P.C.E. in C.R.S. now H.O.T. in NZ

Motorsport
P.C.E. in C.R.S. now H.O.T. in NZ

By Jenny Baker The Process Centred Environment model of collision repair shop management has arrived in New Zealand. But although relatively simple to understand and operate, the model is far from a lightweight concept. In a nutshell, says New Zealand Collision Repair Association Chairman Wayne Houghton, it is a better way of doing business. “Basically a process-centred environment (PCE) type repair shop comes down to running a ‘Lean’ operation. ‘Lean’ has an intense focus on improving customer satisfaction and reducing waste by continuously improving business processes. “Running a PCE and ‘Lean’ shop is not something that can simply be done – it is something you and all the people in your organisation commit to, every day, all the time,” he says. Houghton, owner of Christchurch-based Perfect Auto Body, is in the process of transforming his business into a PCE: “The results all over the world speak for themselves - higher quality, increased throughput, and improved profitability.” Houghton says articles in international trade publications introduced him to the concepts of PCE and ‘Lean’. “Always on the look-out for ways to improve my own business and add value to others within the Collision Repair Association membership, I attended seminars at the National Auto Collision Expo in Las Vegas last year. “I visited businesses that have implemented ‘Lean’ and ‘PCE’, had discussions with ‘Lean’ practitioners, and felt ready to embark on the journey myself. With the help of my paint supplier Akzo Nobel Car Refinishes and Akzo National OEM and Services Manager Paul Wake, I have now begun the ‘Lean’ transformation in my business,” he says. He explains what PCE is about. The starting point for building a PCE company is to understand the company’s strength and weaknesses, threats and opportunities, and then to focus on the customer. “The customer must be the architect of your process…you need to know who they are, exactly what they want, what it means to give them value – that thing that brings in the money. You have to map out and understand exactly what you do today, and how much of it adds value compared with how much is a waste of your resources,” he says. A PCE business thrives on stability and standardised work. These are based on the 5S concept, standardised operational procedures, and visual controls. The process of building a PCE company rests on two pillars: continuous workflow and quality output. The five s’s The 5s concept is about sorting, setting in order, sweeping and shining, standardising, and sustaining. Houghton says the 5S concept ensures the workshop owner stops doing the things that do not serve customer needs, and eliminates material and time waste. “It’s a system of steps and procedures that arranges work areas in the best manner to optimise performance, safety, comfort and cleanliness…it’s about making the work-place make sense,” he says. It means going through inventory, getting rid of surplus to requirement, and arranging items in the workplace “so there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place, which saves time when working.” Then comes cleaning and repairing, and after that, standardising, or building in visual controls “…so everyone knows where everything belongs, and you create repeatable processes. It’s hard work,” Houghton says. The process driver then needs to sustain the 5S’s: “You’ve got to make it part of the culture, so being world class is simply the stuff of routine, every day, all day,” he says. Continuous workflow With the shop in good order, continuous workflow can be implemented. This, he says, is about ensuring a product or service travels through its various stages in good order and at optimal rate without back flows, scraps, rework, or the need for excess inventory or delays of any kind. “Lean organisations think in economies of time, rather than economies of scale. No two accidents and consequently repair jobs are exactly the same, making for low volume and high variance work…yet each customer wants the same careful attention and service levels. “It therefore becomes very important to create a product that’s ready for a continuous flowline before the repair process begins. This means making sure there’s a ready supply of vehicles with the damage identified, an accurate repair plan, complete parts orders, paints that match, and so on.” In-process quality Continuous workflow cannot be achieved without in-process quality. This is the practice of having quality checks built into the repair process to ensure mistakes are caught and rectified as they occur, instead of at the end of the process. “Improved quality actually increases throughput – there are fewer interruptions in the work cycle and less rework are required. It’s about mistake proofing all aspects of the business,” Houghton says. It has three phases: containment, correction, and prevention. “Containment ensures you catch the problem before it gets to the next repair stage, or worse, the customer. Correction ensures you fix the problem and the job moves to the next step, and prevention ensures it doesn’t occur again. “Creating a standard way of doing things, along with formal inspections at critical points of the repair process are an important building block of quality. One way is hand-off procedures, where a technician has to sign off a task,” he says. A recognised tool in in-process quality management is to look at employees for ideas to streamline the process and build in quality controls. “As PCE and ‘Lean’ expert John Sweigart tell us, employees inside a truly lean enterprise don’t consider themselves production workers. They’re problem solvers, and the reason they get paid each day isn’t to perform a specific task but to improve a specific process. That’s what we strive for,” Houghton says. Real-time administration and continual improvement The job’s not finished till the paperwork is done. Real time administration is the practice of completing all the necessary paperwork and other administrative functions at the same time the repair job itself is done. “A big plus apart from not working nights and weekends is thats there’s no danger you’ll overlook a few hours of technician time here and there – it can make a huge difference. It also dramatically improves cash flow if there’s an accurate bill ready on delivery,” he says. Houghton emphasises process stability needs to exist in the company before a business can truly reap the rewards of PCE. But continual improvement is the ingredient that delivers the real rewards during the PCE journey: “’Lean’ is like a journey that has no real destination,” he says. “The ‘Lean’ journey is a never ending one because it’s a continual improvement of the old processes. You move from the ‘current state’ toward the ‘ideal state’ in a series of small incremental steps. These steps are like stepping stones in the journey and are referred to as the ‘improved state’. “It’s not the amount you improve, it’s the fact that you are doing it that makes the difference. It’s a level of efficiency we have to consider – if you start taking these little steps towards better and never stop, no one can catch up with you. In addition, the focus should not be on producing a product, it must be on improving the process that delivers the product,” he says. He says PCE and Lean are a win-win situation for customers, insurance companies, vendors and suppliers, and the business itself. “Employee stress levels drop…works becomes exciting again, bringing stability to your company, and a secure future.”

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