Monday, 22 September 2014 00:00

Better Blueprinting, Part 2: How to Set Up a Blueprinting Area

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In last month’s Better Blueprinting Part One, we discussed reasons that shops have failed at Blueprinting. This month we will focus on performing Blueprinting, and how it can greatly benefit your collision repair shop.

To download the PDF version of this article, click HERE.

Blueprint Admin Staffing
Over the years I tried numerous variations and combinations of people to staff a Blueprinting program. All of them worked better than no Blueprinting program, but some combinations definitely worked better than others. Much of what influences your Blueprint staff is simply the size and volume of your shop. Many  clients run smaller shops where people wear many hats. In a small shop it is not uncommon for the manager to also be the estimator, the parts guys and the Blueprint guy. It is pretty easy to determine how to staff a really small shop, but what about a shop that is a little bigger? I recently worked with a client that had two estimators, one of them liked being in the shop and the second one was better at dealing with customers. So we moved one of them into the shop to be the Blueprint Analyst, and the other efficiently handled the entire volume of customers as the Customer Service Manager. You may need to experiment with different staffing combinations to make it work for your unique needs.

Blueprint Technician Staffing
The best Blueprint team I put together had an older and very knowledgeable technician working alongside an apprentice disassembly technician. This was a high volume shop and the team worked in a dedicated Blueprint workspace with a Blueprint analyst who never left his station. Many advanced shops have taken advantage of the benefits that creating a team system brings. It is still possible to use a dedicated Blueprint area with individual flat rate techs who are not paid as a team, but there is a lot of movement of tools and people. Some shops using rolling computer carts are finding some success performing the Blueprinting in the technician’s stalls. It works, but I still prefer a dedicated area. Again, there are many ways to create a Blueprint staff and each shop is going to be a little different than the next based on skill level, shop size, personalities, etc.

Space
Don’t fall in the trap of believing that your shop may be too small to be successful with Blueprinting. I have analyzed damage in space from 2,000 sq. ft. to over 60,000 sq. ft. and the practical application is still the same.

1. Disassemble and analyze the damage.
2. Move the car until enough parts arrive to continuously work on it. (Notice I said continuously.)
3. Move the car in and fix it. The key here is to only allow vehicles on the shop’s repair floor once they are ready to be worked on continuously. If you follow this discipline, you will find shop space you knew you never had!
Some setups used by successful shops:
● One or two dedicated Blueprint stalls inside the shop
● Laptop or dedicated computer in the Blueprint area
● If possible, keep the area accessible for tow trucks
● Keep fasteners and fluids in the Blueprint area

Recommended Tools
In addition to the usual hand tools, the following items are needed to complete the inspection procedure:
1. Parts cart
2. Clipboard
3. Tape measure
4. Tram gauge
5. Tread depth gauge
6. Small mirror
7. Flash light/drop light
8. Mobile Estimating system
9. Creeper
10. Collision estimating system
11. Access to OEM parts schematics
12. Colored markers
13. Heavy Gloves
14. Safety Glasses

Better Blueprinting Techniques
Step 1. Vehicle Check-in
Even though the process of performing a “check-in” with the customer during vehicle drop-off may not be considered a part of the Blueprint process, the information obtained is absolutely vital to the Blueprint. With the customer present, this process involves walking around the vehicle and communicating and documenting the following. It is a great way of communicating the customer’s concerns indirectly to the Blueprint Analyst to ensure things don’t get missed!
● What damage is a result of the accident?
● Unrelated prior damage?
● Upsell opportunities?
● MILs such as check engine warning lamps on dash – prior or related?
● Anything unusual about the vehicle’s performance mechanically?
● Touch-up paint and other “freebie” promises
Step 2. Identify Mechanical Issues
Identifying mechanical issues prior to disassembling and disabling a damaged vehicle is always preferable. (But not always possible.) Everyone can relate to the delays that are caused when these problems are discovered on the day the car was supposedly going to be ready! In a collision, mechanical issues could involve many things; however the most common are suspension, air conditioning /cooling system, wiring and supplemental restraint systems. I recommend that first you address these items by:
● Review the customer concerns on the check-in sheet
● Test driving
● Performing suspension alignment prior to disassembly (if possible)
● Using a scan tool to help diagnose trouble codes (check engine lights, etc.)
● Always ask the customer how many passengers were in the car, especially if restraint systems were deployed. Check those seatbelts!
● Check interior electronics, heat/air, etc.
● Check fluid levels

Step 3. Communication between Estimator and Technician
How many times have you seen a technician take the front bumper off a car that was in the shop to get the rear bumper fixed? This is not a complicated step, but one that is often skipped with costly results. Shops need to include this step as a standard procedure and hold people accountable because the technician must be properly informed prior to touching a single wrench to the vehicle! Make it part of your program to have the estimator or Blueprint Analyst go over the check-in sheet with the technician and also review the estimate if one had been previously prepared. Use the next step (visual mapping) to help with this communication as it will clearly indicate what parts need to be removed in order to properly analyze the damage.

Step 4. Visual Mapping
A great form of communication between the Blueprint Analyst and the disassembly tech is the use of a colored water marker to write on the vehicle or “visual mapping.” It can sometimes be difficult to pull the technician aside for an extended period of time to discuss the details of a particular vehicle’s disassembly requirements. This technique can help by writing the instructions on the car in advance. This technique can also be used by the customer service rep who is identifying damage during vehicle check-in and is particularly handy when there are multiple dents or scratches on a single panel, some which are supposed to be repaired, and some that are not. When doing visual mapping, you can use any color you wish; however, I prefer to use traffic light colors: red, yellow and green.
● Red = Don’t fix
● Yellow = Caution, Don’t know if fixing yet?
● Green = Fix it!
You can come up with your own system of words, abbreviations, or symbols to mark the vehicle, but here are a couple of the most common ones.
● X = Replace
● R = Repair
● RI = Remove and Install
Step 5. Meticulous Disassembly in Sequence (if Possible)
In this step, it is time to start disassembling the damaged vehicle. If you have a dedicated Blueprint Analyst who will be keying-in the estimate as the technician removes the parts, it will be much easier to remove the parts in approximately the same group sequence as your estimating system parts groups i.e. bumper, grille, lamps, etc. This method is not always possible, but you will find that removing damaged parts and entering damage into the estimating system with both people following the same group sequence (Step 10) will make your life easier. You have probably heard the terms “meticulous disassembly” or “100% Teardown.” This refers to the practice of taking off EVERY damaged component that is bolted or otherwise fastened to the vehicle. This practice should not only include damaged parts but also parts being removed for blend panels or that need to be removed for access. Damaged assemblies such as bumpers should not only be removed as an assembly, but should also have all the grilles, lamps, moldings, fasteners, etc. removed. There are three main reasons that 100% Teardown is recommended.

1. To reveal all hidden damage
2. Ensure fasteners will be reused
3. Facilitate ease in mirror matching the replacement parts

Step 6. Divide Parts by Good and Bad (R&R and R&I)
As the technician is disassembling the vehicle, the parts being removed should be separated and placed in two visually separate spaces. One space for damaged parts (Bad) and another for parts just being removed and later re-installed (Good). I prefer to use a table to lay parts out, but you could also use the floor.

Step 7. Using a Clip Sheet
Clips and fasteners tend to be an often overlooked part of the damage analysis process and with costly consequences. Some shops consider clips and fasteners an expense. When damaged or missing fasteners are captured and billed out on the initial Blueprint, they become a profit center! I have seen several ways to capture and record these, but my favorite technique is to use a clip sheet. By the tech taping a sample of the damaged clip to a clip sheet and writing out the quantity needed, the person entering the information into the estimating system will have the information. There are two additional benefits to using this system.
1. You can take a photo of the clip sheet
to send to the parts vendor.
2. The clips are where you can mirror match them until the new clips arrive.
If your company stocks the needed clips, you should put the new replacement clips in a marked bag along with the old re-usable clips so when it comes time to reassemble the vehicle, everything the tech needs will be there. It’s a term called “kitting” because you are actually building a kit with everything needed to assemble the car on a parts cart.

Step 8. Re-backing Moldings and Trim
As mentioned, we are trying to build a “kit” for the technician during reassembly so cleaning the adhesive and applying new adhesive backing on moldings and emblems should be done immediately after removing them. There are advantages to re-backing the trim now.
● If molding is painted, lessens chance of damaging paint later on
● If they are going to break, it is better to know now so it can be added to re­­­pair plan
● Is ready to go back on during assembly (part of the “kit”)

Step 9. Sequenced Analysis of Damage Using Arrow-Down Method
There are several schools of thought about what sequence to put damage entries onto the estimate. Most of us were taught to start with the point of impact and then work outwards. I don’t agree with this because it opens up too much room for error. Nearly 10 years ago, a good friend suggested that I should use the information in the estimating system and take it to the damaged car, instead of the other way around. By keying down through every part in each group, you will now catch parts that may have been completely destroyed or torn off during the accident. I also highly recommend using actual OEM diagrams.

Step 10. Photo Documentation
In addition to your company’s photo standards, I suggest getting photos of the parts as they are being laid out on the table or floor. Your local insurance adjuster will most likely appreciate it.

Step 11. Blueprint Verification Process, Loading Parts Cart
This is the most important step! Print the estimate out. Check off each damage entry on your estimate as the corresponding part is loaded onto the cart. If you have everything checked off your estimate and there are still damaged parts on the table or floor, you may have missed something. It’s a simple but very powerful technique. Finally, be sure to place the parts in the same manner as discussed in Step 6. When you orderly divide the good and the bad parts on the cart, it makes checking the replacement parts for correctness (mirror matching) easier to do.
    For more information or to schedule a Blueprint Clinic at your shop, please contact David Luehr at:
dluehr@msn.com

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