Creating flow by eliminating waste

May 18, 2016
There are key reasons for costly disruptions in your shop's productivity. Fight back if your operation is being victimized by any of these profit busters.

Strangely enough, you'll probably never run into anyone at a Lean Manufacturing conference named Tim Woods. If so, he'll likely be the most glared-at guy in the room. That's because "TIMWOODS" is an actual acronym for the eight most dreaded forms of waste in a production environment. They're the key reasons for costly disruptions in your shop's productivity. Read on to determine if your operation is being victimized by any of these profit busters.

TRANSPORTATION: Eliminate movement, reduce waste
Transportation involves the movement of people, product and information. The more movement (the more that vehicle is pulled in and out of the shop, for instance), the less efficient the process is, the more time is wasted and the higher the risk of mistakes occurring. 

In a traditional environment, that could mean frequent visits to the storeroom every time a part is needed. Once that part is located, it has to be moved to the respective job site. Or, when orders arrive, techs generally have to pull their own parts from a centralized material location and transport those parts to their work stations.

In a process-centered environment, "kits" (or parts carts) are assembled and equipped with ALL parts, materials and detailed information (and even photos and voice recordings highlighting special instructions for the tech) for point-of-use access. Because parts are mirror-matched prior to joining the repair kit, the techs never have to wander the shop floor looking for missing components for the job or discover late in the game that they have a damaged or incorrect part.

The key to eliminating transport waste is to decrease unnecessary distance traveled by the tech in the repair of the vehicle, which greatly reduces the time required to get the job done right.

INVENTORY: Just-in-time or just-in-case?
Shops with an overstock of material and paint inventory take on substantially more risk than process-centered environments that order precisely what they need to complete the vehicle repair (or carry only a few days' worth of inventory versus weeks or months in a traditional shop environment).  Besides tying up cash, excess inventory is a potential breeding ground for unconscious waste or even "leakage" that goes unnoticed because of the volume of stored products. Furthermore, an abundance of material on the shelf fosters a throw-away mentality, as team members can always go to the inventory room or cabinet for replenishment. 

Implementing a just-in-time inventory philosophy will greatly reduce cash burdens on the business and provide greater control over paint and material inventory. With that increased control, you'll be better equipped to track usage measurements and accurately determine reorder frequency.

Inventory also relates to the volume of work you have on property and the current capacity that you have at your facility. That optimal formula is actually pretty simple if you understand the average number of days it takes to get through your process, and the anticipated or desired delivery rate in dollars and cars. Efficient collision repair operations understand capacity and the optimal number of cars and job sizes they can handle on a daily basis. 

Excess inventory dilutes the effort and attention required for each vehicle and repair. To illustrate, a lot filled with vehicles waiting to gain entrance into the shop plays havoc on the human psyche as team members push to keep up with demand. Further, the sheer amount of inventory needed on hand to address all those vehicles (and the space to store that inventory) will quickly drain an operation's cash flow.

So that surplus inventory situation isn't doing anything to accelerate the delivery of cars (which are currently in process) to their owners. It's actually slowing things down.

Knowing your shop's daily capacity, and working to keep the right amount of work on the lot to fill that capacity is key. Anything over that capacity is waste and subsequently contributing to negative performance.

MOTION: Is the team bending overbackwards to complete the repair?
In the proud, herculean environment of a collision repair shop, rarely does management hear complaints of stressed limbs, achy backs or bruised hands. But those little nuisances definitely impact performance. The constant bending, turning and contorting into tight spots — while working in often poorly lit work stations — will often take a toll on output and quality, and can often lead to fatigue, stress, accidents and injuries.

This form of waste can be controlled by ensuring that repair kits are assembled with point-of-use material and tooling, and that parts stands are easily accessed. Is the vehicle positioned properly or are techs crawling over (and under) it to work?  Is there proper lighting in the shop and directed at the repair point?

An ergonomically correct work environment will cut down on the number of tired, frustrated, beat up and accident-prone members on your team.

WAITING: The leading cause of waste on the shop floor
You read that correctly. Any time that a repair job grinds to a halt, your performance is affected. 

There are so many reasons for waiting in this business, and that presents opportunities to improve the effectiveness of the operation. From poorly diagnosed initial assessments ("Wait, here's another item that wasn't on the original repair order") and slow third-party response ("We're still waiting for the approval") to parts availability ("That re-order will take one to four days") and workflow ("Just waiting for someone to tell me what to work on next"), the act of waiting increases time and stress, contributes to communication breakdowns and adds costs to the job.

Every form of wait waste extends the cycle time of the repair.  A process-centered environment utilizes various forms of controls and a "first-time quality" mindset that provides an opportunity to decrease "Wait" in the quest for a more optimal workflow.

OVER-PRODUCTION: Biting off more than you can chew
In a traditional collision repair environment, individual workloads act independently of each other, making it increasingly difficult to deliver consistency in quality and on-time performance.  The key to maintaining those workloads in traditional shops is to have enough vehicles on hand to keep individual paychecks healthy and techs constantly working. Unfortunately, over-production doesn't lead to continuous, predictable and dependable flow.

A prime example is producing body repairs at a greater rate than a shop is able to accommodate on the refinish side. Continuing to produce and allow cars to stack up behind the booth increases internal inventory while doing little or nothing to increase the pace of delivery if that downstream operation has limited and finite capacity.

OVER-PROCESSING: Know when to say when
Are your techs wasting time disassembling a total loss? Are they sanding and buffing the whole panel flat when all that is needed is to address small nibs and imperfections to match factory texture?

Over-processing means going needlessly beyond manufacturer standards in the repair process.  This requires more time, more material and more unnecessary costs. (In some cases, this can even devalue a car.)

Therefore, it's vital to stay up to date on manufacturer guidelines, perform visual inspections and use sound judgment to determine just how far to take the repair process.

DEFECTS: Don't EVER look back
Defects, rework and supplements are words that make shop owners cringe.  They stop the process and slow down the repair. More importantly, they cut into the bottom line.

What do you have to do to guarantee that you never return to that previous step in the repair process? In a process-centered environment, the answer begins at the first point of customer contact in the assessment phase. Can they describe the incident in detail? Were there beverages in the car at the point of impact? Did the vehicle hit a curb or pole? 

Collecting the proper information upfront — and validating work after each step in the process — will eliminate defects downstream and begin to chip away at that costly "we budget for supplements" mentality. First-time quality and completeness in every step needs to be the overriding thought process.

SKILL SETS: Your team knows best
This form of waste often deals with the under-utilization of an individual's skills, talents and intelligence throughout the process.  It often addresses those situations where team members may be under-skilled or even unqualified for a particular task.  But let's take a deeper look and discuss the positive impact your frontline crew can have on your overall operation.

More traditional collision repair operations are largely all about a "keep quiet and keep working mentality — let the techs do their jobs and management will do its job. But we've come a long way to changing that mentality.

Process-centered environments work because they constantly rely on team members to consult on process improvement. And the result of this involvement is some pretty innovative and creative solutions to everyday processes that save money and time, improve quality and boost morale.

Involving your team members in the decision-making process is the best way to effectively utilize their skill sets and can dramatically improve your process.

Kick TIMWOODS out of your shop
Where do you see waste in your operation? If any of these waste streams sound familiar, the best thing to do is tackle just one area initially and see if the process downstream is impacted. Once you experience the positive results of eliminating waste in the process, you and your team will want to engage in a vigilant and ongoing "waste-watch" to ensure that this process killer doesn't show up again.

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