How Clear Data Can Help Product Consolidation
Who hasn’t worked at a shop where the refinish materials inventory footprint was constructed at the whim and preference of every technician?
Chris Shrewsbury, Ferman Body Shop Director, Ferman Chevrolet Brandon, FL and Ferman Acura in Tampa, FL was all too familiar with this lack of product footprint consolidation.
Owners who manage several collision repair facilities face this challenge at a much larger scale, resulting in inventories that include 55 abrasive products from five different vendors, and 20 body filler products from seven different vendors. This compromises consistent repairs, drives up costs, and increases production time.
“The lack of consistency in my location meant each of my technicians was following a different process to complete the repair,” said Shrewsbury. “I was concerned about cost, but equally concerned about quality and production time.”
He found himself asking, “How did my inventory get this out of control and how do I fix it?”
The product footprint consolidation challenge is often two-fold. First, we must foster a collaborative relationship between the department heads, the product manager and the owner to combine productive and cost effective products into the materials inventory. Second, we must earn buy-in from the technicians.
There are several questions that the team must consider as a whole.
Can we agree to a standardize repair process?
What is the right process to decide on products and vendors?
Will our technician comply with a restricted product footprint?
Product consolidation can be as simple as following these five steps:
- Recognize Lack of Process
- Gain Awareness
- Analyze the Data
- Support the Team
- Gain Buy-in
Step 1 – Recognize Lack of Process
Data is king!
“FinishMaster’s usage report packages provide all of the data we need to map the process and products used at the shop,” said Jeff Smith, District Sales Manager in Tampa, Florida. “We use these reports to move through the journey of identifying opportunities for consolidation.”
Reporting on product categories will expose the number of manufactures utilized in a particular category; for example, the 55 abrasive products purchased from five different manufactures mentioned earlier.
“Further analysis of the reports uncovered similar, but not the same products being used for the same repair procedure,” explained Smith. “The shop had three to five times the inventory needed to complete repairs.”
After analyzing the data, opportunities for minimizing redundant inventory was clear.
Step 2 – Gain Awareness
Gaining awareness requires asking a lot of questions—more importantly, the right questions—of the technicians who are completing the repairs in your facility.
What products do you use during the repair process?
Do you utilize a consistent repair procedure?
What are the benefits to utilizing the products you have selected?
These questions, and a host of others, will provide the foundation to map the entire repair process and match the best/most efficient products to complete the process.
“Talking with the shop technicians, understanding what products they were using and why, was really important to me,” said Smith. “I had to understand their process to implement a plan that would work for their team.”
Step 3 – Analyze the Data
Next, we analyze the data uncovered from the interviews and reports. The challenge is to combine cost effectiveness and efficient productivity while also considering existing inventories to create a restrictive product footprint.
Collaboration is essential between the FinishMaster representative and the facility’s department heads, production manager, and ownership. Paying attention to detail is critical in this step! The decisions made here will drive change.
Step 4 – Support the Team
Change is hard enough on its own, but change without direction is destined to fail. Support the team with a published “Standard Operating Procedure” for each repair process with the corresponding approved products. When possible, support the SOP with a visual representation of the procedure on a poster in the repair area for quick reference.
“The entire management team was on board with the changes because of Jeff’s thoroughness in combing through the data and providing evidence for change,” said Shrewsbury. “We knew these changes would improve production and have a positive impact on our Technicians.”
Step 5 – Gain Buy-in
Now it’s time to gain the buy-in of the technicians in the shop.
“Changing every process in the shop at once will be overwhelming. Start with one department or repair process and host a lunch and learn to review the process and the products selected,” said Smith. “When process change is implemented, our FinishMaster technical representatives are available to work through preference issues and reinforce the commitment the company has made to change, consolidate products, and have a consistent repair process.”
However, buy-in extends beyond the initial training session. Management and fellow technicians have to continually reinforce the process. FinishMaster helps by ensuring that the shop orders within the restricted portfolio. In addition, our technical representatives are available to help with challenges or product issues.
Having the commitment to create a consistent process, utilizing approved products, will provide the opportunity for efficient and consistent repairs, which should lead to greater profitability.
Discipline, commitment, and help from FinishMaster are the only things required to improve your shops performance, as Shrewsbury and his team learned.
He noted, “I only wish I would have completed this process with FinishMaster years ago!”