Keys to Improving Touch Time
Artie Gissinger is always reaching for the next rung on the ladder. The body shop manager at Klaben Ford Lincoln in Kent, Ohio, always strives to improve his facility.
“The bar is never being lowered; it’s always being raised,” Gissinger says.
The auto industry veteran isn’t comfortable with his business remaining stationary. Thus, he’s always eager to examine a new way to attack a task.
“If you ask yourself why you’re doing something [a particular] way, and you say, ‘Well, because that’s the way I’ve always done it,’ chances are that’s the wrong answer,” Gissinger says. “We need to be a little more open minded, and we need to look at different ways of doing things.”
An insatiable attitude can occasionally become costly, however. Gissinger has learned that there’s value in finding a solid, repeatable repair process. That realization became especially apparent to the body shop manager in 2012, when his department at Klaben saw its average touch time drop to an uncomfortably low 2.6 hours per day.
Back then, Gissinger inspired his staff to try frequent tweaks to the repair process, but things became unwieldy. And he knew that having poor average touch time could significantly hurt his facility’s productivity and profitability if the issue lingered.
If Klaben’s collision repair center was going to move forward, it was going to have to first take a momentary glance in the rearview mirror, to analyze where things went wrong with regard to touch time.
A Stalled Process
In its efforts to seek continuous improvement, much of Klaben’s body shop staff was overly ambitious. Gissinger eventually discovered that multiple technicians were making too many changes to the repair process.
“You don’t want to overhaul the whole process at once,” he notes. “Because, when you do that, you don’t necessarily know what worked and what didn’t work.”
And, other employees had ventured 180 degrees in the other direction from their ambitious co-workers, and were resting on their laurels.
“You accomplish what you want to accomplish, and you think you’re done,” Gissinger says. “I think everybody gets a little too comfortable, and you end up falling back into your old habits, your old ways.”
Gissinger’s employees weren’t all on the same page. Their teamwork was off. He knew he needed to get the staff at his 20,000-square-foot facility focused on a streamlined, consistent repair process before touch time could experience an uptick.
In 2012, Gissinger took an analytical approach to shoring up his body shop’s repair process, so that KPIs like touch time could improve. He thoroughly broke down and studied his technicians’ work, noting what elements of the repair process worked best.
“It was looking at the biggest factor that’s driving problems and just change that, first,” he says. “Then, move on to the next one. … Change one thing, watch that, manage that—‘OK, if that’s working, let’s move on to step 2, step 3.’”
The body shop manager reined in some of his overly ambitious employees, and lit a fire under others.
“It starts with, let’s bring a car in, and let’s not tear it down the way we tore it down 15 years ago,” Gissinger says. “Let’s bring it in, let’s do a complete teardown, and let’s get a complete estimate on it. Let’s get everything on a cart, where it’s supposed to be, for our parts department.
“Then, once we’re done with that, let’s see if this way was better, if this one took less time. “
He walked each technician through his preferred repair process, to illustrate the value of his changes.
“They’ve got to see that it does work,” Gissinger says. “I think it builds a better team environment, and it builds better credibility.”
Above all else, Gissinger stressed the importance of working as one to his staff members.
“From techs to porters to estimators, advisors, or parts people, they have to want to be better,” he says. It’s imperative “that they’re engaged, get it and understand why it’s important, and how it affects them, affects the whole operation of the shop, and how it affects the whole team.”
Shifting to Overdrive
With the lessons of 2012 never far from his mind, Gissinger preaches the virtues of consistent shop floor procedures these days.
And it has paid dividends at his Ohio facility. Touch time has improved to nearly four hours, and other KPIs, like key-to-key cycle time (5.8 days), are also encouraging.
“It doesn’t just stop at your body technicians tearing something down the right way, and your estimators writing it the right way,” Gissinger says, or “your parts department checking the parts the right way.
“The biggest thing, again, is just really being consistent with it. … We all have to be accountable to each other.”