Although the concept of lean has been around for many years--it actually dates to the pre-20th century--lean manufacturing is a topic of considerable buzz in the collision repair industry today. I am certain you have heard about lean manufacturing and principles, and you may even already be in the process of adopting these principles into your own production processes.
The same lean principles that are applied to your production process can also be applied to your office operations. The definition of lean is to assist in the identification and elimination of waste. As waste is eliminated, quality improves and production time and cost are reduced. A true lean model can be worked into both your office and administration processes.
Here are a few ideas that can be applied using the concept of lean into your office operations.
Begin by fully documenting your Repair Order flow; this is the process that follows how a Repair Order (the physical file) moves through your business. Documenting this will identify potential waste and let you focus on true value gained from the efficient repair of a vehicle (while maximizing profit and customer satisfaction).
Number One: The front office “counter” or desk should be as neat and clutter free as possible. This is a first impression opportunity for your customers and should reflect a positive and clean operation.
- Everything has its place—Customer information sheets, completed jobs awaiting customer pickup, estimates for follow-up...everything should be in its own “bin” or a labeled file in a file drawer. Every piece of paper should have its place.
- Files follow flow—As identified in your documented work flow, files should be created that follow that flow and each R.O. should be contained in the proper “file” for processing. This allows for focused tasks to be performed throughout the workday.
- Clutter free tasks—You or your staff can only work on one task at time to be most efficient. Try this little test. Walk up to someone working at their desk; and if there is more than one file, paper, note or other item in front of them, ask the question “which one of these tasks are you working on?”—and which one is most important?
- Golden rule Email—only touch the email once. Either reply to the email immediately, delete it if not important, or “file” it into the appropriate electronic folder.
- Work on your folders one at a time based upon importance and flow (both manual folders and electronic)
These minor changes to your work flow and those of your employees will have a significant effect on your processes and allow you to identify work flow bottle necks that need to be addressed.