Thursday, 21 April 2011 20:51

PPG’s MVP Spring Conference—Excellent, Entertaining and Informative

PPG hosted its invitation-only Spring 2011 MVP Conference in Palm Springs at the spectacular Rancho Las Palmas Resort March 27 through 29. The theme of the conference was ‘Journey to Excellence’ and excellence on many levels was provided for more than 350 fortunate PPG customers and special guests in attendance.

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Imagine a collision repair training event that combines a golfing retreat at a top-notch Southern California resort, high-end illusionists and magic tricks, nationally known motivational speakers, excellent and abundant food, and of course, serious and substantial shop management training. Add in a spectacular location, beautiful weather, and an intimate cocktail party—with live music—to introduce a continuous two-day trade show, and it’s hard to imagine a collision shop owner who wouldn’t want to be part of it.

Take note, industry, this is the way to hold a collision and refinish conference that leaves the attendees wondering what can possibily be done next year to top it. But it wasn’t just fun and games. In fact a good deal of the fun and games were designed with a serious purpose in mind, either to illustrate good and bad thought habits impacting business, or to invite introspection about running a collision business in an era of change and uncertainty. Clearly a lot of planning, refinement, and foresight went into designing the curriculum that drives the MVP Business Development Series from PPG.

The MVP program is a series of business development training courses covering every aspect of running a successful and profitable collision center. Add to that, the opportunity to attend MVP round table forums where participants brainstorm with their peers on ways to reduce cycle time, increase productivity and improve in areas where they might be underperforming, and the full import of the program comes together to benefit the shop, its employees, and its customers.

Jim Berkey, Director of Business Solutions for PPG Refinish,and Norm Angrove, Senior Manager of PPG Value-added Programs, explained over lunch that, when introduced more than a decade ago, MVP Business Solutions was the first program of its kind in the collision repair industry.  Since then, thousands of collision center owners and managers have taken advantage of MVP’s innovative programs to improve the way they run their businesses. Said Berkey, “In anticipation of industry consolidation five years ago, we started rebuilding our programs. It was clear to us that the industry was going to demand stronger performance around quality cost and speed. Feeling good about the training received and feeling good about their paint supplier was not going to be enough.”

“Our mission was to address cycle time reduction, the hardest metric to improve, by improving understanding about what really impacts cycle time.”

Both Berkey and Angrove eloborated on what success means to PPG and a great deal of their motivation stems from helping shops survive and thrive due to improved performance. Yes, it means keeping a customer who uses PPG product, but success really means helping that shop maintain its DRPs by helping them improve continuously. Berkey said that most shops (say 90%) know what’s wrong with their operations, roughly half of those know how to change (say 45%), but only half of those again (say 20%) can actually accomplish the change.

When asked about trends in DRPs during one of the sessions, Berkey responded, “Look at State Farm. State Farm has decreased its  DRPs from around 20,000 to somewhere around 11,000. It’s just getting more competitive. Shops must work on performance if they want to be one of those shops in competitive programs.”

The Keynote speakers at the event, introduced by Berkey, set the tone with an energetic talk by Greg Smith titled Fired Up, Leading Your Organization To Achieve Exceptional Results. Smith’s talk stressed that success increasingly depends on keeping your organization heading in the right direction and accelerating performance across the board. To truly succeed you need a high-energy workplace that boosts performance, generates more profits, increases sales and provides outstanding customer service. You must develop a plan that will generate measurable, bottom-line performance improvement results immediately. This will allow you to adapt to changing trends and manage shifts in markets, competition and customer preferences in a changing work environment.

Another motivational speaker was Michael McMillan, Author of Pink Bat: Turning Problems Into Solutions who spoke engagingly on the nature of problems, and the fear of a “problem pandemic.” Using events from his childhood, McMillan directed the audience to see how many perceived problems are actually unseen solutions. You either live each day in a world filled with “problems,” or invert your thinking to perceive a world of unseen solutions.

The keynotes helped pave the way for the larger message that MVP Services is all about continuous process improvement. The success of any collision center, now and in the future, is critically dependent on its ability to compete for business and repair vehicles more quickly without sacrificing quality or increasing costs. It requires new thinking, new processes, and a work culture devoted to continuous process improvement. Most critical are the leadership skills of managers, supervisors and team leaders, and their ability to implement and sustain continuous improvement throughout the organization. MVP Leadership training sessions provide a systematic approach for giving attendees the skills required to implement change in their collision centers.

The MVP Business Solutions program is designed to provide collision centres with an ongoing, real-world assessment of their performance as it compares to top-performing shops of similar size. Once this benchmarking analysis and bodyshop assessment is in hand, an owner or manager can identify any critical areas of their business that need to improve in order for the shop to reach its full potential.

The first day of breakout sessions were devoted to a variety of shop performance topics such as: 360 Degree Marketing, Load Leveling, Value Stream Mapping, and The Lean Journey in Collision. The second day consisted of follow-up workshops that were more interactive in nature and gave attendees an opportunity to see what type of material would be covered in the full PPG MVP classes, which are offered throughout the year in various US and Canadian locations.

PPG has worked with customers on implementing Lean for years, and has identified critical and necessary steps to go through to work successfully with customers. One of the breakout sessions, The Lean Journey in Collision—A Road Map to Implementation, presented by Jim Berkey and Randy Dewing, pointed out some unvarnished facts about Lean—that the failure rate while implementing Lean is far too high. This can be very discouraging. On the other hand, those successful in implementing changes to their shop culture and process performance can rest assured they will enjoy a competitive edge that others will envy. Thinking Lean and actually implementing are two different things. There is no one specific path that everyone must follow to implement Lean and develop processes with less waste.

Another session, Value Stream Mapping, was designed to see and align your organization around the greatest waste elimination opportunity. Collision center owners and managers know changes to their shop processes must be made to obtain improvement; however, change can be difficult. It is important that collision centers develop a way of routinely evaluating where their real next opportunity lies in eliminating waste from the collision center process. The workshop included exercises with participants using their own shop data to develop a value stream map to illustrate their performance.

A comprehensive implementation plan can be used as a starting point for those who have not yet started a Lean journey or as a benchmark for those who are somewhere on the implementation journey.

Another breakout session, a ‘360-Degree Marketing’ Workshop—Developing Your Plan, provided guidance on building a personalized marketing plan for your business. Led by the marketing experts of the MVP Business Solutions team, Norm Angrove and John Martin, the two-hour workshop addressed the practical tools collision center owners and managers can use in their business. Starting with a marketing template, each participant focused on a target audiences and marketing techniques to attract and retain customers, covering strategies and needs of connecting with the four generations in the marketplace, social media engagement, elevating the customer experience and new insurer communication opportunities.

This session focused on the different generations that comprise a body shops’s customers, and the different ways they need to be communciated with. The Boomer generation (those born 1946–1964) grew up with newspapers, the nightly news, and phone calls. The X, Y and Z generations grew up with computers and Internet and prefer text-based communications. As the session pointed out, the “Unshakeable Issues” for body shop owners are that they must learn to communciate with customers the way the customers want to be communciated with, and learning to use social media is critical to any businesses success. As the presenters pointed out, “It took newspapers 100 years to reach 50% penetration in US households, and social media has reached 50% househould penetration in only 4 years!”

Load Leveling
Load Leveling with Mark Mueller, Brett Bialowas and David Knapp, was an interactive workshop to help level the volume of work in the shop by understanding simple models like the law of the funnel (Little’s law, see sidebar). Most if not all collision centers are faced with high levels of variation in the incoming work to the shop. There is the classic dilemma of pressure to take too many sets of keys based upon current levels of work in the shop versus the real fear of losing those keys to the competition. As cycle time became a critical measure we have learned more about the relationship between work in process inventory at the shop, and the cycle time at the shop. As we know, as car count increases, so does cycle time. Thus it is more important now than ever before to influence incoming work flow to any degree possible. The workshop looked at the impact that variation in work volume and mix has on the process and explored practical work load leveling systems that have been successfully used within collision center businesses.

Perhaps the most entertaining speaker of all was magician and comedian, Kevin King, who billed himself as a practitioner of Verbal Perception Manipulation (VPM) and a “Master of Information” as well as “master of doubletalk.” King used verbal bafflegab in his talk purporting to describe “federal securities and accounting practices” but which soon devolved into a rapid fire non-sensical speech delivered deadpan until the audience could not help but burst into laughter. He proceded to amaze with prodigious feats of memorization, identifying hidden items while blindfolded, and some interesting variations on standard card tricks. Along the way he offered a few tips on how to use verbal perception manipulation (double-talk) to fend off those you’d rather not communicate with. Of course, King’s real message was that clear and real communication is the core ‘secret’ of business success.

When you end this two-day extravaganza with a gourmet sit-down dinner catered on the fairway adjoining the last green on the golf course, you begin to understand why a chipping contest over a water hazard would be the appropriate prelude to dinner. A rat pack of tribute singers provided a fifties-era Vegas after-dinner show underneath a brilliant moon. It’s hard to imagine a better ending—or is it just a temporary conclusion—to an event that, at its heart, wants to be better and better over time.

About PPG’s MVP Business Solutions
PPG’s MVP Business Solutions offers the industry’s most widely-attended training programs for helping collision centers learn practical, proven ways to improve their process improvement and succeed in a highly-competitive marketplace. The MVP Business Development Series offers over 12 courses, encompassing all facets of managing a profitable collision repair business—from estimating, administrative and organizational management to sales, marketing and production management. In addition, the MVP Throughput Performance Solutions Series includes MVP Green Belt Training, the industry’s most comprehensive training program for implementing the practical application of Lean Six Sigma for collision repair.

As a follow-up to Green Belt Training, the Business Development Series also offers training on Job Instruction, Job Methods and Job Relations—critical skills for implementing and sustaining change. Keys to the success of the MVP training programs are the dynamic course topics and real-world expertise and experience of MVP Certified Instructors.

MVP Job Relations
Positive employee relations is a critical factor for operating a successful business - and even more critical when implementing new processes and plans for improving performance. This insightful course teaches practical skills for enhancing employee relations and preventing problems from arising, while also providing a strucutred method to objectively solve problems when they do arise.

MVP Job Instruction
Good training sessions with proper instruction are critical to the success of stabilizing performance and sustaining change. This course teaches a strctured, proven way of training that can be employed in the workplace to ensure learning is retained and consistently applied in support of established process procedures. Particular emphasis is placed on the “Learn by Doing” principle, an effective method for ensuring that the employee retains the knowledge and skills required to do the job.

MVP Job Methods
Finding opportunities for improvement you can’t readily see is essential to ensuring continuous improvement. This course teaches how to make the best use of people, equipment and materials by focusing on how to break down a job and question its every detail. Participants are taught skills for combining, rearranging or eliminating steps within the job to create a new, more productive standard operating procedure.

Learn more about the MVP series by calling 866-237-8178 or emailing MVPmailbox@ppg.com.

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