Understanding the picture

Mike Kennelly

By Mike Kennelly

Whether your business is a multi-shop operation, dealership, or independent, you all have one major thing in common. You all run on the machine of shop operation. Shop operation is an incredibly complex reality, it is affected by anyone and everyone involved, from front desk management to customers, and everyone in between, technicians to parts delivery drivers. Each part contributes in one way or another to successful operation.

During one of my orientation sessions at Fanshawe College, a group of new hires were sitting in a room, the professor was at the front, showing us a series of pictures on the projector.

The pictures depicted a scene starting with an ice cube in a drinking glass, the next shot panned out to a person lounging on a deck with that glass in their hand, then further panned out to show a that the deck was part of a cruise ship. Finally, it panned out again to show the ship in a shipping yard amongst other ships. The purpose of the presentation was to show us that each person within the business has their respective job and a number of tasks. All too often we become so focused on our roles and perfecting our tasks that we lose sight of the bigger picture, or sometimes lose sight of the smaller picture.

Whether you are in the front end of the business or the back end of the business, there are a number of key factors in building a fruitful operation, Ashleigh Johnston describes a number of paralleled key points in the article Why Lean Fails: How to avoid common pitfalls. A good understanding is one of the simplest and strongest keys to helping the operation run like a well-oiled machine, whether you are about lean operations or quality over quantity. It helps give a sense of direction with each task you do, understanding what’s next after it leaves your hands.

Brief examples of what this looks like practically that can be done with little to no cost:

Owners: Get to know your staff and their families, you are sowing into their lives financially as an investment, an emotional investment earning their trust and respect goes a long way.

Estimators: Get to know the processes involved in the decisions you are dictating (if you’re not from the floor yourself) take some upgrading courses on the procedures, ask the techs their advice.

Managers: Learn and build up your technicians, make sure you have an understanding of the skillsets you are managing, use existing technicians to train up newer technicians, or if need be look into training.

Technicians: learn the fundamentals and key points of estimating, so you can contribute educated opinions on repair considerations, when it matters.

Whether it’s understanding the big picture or understanding the “little” picture having an understanding of the operating factors is of equal importance no matter which tasks you are responsible for. Even if you are the very best at your role, you could help others in theirs role by simply understanding each persons “picture”.

Mike Kennelly Is the Program Coordinator and Professor for Auto Body Programs at Fanshawe College, located in London, Ontario, Canada. Mike owned a custom painting business for 5 years while working on getting his 310B to become a licensed collision and damage repair technician, working in an aluminum certified repair facility for 7 years. Followed by teaching in the college, where he has been for 5 years. Mike works with area industry representatives on numerous apprentice and post-secondary training initiatives.


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