, repeatable way. The objective is to build a strong foundation for a PCE transformation, establish discipline and produce quick and visible results.

The 5S process was first defined in the 1960s by Hiroyuki Hirano from Toyota Motor Company.

The English version of 5S is based on five Japanese words:

Sort (seiri): Remove what is not needed, add what is missing and store or discard unnecessary items.

Set in order (seiton): Arrange items for ease of use and employ visual tools to identify where everything belongs.

Sweep/shine (seiso): Clean the workplace.

Standardize (seiketsu): Establish standards and schedules to maintain the first three.

Sustain (shitsuke): Adopt 5S into corporate culture by continued application and auditing.

Q: How does standardization promote conformity within the repair process?

Ronak: Standardization is an agreed-upon set of work procedures established to maintain quality, efficiency, safety and predictability in a shop. It maximizes performance and minimizes waste. The key is to do the same things the same way each time. There are three important components of this: standard operating procedures (SOPs), standard work and standards.

SOPs are the instructions that explain the operations in detail. This may involve regulations, standards and specifications. Standard work is the sequence of job tasks that must be performed to complete a job effectively. They are designed to be repeatable, eliminate waste, increase productivity and ultimately become the framework to build on continuous improvement. Standards are rules that provide clear expectations. For example, there might be a shop poster displaying the process for edging parts or spot welding.

A standard can help build consistency in your business, so employees know what is expected of them, there are fewer errors, and everything operates more efficiently.

If you don’t have a strong foundation, eventually the process can disappear; then, you are forced to reinvent it or backfill it with an alternative.

The SCRS Complete Guide to Repair Planning is an excellent, free resource available to shops that I highly recommend downloading from the website.

Q: What are the components of a good repair plan?

Ronak: A good repair plan should:

  • Identify all damage, including frame and sublet;
  • Identify all necessary parts and labor;
  • Identify the repair methodology that is going to be used including refinish;
  • Identify the correct color variant;
  • Ensure DRP guidelines are followed if applicable;
  • Ensure the repair is completed within the customer and insurance guidelines; and
  • Ensure the established triage and methodology are followed and involve all stakeholders including mechanical, body, refinish and parts

Q: What is important to know about waste reduction?

Ronak: Understanding waste is critical to a process-centered environment. Waste is anything that doesn’t add value to the customer or process.

In states like Hawaii, there is a lot of vehicle movement due to space limitations.

This means every time there is a work stoppage or a change in production direction, it wreaks havoc on throughput for facilities that don’t have room to move cars.

It’s imperative to come up with an easy way to standardize throughput so vehicles can move freely through the facility.

Different types of waste include:

  • Transportation -- the ability to move vehicles;
  • Inventory -- balancing the amount of work;
  • Motion -- the movement of people;
  • Downtime;
  • Overproduction;
  • Overprocessing;
  • Defects -- which include errors, redos and comebacks; and or
  • Underutilizing human potential so employees aren’t used to their fullest capacity.

Waste can be categorized in three different ways. There are value-added activities that the customer is willing to pay for and change the fit, form or function of the vehicle to pre-accident condition. Second, there are necessary, non-value adding activities that don’t alter the fit, form or function and the customer isn’t willing to pay for, such as moving the car and equipment maintenance. Finally, there is non-value adding waste that the customer also isn’t willing to pay for, like the excessive movement of cars and the extra time it takes for repair due to supplements.

Q: What are the ways a shop can reduce waste?

Ronak: There are multiple ways to do this in a shop. Having a repair planner sit at a mobile workstation near the vehicle while it is being disassembled can be effective. Shops can also track how the business is doing in terms of sales . Shops can monitor when cars come in and if the technicians are notified quickly during disassembly. Other ways include verifying the color at the repair planning stage and where vehicles are parked.

Q: How can a shop control its workspace through visual management?

Ronak: Visual displays provide information to everyone on the shop floor, so they understand the process at a glance. This ensures the safe and proper execution of operations.

Some examples of how shops can implement visual management tools include displaying a standardized ‘map’ of how to store parts on a parts cart, where that cart should sit and even delineating a box on the floor in the stall where the vehicle is to be parked for repair planning. Overall, it is important for a shop to be consistent to be successful.

Q: What is the role of continuous flow?

Ronak: In a continuous flow environment, cars flow through the shop without any backflows, unnecessary idle time, rework, excess inventory or delays. It is the sequence of repair process steps that are practical to implement in a highly variable environment. In the last article, I talked about Shop A being the repair planning department and Shop B being production. The goal is when a vehicle leaves Shop A, it can continuously flow through Shop B.

I recommend setting your internal production date in a way that makes sense for your operation. Know your cycle time and how much you can produce and then balance your production input. This will start to improve your operations, cycle time and the number of days cars are on-site. It is important to limit the number of cars in production on-site to just the amount that maximizes the process time of each repair. We refer to this as your Optimal Work in Production (WIP).

For continuous flow to be successful, you need all the parts, tools and equipment at the facility; good organization; skilled, trained employees; and standards so there are clear expectations.

By doing repair planning without the other procedures in place, you will merely be creating a process where you are writing the best estimate without the profitable gains of increasing throughput.

Q: How can a shop ensure in-process quality?

Ronak: The goal is to do everything one time effectively and accurately. This includes numerous in-process quality checks (QCs), where the work is assessed against predetermined standards before advancing to the next step.

The goal is to have clear quality standard checkpoints to ensure that the desired quality is achieved. Implementing standardization within repair planning creates in-process quality.

There are two types of inspection. Self-inspection is when a technician inspects the work he or she does after it is complete and fixes any defects before sending it to the next area.

Successive inspection is when the next technician performs a quality inspection when receiving the vehicle. If there is a problem, both techs decide who will fix it and how to prevent it from occurring again.

Q: What is important to know in terms of continuous improvement?

Ronak: The idea is to continually look at the process of repair planning and determine ways to improve it, so we’re evolving. By seeking the involvement of employees and giving them the “why” behind the decision, you’ll gain their confidence and trust.

Q: What are the critical audit points of repair planning?

Ronak: Creating an audit process is the optimal way to sustain repair planning. It takes about 15 minutes per car once you have it established. The critical points of an audit include:

  • Triage: Did someone QC the check-in process and prioritize the vehicles for repair planning? In triage, always repair plan the smallest job first. You can’t afford an extra day on a one-day job; that’s 50 percent longer than it should take. However, on a ten-day job, one day longer is only 10 percent.
  • Complete disassembly: Are all the damaged and R & I parts exposed and laid out to tell the story of the repair plan?
  • Writing the repair plan: Are all the necessary repair processes included?
  • Communication: Are all stakeholders involved in the repair plan?
  • Parts organization: Does the process allow you to find and visually identify the status of the parts to all stakeholders?
  • Administrative process: Have you gone through the repair plan and checked if there are any missed administrative tasks?
  • Scorecard: Have you measured and tracked the results each day?

Before you begin repair planning, certain elements need to be built. You must have those pieces in place for it to be sustainable for the future. By organizing your work environment and then being able to sustain it, your shop will thrive.

This is part two in a two-part series.

Stacey Phillips Ronak

Stacey Phillips Ronak is an award-winning writer for the automotive industry and a regular columnist for Autobody News based in Southern California.

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