by Mark Johnson
NACE Online Daily News Contributor
Every body talks about improving cycle time, but no one does anything about it. That won't be the case for many of the people who attended Kent Carlson's seminar on "Accelerated Cycle Time" which took them, step-by-step, through the ways that they can improve cycle time in their shops.
"If you tackle these areas and go in order then you should see some pretty dramatic improvements pretty quickly," says Carlson, co-owner of Collision Resources.
The 11-step process Carlson outlined in the class starts with measuring your cycle time. "If you don't know what your cycle time is then you can't improve it," says Carlson Once you know where you stand you set a goal, which is the second step.
Controlling your workflow through scheduling is the next thing a shop must do. "Instead of having everything come in on Monday and go out on Friday you can use your resources a lot more efficiently if you improve your scheduling," says Carlson.
Managing your constraints - dealing with the areas in your shop where you have limited capacity is the next step Carlson dealt with. "There are going to be certain places where things get bottlenecked," says Carlson who explained that the paint booth was one prime example.
Knowledge is an important part of achieving optimal cycle time and Carlson outlined a method of delivering information to the right people at the right time.
"Blueprinting" repairs is one of the key elements to Carlson's program. "Repairs are going to go much faster if you know ahead of time what you need to do," says Carlson. Blueprinting is significantly different from what most shops do and Carlson says that it need not be an elaborate process, but instead he stresses getting the critical people together when a car comes into the shop and spending ten minutes examining the torn down vehicle so that all of them understand what will be needed to complete the repair. "Taking the time at the beginning of the process will save you time in the long run," Carlson says. "Most shops don't take the time to tear a car down to see what's really broken and what they have to order. The technician comes back and says 'we'll have to order these parts' and then you start running into delays."
Streamlining the parts process to ensure technicians have the right parts at the right time is the next step, and follows directly from blueprinting, but Carlson adds that it also includes how you store and label parts, and how you communicate about the parts process. "In some shops a technician might spend fifteen minutes walking back and forth to talk to a parts person asking 'is my part here yet?'" says Carlson. Having the parts manager inform the tech saves time.
"Is there a piece of you workflow that you can change to improve cycle time?" asks Carlson. "In grocery stores they have express lanes. In some shops it might make sense to have an 'express lane' for small repairs," says Carlson, explaining how the step of ensuring that a bunch of small jobs donāt get backed up behind a single large repair can drastically reduce cycle time. In the same way, the next step, making the most of your staff, reduces time by putting the right person on the right job.
Organizing space and understanding how the size of your business affects cycle time were the last steps that Carlson explained.
As much a motivational seminar as an exploration of the steps needed to reduce cycle time "Accelerated Cycle Time" gave attendees the knowledge they need to do more than just talk about cycle time.
Mark Johnson is senior editor for ABRN.