McCarthy Auto Group's collision center managers have reaped the benefits of converting to lean production. From l. are Kansas City-area managers Jim Finn, Aaron Linhardt, Clayton Horrocks, and Collision Center Office Manager Bonnie Smith, who has worked at the shop since it opened in 1999.Technician Jeremy Reasoner sands a quarter panel on a Nissan Sentra at McCarthy Collision Center.Single Source Regional Sales Manager Rob Lahr (l.) and McCarthy Collision Center Manager Jim Finn inspect the finish of a bumper cover fresh out of the booth.

McCarthy goes ‘lean,’ cuts cycle time in its collision centers

Single Source, PPG guide shops with Green Belt training

Olathe, Kan. — Collision repair can be a stressful business: for the vehicle owner, who’s often experienced a traumatic event; for estimators, shop owners, and managers, who must manage multiple insurance company relationships and their unique requirements; and for the technician, who must adapt to rapidly changing technology.

     But what if you could lessen that stress by implementing “lean” procedures? The McCarthy Auto Group owns nine dealerships. The five collision centers that serve them, in Olathe and Overland Park, Kan., and Blue Springs, Lee's Summit, and Sedalia, Mo., have reduced cycle times, increased production, and made the repair process run more smoothly by shifting to “lean.”

     The reduction in cycle time is the greatest benefit for the shops, said Clayton Horrocks, collision center manager for McCarthy-Morse Chevrolet in Overland Park, and one of three Kansas City-area McCarthy collision center managers who spoke with Parts & People on their adoption of lean production within the last two years.

     “It affects the CSI, it affects the morale of the whole shop, and it affects the morale of management,” he said. “If you have the cycle time right, your customer’s happy, the insurance company’s happy, and you’re happy as a manager, because you don’t have all of the pressure on you from people calling you wanting their cars done right now because you’re running a day or two late.”

     The “paradigm shift” requires that each employee who is part of the production process be on board with the idea that the end result will be worth the extra effort needed upfront, said Rob Lahr, regional sales manager for Single Source, the PPG Platinum Distributor that supplies the Nexa Aquabase line used in the shops and enrolled McCarthy managers in PPG's multi-day Green Belt course. With dedication from everyone, though, the adjustment period is short, he said.

     “If the management buys into it, that kind of pushes the guys below them,” Lahr said. “If you don’t get the buy-in from management, then it isn’t going to work. They’re not going to push the guys to do the things that need to be done, and they’re not going to see the results because people are going to slide back to their old habits.

     “Especially in a shop like Clayton’s, which is incredibly busy, you’ve got customers coming at you from all angles,” Lahr said. “It’s tough sometimes for the management team to stay focused on making the change when ‘I can get it done the old way. It may not be as efficient, but I can get this done, and I’ve got this guy upset with me.’ It’s hard to keep the old habits from creeping in, simply because I’ve got to move that vehicle.”

     Technicians stubborn about retaining old habits, though, may not be willing to go along with the new system and either quit or are fired — and some of that did happen with the McCarthy shops, said Jim Finn, manager of the Olathe location.

     Despite some growing pains, the efforts have paid off, Horrocks said.

     “With the square footage we have at Morse, we have to be as lean as possible,” he said. “We've always been a small shop that produces a lot, and with the education we got from PPG, we're able to produce more. We have six body techs, two painters and a helper, two writers, a porter, and myself. We produce an average of $310,000 in sales a month in parts and labor. Not too many places do that.”

     All vehicles now have a repair plan before they are placed into production, Horrocks said, which helps in scheduling just the right number of vehicles to be in production, accounting for expected tow-ins on Monday. Technicians now have fewer vehicles “in inventory” for them to repair, he said, but they are getting them through the shop more quickly and efficiently instead of having to wait on needed parts.

     “On a 30-hour job, you have everything you need to do that job, so you’re going to get it in here and finish up the job before you start on the next job, and you don’t have six cars out there waiting on you. You may need just one or two,” he said.

      For the most part, technicians have embraced lean, said Aaron Linhardt, collision center manager at McCarthy Auto Group in Lee’s Summit.

     “They want us to move things around. We moved a bumper rack from one wall to the next just so we can get more efficient. And efficiency is what it’s all about,” he said.

     Because lean is flexible and can constantly evolve, any new process or piece of equipment can be added to provide greater efficiency, said Finn, whose shop averages between $700,000 and $800,000 in monthly sales.

     “None of the managers would go out and tell a tech who's been putting a nut on a bolt for 20 years, 'Here's how to do it better,'” he said. “But he will ask him 'How can I help you put that nut on the bolt faster?'”

     Better organization of the shop and in the lean process allows technicians to produce more hours, Horrocks said.

     “If you have a tech that religiously follows it, you see his hours go up, you see production go up, you see the car done quicker,” he said. “The ones who don’t stay on it, you see their hours drop quite a bit. I’ve got a tech who was doing 50 hours a week and is now doing 80 to 90 hours, just because he sticks with it and gets himself organized.”

     That organization starts with carts loaded with parts that have been mirror-matched by the dealerships’ parts personnel, who work side-by-side with estimators to identify and procure the correct part at the time of disassembly.

     “Getting 100 percent buy-in from Parts was a challenge at first until they saw a car go through the shop from teardown to reassembly in half the time, and they were a part of that,” Finn said.


CCC ONE helps move vehicles smoothly through the shop

     CCC ONE Repair Workflow estimating and shop management software allows the shops to quickly communicate between dealerships and their departments (as an example, with a click on a part needed in Workflow, the parts department can be notified to order it,) and with the CCC ONE Update Plus feature of Workflow, a customer can be automatically updated on his vehicle's progress as it moves through the shop, Horrocks said.

     With its easy-to-use dashboard, including green, yellow, and red color codes, CCC ONE Workflow helps managers stay on top of the progress of vehicles in production, he said.

     “We can see at a glance what's going on with every single car,” Horrocks said. “We have our breakout meetings in the morning that it helps us with quite a bit. You can print out a report by tech, you can print it out by cars completed, and you can print it out by cars that are scheduled to be delivered.”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.