Fast Times in Paintless Dent Repair

Dec 3, 2009

Whether you’re working on your own or with a group of technicians, paintless dent repair can keep you hopping.

Of course, time is money. So, for PDR techs to be successful, they need to make every minute count.

Industry professionals say tricks of the trade for a more efficient business range from long-range yearly planning to even out workloads, to toolbox organization to make individual jobs go faster.

Even the best-run businesses can benefit from helpful hints to make their workflow smoother and more consistent. So, whether you chase hailstorms or cater to a bevy of dealerships, here are some tips that can help you better-manage your workload.

Seasons

Even if they’re not chasing storms, most PDR technicians face a cycle of busy and slow times. Spreading available work through the slower periods can help a tech get through the year.

“You have to manage your money when you’ve got enough to make it through, and try to pick the correct storms,” says Brian Bryant, owner of Hailcats, Memphis, Tenn. “If you pick a storm, let’s say in April, you know the dead time is in July and August, and fall storms start in September. So, you try to find a storm in the early part of the year that’s going to give you enough work, enough cars to do, until next time.”

Whether it’s seasonal or market-driven, slow months don’t have to be slow, according to Tim Olson, trainer at PDRsecrets.com, Tulsa, Okla. Techs can take charge to ensure their own work when busy times wind down.

“Some guys have the ability to make the slow season not so slow,” he says. “If you know certain months are slower, do a lot of marketing to change that. Traditionally slow months can become busy by applying smart marketing methods like contacting customers more. That applies to retail more than it does to dealerships.”

Other options for techs during slow times are to add marketing tools and services, according to Jimmy Mercer, director of sales and marketing at Dent Zone in Dallas.

For instance, Mercer says Dent Zone has developed programs to funnel new PDR jobs and dealer relationships to technicians including factory authorized and independent PDR service plans, service drive PDR estimating systems, direct hail claim assignments from major auto insurance companies and more.

On the other hand, when the consumer market or Mother Nature sends droves of customers your way, being prepared can help immeasurably.

“When you are getting ready for the busy season, a lot of things need to be in place,” says Olson. “Technicians should already be thinking in terms of if they have a hailstorm they need a list of people they can call who can help with the storm. You need to make contact with people, all your accounts, and check on whether they are going to use you for hail damage. You need to ramp up real quick and have techs in place-”especially if you’re doing PDR for body shops.”

Another way to ramp up moneymaking opportunities is to have something in place when there are no dents needing your skills, or to provide an opportunity beyond paintless dent repair.

Mike Maldonado, mobile manager for Paint Bull, Saginaw, Mich. recommends adding what he calls a subsystem to eliminate wasted trips when visiting dealership and fleet clients.

“It helps to have other subsystems,” he says. “One thing we do is headlight restoration. It’s in a small kit they can carry with them and they don’t have to have a big van. It’s good to have [another service] to up-sell, maybe windshield repair or something to make the trip worthwhile.”

Time is Money

A paintless dent repair technician can save time on the job as well. Every vehicle and every dent is different, but a few tricks can ensure the results customers want without an unreasonable time investment.

One of those things is simply practice.

“A brand-new technician who is just out of training-it’s going to take him longer,” says Maldonado. “Until they develop their skills, a lot of it is just the learning curve, knowing different vehicles’ access points, how the metal is. [It takes] experience and learning the ins and outs of different vehicles.”

One of the things techs will learn is the best methods to efficiently repair dents without excess effort.

“Work is best done if you have a system or a method,” says Olson. “For example, the fastest guys will always start at one place on a car and work so as to move their tools the least amount of times, maximizing each position they’re in. Also, a good technician needs to be able to make each push count. The fewer pushes that are too hard or too soft, the faster he’s going to be.”

Knowing what can and can’t be fixed will save a tech time-especially if he or she can identify when to just say “no” to a job.

“Know the limitations of what you can and can’t fix,” says Bryant. “Don’t take on things you can’t fix-dent guys are notorious for trying to take on too much.”

In addition to practice, the right tools and techniques can save time. Glue pulling, while not a cure-all for difficult dents, can help a tech repair damage in locations with limited access.

“The most innovative tools so far are some very sophisticated glue pulling tools,” says Mercer. “That also increases the number of dents that they can take out. A lot of technicians are limited by access points. If they can increase their knowledge and use of glue pulling techniques, then they can further extend their revenue. Glue adheres to the paint and allows the glue puller to literally pull the metal back, but it doesn’t damage the paint, doesn’t pull it off.”

However, techs say that glue pulling-a replacement technique for the drilling that insurance companies no longer allow-won’t work all of the time.

“Glue is limited in the size of damage it will help you with it won’t pull everything,” says Bryant. “Most of the time, when we’re going after something that we would have had to drill for, it’s in a really tight area and the dent is not very bad or very deep. That’s where the glue tab comes in. The problem is it slows [you] way down. A dent would take five minutes if you could drill a hole, but you spend 30 minutes glue-pulling it.”

When using standard tools, the quality and type can impact a technician’s work. For instance, paintless dent repair professionals recommend that techs find the lighting and shadow products that work best for them.

“People have their own preferences on what they use for image reflection,” says Maldonado. “We use a board with stripes, others use a fog board or lights-t’s whatever you prefer as far as the reflection goes.”

Beyond streamlining on-the-job practices, a paintless dent repair technician can also take advantage of office time and tools.

Make Organization a Priority

From smart scheduling to utilizing free online tools, make the most of the time spent at the desk so you can keep it brief and spend your hours pushing dents.

Some industry professionals recommend hiring a receptionist or dispatcher as soon as it’s financially feasible.

“If they have a significant number of technicians-at least three-at some point in time it makes a lot of sense to hire a dispatcher,” says Mercer. “All too often you have a PDR businessperson who is also a technician, but they’re too busy accepting calls.”

There’s plenty of cheap ways to ensure a technician spends more time on the job than at his or her desk, including software and online tools. Mapping software from Google, Yahoo!, Mapquest and others are free to use and can provide accurate travel directions. By planning the day’s route from customer to customer, a PDR technician can make sure his or her tracks don’t resemble an Etch-A-Sketch drawing.

“Take time at the beginning of the week to map out where they have to go to do different repairs,” suggests Mercer. “If they take the time to do that, they can fill in gaps and be more geographically efficient—spend less time driving, more time pushing dents.”

Office software including the full version of Outlook, as well as free offerings from Google or Yahoo!, also feature tools that can send e-mail or text message reminders and perform other functions.

The bottom line is that organization is the key. How much time do you spend hunting through your toolbox? Looking for the vehicles in the lot that need your attention? Running back and forth fetching keys? Crisscrossing town multiple times on your way to service your clients?

Industry professionals recommend keeping organization a priority.

“It’s all about coordinating and logistics,” says Maldonado. “The biggest time-waster is driving a couple of hours to a dealer and you don’t always know what you’re going to get when you get there. On the other hand, if you call them before to see if they have anything, they may say no. Sometimes you may go to the dealer and he will have 10 cars, and next week he’ll have one-but you always have to continue that service.”

There are many things a PDR tech can do to maximize his earning potential by eliminating time-wasters: Keeping tools and equipment clean and organized, planning the route from client to client, identifying dents that need more attention than PDR can provide, and the many other things that can keep a tech needlessly busy.