The philosophy of continuous improvement espouses implementation of small incremental changes over time. The premise is that if a process is working well that doesn’t mean it couldn’t work better. A series of small improvements over time can equate to big differences in performance. Identifying the core processes of automotive repair, analyzing them and applying small changes can have a significant impact overall. Depending on how any given shop operates the business processes employed may vary. But the strategy of continuous improvement is always the same. If many small positive changes are implemented – a business will always be advancing as time goes on. For example if a small change is applied to each core process in a business each month then over the course of a year the company will become significantly more competitive. Below are core processes of the automotive repair business and the focus of continuous improvement in each area:
- Customer Check In – The beginning of the automotive repair process is the point at which the customer turns the vehicle over to the repair shop. There can be different variations of this core process such as off hours drop off, shuttle service, etc. All aspects should be considered candidates for continuous improvement. Customer satisfaction is the key to this process.
- Work Assignment – Many factors come into play in assignment of work such as skill level, work load, etc. Continuous improvement efforts in this area should focus on optimization of labor resources and service throughput.
- The Repair Process – The process by which repair work is performed is the primary function that all other core processes support. Quality and efficiency should be the objectives of continuous improvement efforts in this area.
- Inspection – The inspection process involves any procedure by which a vehicle is evaluated for existing or potential problems. Since most inspections are no charge – efficiency is of the utmost importance. Continuous improvement efforts in this area should focus on reducing the amount of time required to perform the inspection without diminishing the quality of results.
- Diagnosis – Determining the cause of a problem and determining corrective action requirements can present significant challenges. The objective is to complete the diagnosis in the time allotted. So efficiency and thoroughness are the key points of focus in continuous improvement.
- Approval – The process of obtaining the customer’s OK to perform recommended repairs is largely predicated on presentation. So striving to improve presentation thereby increasing capture rate should be the primary objective in continuous improvement in this area.
- Parts Procurement – Purchasing parts can present challenges in that the lowest priced part may not actually be the cheapest to purchase. Many other factors contribute to the actual cost of purchasing such as time spent comparison shopping, delivery time, carrying costs, payment processing and more. Identifying the factors involved and managing their impact is the focus of continuous improvement in this area.
- Completion and Quality Assurance – Prior to vehicle delivery quality assurance measures ensure that all required work was performed and stated objectives were achieved. Quality control at the point of repair is by far the most efficient method of delivering optimal service thus quality assurance after repair should largely be a confirmation step.
- Vehicle Delivery – The turnover of the vehicle to the customer is an area in which relationship impact is the primary area of concern. Communication and image are paramount. Improvements in this area have a significant impact on customer retention.