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11 Keys to Process Improvement in the Auto Repair Business

Streamlining and improving processes within an auto repair operation will reduce operating costs and increase capacity thus increasing sales and widening profit margins. Process improvement involves documenting the processes within the organization, identifying wasteful activity and procedural flaws then gradually eliminating them. Wasteful activities can include duplication of effort and unneeded steps. Procedural flaws can include duplication of responsibility, bottlenecks and process breaks. When opportunities for improvement have been identified they should be prioritized and implemented gradually. Efficient and effective processes result in increased sales and profits. Following are keys to process improvement:

  1. Define the Steps in Your Core Processes – The 2 main processes in an auto repair operation are repair order fulfillment and parts procurement. Defining the steps in these processes is the first step to process improvement.
  2. Identify Sub-Processes Within the Core Processes – Within the core processes of a business there are many sub-processes. For example within the repair order fulfillment process there is the process by which the customer relates the required repairs to the shop. Each sub-process should be identified.
  3. Document the Steps in Each Process – Each step in each process within the business should be written. There may be variations or ‘if conditions’ within each process. Each possible path should be documented.
  4. Identify Duplication of Responsibilities – Once the processes have been documented steps that have no clear assignment of responsibility can be identified. When responsibility is not clear a step is likely to not be executed in a timely fashion.
  5. Identify Duplication of Effort – There may be steps in any given process that are being done twice. For example if information is written on paper then keyed into the computer the step is being performed twice.
  6. Identify Unneeded Steps – Steps may exist in a process that were put into place due to circumstances that no longer exist. If they’re no longer needed they should be eliminated.
  7. Look for breaks in processes – Any point in the flow of a process that doesn’t continue automatically constitutes a break. If the next step is initiated by something outside the process then work flow will not continue uninterrupted.
  8. Look for Bottlenecks – If an uneven amount of activity travels through one area there will be a negative impact on workflow. This can alleviated by reassignment of responsibilities to level the workload.
  9. Plan the Change Implementation – Process changes should be implemented gradually. If too many changes are implemented simultaneously the chance of success is diminished. Also, introducing change always requires an adjustment period and it too many changes are made at once it will be difficult to tell where problems are coming from.
  10. Execute The Plan – Implement the process changes one at a time and wait until one change is absorbed into the operation before initiating the next one.
  11. Monitor the Results – After changes have been implemented – review them and make sure they were fully implemented and that the desire result was achieved.

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