Getting Buy-In for the Lean Machine
How you can best sell 'Lean' management principles to your staff
There is no doubt that the concepts being implemented in the collision industry through Lean/Kaizen can be as foreign to a shop owner as a Western-Somalian dialect. But what about to the staff and technicians within that organization who think "Lean" has something to do with meat? If you are looking to improve your productivity and throughput with Lean/Kaizen systems and tools, you must have everyone on board and rowing in the same direction.
Keep Employees Focused on the Goal of 'Lean'
One of the biggest mistakes and challenges facing shop owners who are embarking on any organizational change is how to keep everyone focused and engaged with the forward-thinking goals of those changes, and how to get everyone's buy-in. Many owners and managers attempt to "drive change" from the top, but failure is sure to come with that approach. There is no doubt the owners and managers must commit to the changes. But they must also realize successful change only comes when how well the rest of the organization accepts and embraces the "new direction."
This in itself often has historical baggage attached as well. In many organizations, when the owner or manager goes to a new seminar, reads a new business book or article, they get excited about the potential that the changes can make to their organization. They are often so excited about the "new way" of doing things, they want to change everything in the first week afterward. This excitement and drive usually dissipates in just a few short days, as the owner or manager gets back to the normal daily operations. If this has occurred multiple times within your organization, your staff knows exactly how to react to your "new ideas" as well. They simply just nod their heads in a positive but reserved manner, until you resume back to "normal."
To get any organization to commit to the level of accepting the major changes required with Lean/Kaizen, it is even more challenging because it often contradicts what and how we have always conducted business in the past. One of the most important concepts about implementing Lean/Kaizen within the collision repair industry that I have heard came from the words crafted by John Sweigart, a leading expert of Lean implementation. They are, "It is not management's role to keep people busy, it's about keeping the vehicle busy."
This statement may not appear to mean much to some, but it has been the foundation of inefficiency within the collision repair industry since production managers, estimators and parts managers were invented. Ask yourself, why do you have multiple work bays for each technician? The true answer is because they need to have somewhere to work on a vehicle when the other vehicles are at a stopping point due to parts, supplements, authorizations or waiting for equipment.
Steps to Take for Buy-In
How do you get everyone in your organization to "buy-in?" The first step is to not make the mistakes listed above. Then make sure everyone is exposed to enough information through training so they can see the benefits to them. To accomplish this, there are several options. The Automotive Management Institute (AMI) has course offerings that may be brought to your area or even to your company. You can do a key word search on cycle time, Lean and production at www.amionline.org. However, these courses are most often directed toward owners and managers and not to the technician level. This is again a serious mistake not to make ... everyone needs to see the changes. Until last year, there really was nowhere to find this. Now the new I-CAR program, Overview of Cycle Time Improvements for the Collision Repair Process (CYC01), can benefit your entire staff greatly as an introduction to the changes, and the benefits the changes can provide to them. This should be a must for everyone in your organization.
What is next? I am a believer that when everyone sees, hears, and understands the same information, it is only then that open dialogue can begin, and engagement will occur. Once everyone has heard the same message (probably best from someone outside your own organization), discussion, contribution, and ownership by your staff is then possible. This requires a series of events (as many as it takes) to get everyone working on the "Repair Machine" and not just doing their current job.
Many ask, why would staff get involved? The answer is that they are asked to be, and the purpose is to fix the machine, so all can eliminate the obstacles that restrict their performance for their part in the company's "repair machine."
If you ever ask a technician why they have to stop and start so much, they will almost always point at the parts department. If you ask the parts department what prohibits them from performing their job at the highest level, they will almost always point at the estimators. If you ask the estimators why they can't perform their jobs to the most accurate level, they often point to the technicians who they feel are never satisfied and always have the crisis issues at the end, or the insurer's requirements. This cycle must be broken, and can only be if they understand that the pains can go away.
Benefits of Implementing 'Lean'
Everyone understands that if all the right and usable parts are there, the job sails through - often without any hiccups. However, once supplements, additional parts orders and other work flow delays occur, the flow trickles down often to a drip. How often do you use smaller jobs as a filler to bigger ones? How often do you take someone off a job they are currently working on to finish another or get on the "hot one?" This goes away when Lean/Kaizen is in place and flow is produced.
The issues the parts manager, estimator and other staff members have on a daily basis can be broken down as well. Positive solutions can be identified and implemented through working with smaller groups that focus on solutions rather than pointing blame. Yes, be prepared for a few sessions of "release" with blaming and rationales that will soon be removed; this is first nature of most.
Most of the improvements will revolve around the pre-production processes. The vehicle check-in, the blueprinting of the vehicle, and the parts procurement process are key areas, which will have a remarkable effect. These processes alone will have a dramatic effect on the production process. Technicians will certainly like this for more reasons than the potential earnings. The whole "chaos" goes away during the daily operations. Managers and estimators actually like it because they are able to do their duties "one time" rather than several phases throughout the vehicle repair. The work environment simply improves and vehicles get busy ... not just your people.
If you need any assistance in making these changes, there are several resources available. It takes your commitment first - but then the engagement of everyone else to make it possible.
Copyright (c) 1996-2011. Automotive Service Association®. All rights reserved.