Your shop’s operations are really just a collection of processes, designed to get a customer from initial lead to completed job.
Simplifying your shop to this basic foundation makes it easy to begin optimizing your processes. There is always room to be more efficient, deliver higher quality work and create a better customer experience.
One approach to identifying opportunities for process improvement is called “TIM WOODS” and is taken from the principles of the lean manufacturing philosophy of production.
“TIM WOODS” is an acronym identifying eight different sources of waste in a process and are segments of your business where you can look for process improvement opportunities. Those areas are:
How much time and energy do you spend moving a car around? Do you have to move it between multiple facilities or workstations? How about new parts? Do you have multiple parts staging areas?
Do you have an unfinished shop car (a form of marketing inventory) buried in the back corner? Do you have more cars in the shop than can possibly be worked on at any given time?
How much time do your employees spend walking to their toolbox or the garbage can? How much time do you spend walking between employees and back to your office?
How often does a car sit in your shop waiting for parts? Whether or not you give deadlines to a customer or just keep them internally, how often are they missed? Do you have to reschedule the drop off for the next project because of your missed deadline? Now your customer is waiting too.
Do you ever spend so much time doing a task on a car that it feels overdone? It’s one thing to be a perfectionist, it’s another to focus on 100% when the customer will accept 99.9%. The law of diminishing returns says that the last 0.1% will be the hardest to achieve and take the most time.
Do you buy parts and materials “just in time,” or do you stockpile? Do some of your stockpiles collect dust when they are under sold?
How often do you have to redo or warranty your mistakes? Defects are the most common and easily visible form of waste for shops.
Do you have team members who are underutilized? Do you have your top fabrication tech doing bolt-on installs, or the bumper wrapping expert doing a simple quarter panel?
Lean Manufacturing and its accompanying principles emphasize continuous improvement. In the examples listed above, there are tons of impossible standards and “unreasonable” expectations. However, as you raise your standards of production and continuously optimize your processes, you’ll eventually find that what was once unreasonable is now attainable.
I worked with a shop where cars would sit for weeks at a time, waiting for parts or to be worked on. They would be delivered back to customers dusty from sitting in the busy shop for so long and would take away from the excitement of picking up their completed car. While there were plenty of opportunities for improvement, we broke it down into chunks.
As a temporary solution, the shop bought a pressure washer and began washing every car on the day of pickup. This drastically improved customer satisfaction and forced the shop to look at optimizing its job processing. A wasteful short-term solution, the shop pushed hard to optimize their job processing efficiency, and after two months, they were able to stop washing cars—nothing sat long enough to need it.
Arun Coumar is the founder of Driven Performance Advisors, a consulting firm specializing in finance and operations for specialty aftermarket shops.