He had no background in the body shop industry and started out in the service department. After working in the service department for two years, he was asked to move to the body shop to learn how to write estimates. Six months later, he was promoted to manager of the collision shop. He began working closely with the owner of the dealership to help build a successful body shop using specific processes based on the Theory of Constraints. These included some of the processes implemented in December 2014 from Bodyshop Revolution.
Autobody News spoke to Sattler about the importance of setting up processes in a body shop and how it can help with better cycle time, build closer relationships with employees and ensure a better overall product.
Q: With no industry experience prior to joining Rydell, can you tell us about your background and how you became collision manager?
A: I came to work at Rydell from the trucking industry and had zero background in the body shop world. They had built this new building the year that I started in the service department. After two years, the manager of the body shop decided he was going to move into another Rydell store. They asked me if I would be interested in the job in the body shop and in taking this journey with them to see where we could go. I think they were looking for someone who didn't have a background in the industry and had no misconceptions about it. The body shop has always intrigued me. I love cars so I said, “Why not?”
Looking back on it now, I have to laugh. When I moved to the body shop, it was the week of 4th of July. I showed up Monday afternoon and I had Tuesday and half of Wednesday to learn how to write an estimate in Mitchell software before the only estimator left that Wednesday afternoon... permanently! Wes Rydell, the owner, took me under his wing and educated me. Here I am 12 years later, still learning every day.
Q: How has the shop utilized the Theory of Constraints methodology? (Theory of Constraints is a methodology for identifying the most important limiting factor, i.e. constraint that stands in the way of achieving a goal and then systematically improving that constraint until it is no longer the limiting factor.)
A: My first training on Theory of Constraints was reading an article called “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” written by Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt. Eli was a very good friend of Wes Rydell. In the beginning, when Wes told him that he wanted to take this Toyota production system and build it into a body shop, Eli (from my understanding) pretty much told him that he’s nuts and it would be a huge challenge.
When Rydell constructed the new body shop building a little over 14 years ago, it was set up with the theory of constraints in mind.
Once a car is introduced into production, it never has to go outside of the building. One of our goals is to always try and work towards consistently working on a particular car. It was easy when there were just a few technicians, but now that we have 20, it becomes more of a challenge every day. Every once in a while, we have to go back and reread the article and make sure we’re true to what our constraint is in the shop.
Early on, we realized in most cases when people in the industry talk about “lean” or “theory of constraints” they are typically talking about the paint booth being the constraint. What we have learned is the painting of the repair is really the most consistent part of the repair. We focused on the metal side of the repair because when we stepped back and looked at why our metal techs would have to stop and restart a repair, until the vehicle moves to the paint side, the majority of the variables always came prior to the paint process. Supplements, missed parts, wrong parts, parts broken during disassembly, hidden damage, panel written to repair when it needs to be replaced and even the wrong tech working on a job. These are all typical variables that always cause techs to start and stop on a repair long before the vehicle ever moves to the paint department. We found that until we removed all these constraints, there was no way that we could ever get constant work flow. Once we stepped back and tracked all these variables, and realized just how much of an impact it was having on our performance, we knew we had to focus on eliminating them.
Our first step was realizing that it all starts with the estimating process. When we started tracking the stops and their causes, we learned that we needed to look at the quality of the estimate and mapped vehicle that we were giving our technicians. We also realized that we were really not taking advantage of our tech’s abilities. To get the best out of them, you have to give them the best chance to win. I think a huge milestone for us was when we realized that if we looked at tech’s stops and starts as a fail the same way that we look at when a customer comes to pick up their vehicle, and we missed something, which we always look at as a fail, the impact is the same. The techs having to stop because of a poor estimate was the same fail as when a customer came to pick up their car and they found something wrong. We are significantly better today than when we started two years ago, and we know we still have many improvements that we need to do to even make us better.
Our whole process has been designed around focusing on eliminating as many situations that prevent a car from not being continuously worked on when released for repairs.
Q: What is the benefit of continuous workflow?
A: Performance from better cycle time and hours per day. When a technician does not have to constantly start and stop on a repair, he can focus and concentrate on his work. This allows for better repairs and more consistency in their performance. They earn more money, are much happier and their quality of work improves dramatically.
B: Better performing body shops that are in the DRP world understand the importance of performance. It gives them the ability to receive more cars from insurance companies.
Our shop, like thousands of other shops, typically processed work the same way because “it’s all we know” and “because that’s how we always did it!” I believe the collision repair industry is changing; there are many new repair processes and opportunities for repair shops to improve their performance. They can have a process in place that allow them to better repair vehicles and know that those repairs are done correctly, become faster and ultimately become a more profitable shop.
C: When we talk about continuous workflow, it means that after the technician gets a vehicle into his stall for repair, our goal is that he is working on that one vehicle from the time that he starts in the morning and until he completes it or punches out for the day. We don’t allow him to work on another vehicle until it moves to paint, then typically, we’ll have that technician look at his next job while the other car is in paint and he might do some pre-staging, pull his parts, etc.
Our cycle time for going through the paint booth is about 52-53 minutes with a gas catalytic robot. The vehicle is not on the paint side very long, so the repairing technician will get his repair back for reassembly typically within 60 to 75 minutes. We truly work at getting four hours a day on every car that we repair that has 4.0 or more repair or refinish hours.
Q: What were some of the changes you implemented at Rydell when you began using the processes from Bodyshop Revolution?
A: When Bodyshop Revolution came into our world in 2014, it was a huge culture change. Prior to this, we tried many different stages and types of blueprinting and mirror matching of parts, etc. but we couldn’t get our processes consistent to the point where we didn’t have what we call “process evaporation.” We’d implement a new process, it would work well for a couple of weeks, maybe even a few months, but as time passed, we would see this process evaporation and after a period of time, we seemed to fall back to our comfort level of doing things the old way.
What we found was we didn’t have a good set of ground rules or a good solid outline to follow that allowed us to monitor these new processes and be able to follow up correctly when they seemed to fail. In many cases, we had good training and we knew what we wanted to accomplish, but we just seemed to always chase success.
Once we found and were trained on Bodyshop Revolution’s Vehicle Damage Assessment (VDA) process, it was a HUGE change in how we assessed vehicle damage. We had to change our thought process on how important estimating the vehicle was, and how it affects the complete repair. We had to understand how important accuracy of the estimate really was and also the importance of how we map our vehicles, and ultimately, the biggest reality was how we needed to looked at the value of our metal and paint technicians.
We all know that starts and stops in this industry are a given. With the VDA, our goal is to eliminate as many of these starts and stops as possible. We know we can’t stop them all, but if we can get better at determining the why of these stops, we can get better with our repair performance. Any time a technician has to stop working on a vehicle, we consider that a fail the same way as if a customer up front comes to pick up a vehicle and notices something that isn’t properly repaired. The culture for us became that we looked at our technicians as customers of the estimating process and that anytime they had to leave their six-foot repair circle—the area around the repair that they are working on—that it is a fail.
Once we had the VDA in place, our first true success and example of what we call continuous workflow was a Cobalt repair. This happened on a Wednesday; the vehicle was a front-end hit with nine and a half hours of total repair work, metal and paint time. The tech started on it after his morning coffee break, about 9:15 a.m., and we were able to call the customer a little after 4:30 in the afternoon and he was here at 5:30 picking up his vehicle. That was a huge win for us, and that one repair helped all of us understand what we were really trying to accomplish—continuous workflow on a vehicle.
Typically, in some shops, they may have a different tech for each of the following: taking the car apart, fixing it, prepping it, refinishing it and putting it back together. For some shops, this works great; for us, it did not. We spent too much time going back and forth and too many hands touched the vehicle; we wanted to simplify this.
Many of Bodyshop Revolution's processes align with the theory of constraints. We would not be where we are at if we would not have had the Bodyshop Revolution process come in. It enhanced what we were trying to do with continuous workflow and made it tenfold easier.
We’ve tweaked it to where it makes sense for us but the core values and some very specific ground rules are still in place today as they were two years ago when we first started.
Q: How did you get from where you started until now?
A: I have read a lot of books, visited a lot of shops and became involved with a Twenty group through our paint company. Fortunately, it had some very high performing body shops that I was able to tour and see their processes. I realized that there are other people out there doing the same things we’re doing now. They’re not necessarily exactly the same, but ultimately they’re doing things to make themselves a better shop and that helped provide the fuel for me to want to be like them.
A lot had to do with the management staff. It goes back to the owners making the commitment. When things didn’t go the way we expected, we talked about it and tried to figure out why it didn’t work.
One of our greatest assets is that our owner is always committed to trying to be the best. He taught me that you are going to fail and when you fail, fail hard and fail early so you can move on and start making progress. That failure is an opportunity to learn.
We have far surpassed our goals that we initially talked about 12 years ago. Now our goals have changed because we have achieved these things and learned that as good as we are today, we can become even better. Now the hard work really begins with fine tuning the process.
Q: How have your employees dealt with the changes over the years and what advice do you have for other shops in terms of building better employee relations?
A: The most important part of the puzzle is the employees here. It’s fun and impressive to talk about how we’ve grown over the years but the reality is what we’re doing here is a byproduct of a commitment from not only management but also from the employees. There are about five of us who have been together about 12 years. The employees are the people who deserve the credit because they didn’t give up. Change for people is very very hard and I am forever indebted to the people who were there during these changes.
One of the most valuable lessons that we have learned through all this is when we decide to either change a process or implement a new one, we will include any staff that will be touched by the change. We will sit down and talk about what it is we want to change or try, explain the why... and then listen to what their thought process might be. They deserve the opportunity to express their concerns and know how the change or new process might affect them and possibly their paycheck.
Another important thing to remember is any process change or shop repair experimentation can never come at the cost of the employees. We’ve always tried to take care of our employees and I think that is why they’ve stayed here and are still as committed today to get better as they were when we started this journey. All of us are in it together and we are all committed!
Randy Sattler is featured in the book The Secrets of America’s Greatest Body Shops, written by Dave Luehr with Stacey Phillips, scheduled to be released in early 2017. For more information, visit www.bodyshopsecrets.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.