Lee Rush Portrait
By: Lee Rush, Searchautoparts.com
Lee Rush is manager of business consulting services for Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes. He has over 20 years of experience managing collision centers.  Lee is a proven leader in the areas of recruiting, training, technical, sales, and managerial areas of the Collision Industry and has years of intensive training in leadership skills in the United States Marine Corps.
Do you ever wish there were collision experts that would come to your shop and help optimize your operations? Or, consultants available to assess your processes and identify what’s holding your shop back from even higher revenue or profits? How about a partner to spend time in your front office and on your shop floor and help you implement change to take your business to the next level? If you have thoughts like these, you should consider a complete audit of all the functional areas of your business through a formalized shop impact assessment.
A collision repair shop impact assessment is a detailed, onsite review of operational processes and procedures of all the functional areas of your business: from your front office procedures and estimating process; to damage analysis and parts department operations; to paint and materials utilization. You should have expert consultants assess these and all the key areas of your business.
How does it work?
In detail, a shop impact assessment is a multi-day comprehensive review of the operational processes and procedures used in your shop – a wellness check-up for your business. This will arm you with the information needed to remain competitive against the increasing challenges of insurance providers, today’s consumers and eroding margins in our industry. To meet today’s demands of cycle time, on-time delivery, increased quality and the many other KPIs you are pressured with, you need to have an accurate assessment of where you are today and the opportunities for tomorrow.
An impactassessment will ensure the continued health and growth of your business and its ability to meet customer, insurance and financial performance expectations now and in the future. This is where trained consultants work closely with your shop to analyze its operations and procedures benchmarking them against “real world” and “industry best” processes and procedures of the top collision operators in North America. 
Collision experts can make observations, identify inefficiencies in your current system and document them in an executive summary. These observations are analyzed for opportunities, and then recommendations are made for areas of improvement. From these recommendations, a customized action plan can be developed with the help of your respective paint supplier and other key vendors. The action plan gives you the insight and information needed to execute these process improvements in your shop.
Why does it work?
Your consultants will spend a lot of time on your production floor, where they’ll observe and discover challenges you might not see in just a walkthrough. What’s important here is someone’s coming from the outside with a fresh, completely different perspective; this is because an owner or shop manager, who’s in the middle of the business every day, does not necessarily see these things, especially the minor ones that can add up. Therefore, your consultants will state those observations in a record format and then make customized recommendations to give your business options. Because consultants work with so many shops, they can make valuable insights on best industry practices; what the premium operators in our industry currently doing within that process.
At the end of the executive summary your consultants will provide a customized action plan to implement positive change. It kind of goes like this, “This is what we’ve observed, this is what we recommend, and this is the action plan to implement those process improvements for your business.”
Why do we look at the overall process within a body shop?
All collision repair shops are NOT the same, however most have similarities when it comes to productivity and profitability; and even the top shops are no different when it comes to analyzing their business and overall process. These steps include:
  • Financial Control – to make sure a profit is made from the work performed
  • Operational Efficiency – to free up capacity in order to do more work
  • Business Development – to increase market share
Oftentimes, it’s all about productivity and labor: the through-put. No matter how well any shop is doing, everyone can improve. Within all the potential challenges we see, labor touches everything. And, when it comes to paint and materials costs, there are lean processes that can be implemented to reduce waste. These processes will increase paint labor productivity, which in turn increases your profitability. Shops often see almost an immediate five- to 20-percent profit increase just by process improvement and more efficient paint booth utilization. 
Do these work in the “real world”?
A weeklong, onsite impact assessment sealed the lean deal for Collision King in Lubbock, Texas with paint manufacturer and supplier, Sherwin-Williams. The following are some observations noted by the shop’s owner.
“They brought in a full team of consulting personnel, so we had very good support,” says Steven Tisdale, owner of the $12 million+ collision repair facility.
"Getting the work into the shop has never been our problem — it was getting it all out; but after the consultant came in and analyzed everything, we've gone from a six-day cycle time down to five; we've immediately reduced a whole day," he says. "The biggest area of improvement was damage analysis and parts correctness. Now, our medium and heavy hits have their own parts carts that wheels along throughout the job. Under the traditional model we used to house those back in the parts department, the floor space of stalls or even just in the car."
"With the impact assessment, we don't have 'Cracker Jack' moments anymore," notes Tisdale, referring to the situation where 'you open the box and get a surprise' with wrong or broken parts delivered. "Our ordering process is now more accurate and each shipment is inspected. No longer are they leaving (and we accept!) a left headlamp when a right headlamp is the intended purchase."
“For example, we’re physically putting eyes and hands on every part we get within two hours, and we match it with the old part,” he says. “We’ve fine-tuned our repair process with the support of all our vendors to achieve better results. Our rigorous, new process ensures that every aspect of the customer’s repair job is performed to the highest standard of quality, and it’s backed by partnership and training with our vendors.”           
“We also observed that this program wasn’t presented to us as a ‘one size fits all in the real world.’ We said we needed a program that connected all the dots for a complete lean approach and this was possible with the impact assessment’s custom-fit operational approach. What then impressed us was the Impact Assessment created for us met our specific-site requirements; that’s for a 26,000 square feet, 32-bay, seven building facility, and the more than 100 customer vehicles we repair each week. And finally, we were really impressed that the program was designed as a tactical, shop-level approach to overall lean production and implementation by collision operators for collision operators.”
“We still have room for improvement and we continue to learn every day. And with Sherwin-Williams’ continued support, we want to continue to improve and get better.”
The impact assessment takeaway
Similar to Collision King, there are many other success stories of consultants identifying ways to make shops more efficient and profitable. Most impact assessments are custom designed to identify what is holding your collision repair facility back or preventing you from reaching the next level of performance. Upon completion and implementation of the program, most shops see immediate and positive results, including:
  • Standardized process and procedures
  • Improved work flow and cycle time
  • Eliminated waste in multiple shop areas
  • Increased revenue and profitability
  • Exceeding insurer expectations
See if your paint supplier provides a customized, step-by-step optimization and action plan to address areas of opportunity and partner with you to help implement positive change. These tangible results will help you reduce cycle time, improve on-time delivery and repair quality, and increase revenue and profitability. All this while exceeding the expectations of your customers and insurance partners.
For more information, go to Onsite Consulting