By Rachael J. Mercer
Mike Anderson began his two-part NACE class about Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) by sharing personal experiences and humor. Attendees told each other about mistakes all collision center owners make at one time or another, and then Anderson began seriously discussing with them ways to make these now-humorous events never happen again.
Anderson discussed events that have molded his business, Wagonwork Collision Centers, including improvements, accidents and everyday occurrences that once were problematic.
To begin, new-hires and apprentices are presented with expectations upon joining the Wagonwork collision team.
Anderson says, "Apprentices need two tools to succeed in business: structure and procedures." One of the best ways to grow a profitable business is to begin at the bottom-hiring quality employees and making sure they possess qualities that you require from all employees, whether new-hires or not. Cleanliness and punctuality are two requirements of all employees in the Wagonwork shop. All employees must report to work on time and in a work-ready state. They are required to keep the work area clean of clutter-communicating good housekeeping habits and workplace organizational skills.
Employees are required to listen, and are forbidden from questioning the team leader. "The only time it is acceptable to question a team leader is if they ask you to do something that is unethical or unsafe," said Anderson. "Team leaders are put in those positions because of their experience. If there is a problem with a decision he has made, we encourage employees to make a mental note and inquire with the team leader at the end of the day."
Professionalism is another quality required of Wagonwork employees. "Professionalism covers no foul language, no horseplay and maintaining a professional appearance," Anderson explained. "Technicians should use proper terminology for procedures and should be cautious when speaking around customers, so as not to make a mistake."
"Why do we require these attributes in new employees? Because when a vehicle gives you a hard time or you smash your finger in the hood, it won't be the money that keeps you from becoming frustrated," said Anderson. "It will be your love for the trade that keeps you going. This is a frustrating career at times. You must have a lot of patience to be successful, and liking what you do is the key to a long and successful career as a collision repair technician."
Once employed, safety is one item that is emphasized from Wagonwork employees. Wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) is required in designated work areas. Whenever employees are spraying primers, rust proofing, removing damaged metal panels, stripping chemicals, buffing, polishing or working to refinish a vehicle, they are required to wear their PPEs.
Working On the Vehicle
Avoiding mishaps when working on a customer's vehicle does not come by luck, Anderson stressed. Instead, there are specific steps which can be taken to ensure time and profits are not lost when careless mistakes are made.
When the process for pulling vehicles into a work stall begins, there are several steps to take, said Anderson. First, employees must check to be sure they have the correct key. Key replacement due to breakage or a jam can cost as much as $100 per incident. Anderson encouraged technicians to visually inspect the vehicle for protruding metals or other pieces that might damage cars around the vehicle being worked on. Any damage to other vehicles costs time and money to repair, reducing cycle time and profitability. All employees should be sure they are clean before climbing into a vehicle, and the vehicle should always be protected with a seat cover, floor mat and steering wheel cover before being moved into the work stall.
Anderson showed attendees the Wagonwork Collision Centers' key tagging procedures, urging them to properly label and identify keys to each vehicle using customer name, vehicle type, vehicle color and vehicle tag number. Color-coded tags indicate various states: red tags indicate the vehicle must be brought into the shop whenever there is inclement weather; yellow tags indicates vehicles that will not start due to their damaged parts. If a vehicle is parked inside the shop, its keys are always found on the windshield. Likewise, if a vehicle is parked outside the bay area, its keys are found on the key board.
Wagonwork technicians maximize efficiency by parking a vehicle to be repaired so that the area they are about to work on is closest to their toolbox. Technicians are given two parts tubs once they begin the disassembly process. One is for broken parts; the other is for parts that aren't broken.
Anderson stressed other items that make the repair process run more smoothly, including communication between technicians and office staff. He presented several checklists and worksheets that also double-checked all items repaired and smoothed out the parts process.
"Technicians only create value if they are fixing cars," Anderson said. "This is the most important statement I can make. Without technicians who are working productively on cars, your business isn't making anything, and cannot grow. Take steps today to increase efficiency and eliminate wasted time. Be specific with your employees and let them know your expectations. It's the best way to succeed."