Conklin Fangman goes lean to meet production challenges
Kansas City, Mo.—An operational change, with some assistance from his paint supplier, was just what Eric Heinen, body shop manager at Cadillac, Buick, GMC dealership Conklin Fangman Kansas City, needed when almost overnight his department’s daily business volume more than doubled, and often tripled, two and a half years ago with the addition of a major insurer DRP agreement.
“When we brought that on, that was huge for us,” he said. “Then business from two of our existing insurance companies took off for us at about the same time. That’s when we called Sherwin-Williams and they brought in one of their advisors, who helped us with some of our process flows.”
Heinen said the shop went from producing 40 to 50 labor hours to more than 100 hours per day, with that figure sometimes spiking to 130.
“We thought, ‘How do we process all of that? How do we stay on top of all of this’?” he said.
The advisor, Regional Strategic Account Manager Lee Rush, worked with the shop to plan out all repairs, and all work is now analyzed for damage and blueprinted before placing into production.
“We spend time with the techs going over a car once we tear it down,” Heinen said. “We spend more time frontloading everything. That way, once we get all of the mission-critical parts in, we can put a vehicle into production and through the shop. That’s the biggest thing that he helped with — getting a system that works.”
The shop tried designating a teardown technician, but Heinen said he had little buy-in among the shop’s technicians. So now, the technician doing the body work and reassembly is the one to disassemble it, going over with an estimator the parts and labor needed.
“When we do the damage analysis, I want every nut, bolt, clip, panel — anything that needs attention — addressed on the front half,” Heinen said.
Heinen said Rush also helped the shop improve its parts ordering process. Damaged parts and parts to be reused are placed on one of the shop’s many parts carts from Innovative Tools & Technologies, he said. Once the new parts are received “just in time,” the assistant body shop parts manager mirror-matches them to ensure the correct parts have arrived.
The shop now has an across-the-board touch time of 4.5 hours per day (counting weekends), Heinen said, which he tracks with Rome Technologies shop management software. The program’s predictor tool also helps schedule technicians for incoming jobs by analyzing when the technician will likely be done with his current works-in-progress.
Heinen said the shop has grown from its 2010 reopening with two body men and a painter to its current staff of five body men, two painters, one polisher, and two utility crew members, who help with cleanup and shuffling parts and equipment between the department’s two buildings. Joining Heinen in the front office are two estimators, a clerk, a production manager, and a parts manager and assistant manager.
Operational improvements include facility, equipment upgrades
The body shop has seen a number of facility changes since it reopened in November 2010 after GM closed the midtown dealership down in June 2009 as part of its nationwide restructuring. The upper building formerly used to store parts and cars was remodeled into the body shop with two new Col-Met downdraft booths. Two painters have independent computers and scales to mix Sherwin-Williams AWX waterborne paint which Heinen said matches newer colors (also often sprayed with waterborne at the factory) better, with a cleaner, brighter finish, and is easier to correct for mistakes in the booth.
Sherwin-Williams’ facilities design department helped to best use the space of the footprint in the shop, Heinen said, which they later tweaked after production started.
“We gave them the blueprints to the building to decide the best work flow process and maximize space,” Heinen said.
A Col-Met double prep station with air makeup was added a year ago for more spray capacity, and the lower building that years ago was the body shop was once again used for the metal department and offices.
Because the double prep has curtain walls, it allows for more maneuverability to load vehicles into the spray booths across from them, Heinen said, while the curtain down the middle allows for either prepping one large project or the ability to spray on one side while the other is baking.
Heinen said dealership staff use some of the added services Sherwin-Williams offers: the shop uses rebates to purchase tools and equipment, dealership co-owner Joe Fangman attends quarterly A-Plus Network Twenty Group meetings, and Heinen has recently been working with sales representative Brett Eckinger on analyzing the shop’s key performance indicators (KPIs) to improve profitability.
“My biggest interest is in our profitability in paint and materials,” Heinen said. “That’s the biggest area we’ve been spending with Sherwin on. Where can we gain some extra profits? Where are we using too much product, and where are our consumptions?”