Audit is a scary word—tax audits, financial audits, and process audits often conjure images of mounds of paperwork. There are different approaches to running an audit, many of which are cumbersome, completed one time and forgotten, or too complicated from the first step.
Simplifying the process and moving away from a process audit to a Process Analysis will help you with continuous improvement. FinishMaster has built a system to help shop owners improve processes by getting the entire team involved, applying small changes, and monitoring success over time.
Jeff Smith, FinishMaster District Sales Manager in West Central Florida, discusses shop audits he has seen in the past. “I have seen audits that are 30 pages long with 100+ boxes to check off. People are ready to be done before they start. Our experience shows that less is better and it is more about observing and asking questions than checking boxes.” Smith said they have built a process focused around six key points that lead to an effective and successful Process Analysis.
Take off the blinders. Look at the shop from a fresh perspective and do not assume that anything is perfect. FinishMaster helps remove the blinders by tailoring the process analysis to what each shops needs.
Chris Shrewsbury, Collision Director for Ferman Acura and Chevrolet in Tampa, FL, talks about his experience with audits. “Instead of one size fits all, FinishMaster’s Process Analysis really looks at our facilities for ways to improve on an individual basis and they help implement the changes. Being able to constantly see ways to improve allows us to adapt to an ever-changing industry.” Even if a process is documented, review it using the Process Analysis plan, there might be additional opportunity for improvement.
Keep it simple. Smith said he starts with one area that needs improvement, such as color match. Having a “road map of questions” in advance and asking more that come to mind while walking through the process allows you to uncover opportunities for improvement. Smith continued, “It is important to take pictures while you are conducting the process analysis. This is not only a great reminder of each step, but it is also an important visual aid when compiling the analytics. Here are some of the basic questions specific to color match asked during a Process Analysis.
• When is color matching done?
• Is it done in the spray booth?
• Do you use all color documentation including variant chips?
• When do you do spray outs?
Keeping it simple and walking through one process from start to finish, rather than tackling an entire list, enables the group to more easily identify points of opportunity for change.
Gain more input from Management and Technicians. Focusing on the questions and answers gathered during the Process Analysis is the best opportunity to gain insight about current process and ideas for change. If you ask the right questions, in most cases, both the management and the technicians will give you more than enough opportunities for improvement. Building the Process Analysis through documented conversation leads to solutions. To set up new processes and implement change, there has to be buy-in from all participants.
Match changes/Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to material movement. Think back to the color match issue reviewed during the Process Analysis. Once the current process is understood through questions and photo documentation, digging through the data is the next step. Identify areas that the smallest changes will have the greatest impact. For example, with color match a suggested improvement is to complete the initial spray out when jambing parts.
When implementing a small change, this is the perfect opportunity to set up SOPs.
“During the SOP setup, we use the data collected to match all materials, storage, and distribution to the technicians so there is complete compliance. When you can match procedures to materials with no options to step outside the defined SOPs, you have a very high success rate on both profitability and productivity,” said Smith.
Monitor for success. Smith reinforced, “Making major changes is why we see other audits fail. Focusing on small changes has the most impact, and monitoring those changes is the only way to be successful.”
There are two simple steps once you have identified an opportunity and set new SOPs.
Step 1 is to build a follow-up check list. Basically, this is a small analysis custom built to monitor compliance on all the agreed changes and new SOPs with key performance indicators (KPIs). Most of the time audits are performed, the results go in the back of the desk drawer and implementation is rare. With a follow-up check list performed at preset intervals, the same issues will not come up six months or a year later. A check list has to be custom built with each Process Analysis conducted at the shop.
“Setting up procedures that match only materials in our facility has increased both profitability and productivity. With FinishMaster’s unique KPI tracking methods we monitor our progress to ensure the procedures are followed and the changes are positive,” said Shrewsbury of Ferman Acura and Chevrolet.
Step 2 is to monitor performance. Again, everyone has KPIs and spreadsheets with more numbers than most can digest. Keep it simple. Have only pertinent KPIs and build a custom tracking calculator that can monitor the effectiveness of the changes implemented. This takes some creativity and some help from FinishMaster, but when you sit down to review KPIs it will include very specific measures of implemented change that show profitability and productivity results.
Understand that the process never ends. The continuous improvement model is a key component of making the Process Analysis successful. By removing blinders, all areas in the shop can be reviewed over time and check lists can be updated if better process ideas are identified. Larry Lampinen, Owner of Nu Finish Collision in Brandon, FL, discusses his experience with FinishMaster’s Process Analysis.
“Most companies claim to have a lot of tools to help you, but you rarely see them used. To my surprise, FinishMaster came in day one doing a Process Analysis and has not stopped bringing me ideas for improvement. The data the Process Analysis provides ties material usage to an individual technician in correlation to their hours produced. This gives us a very precise way to see profitability by technician so we can identify opportunities for improvement right down to a technician. Their implementation of best practices has been a benefit to my overall performance.”