The art of self improvement

All roads lead east according to Andy, as he points towards some strategies that will help you improve your business

Published:  23 May, 2019

To thrive in today’s competitive aftersales sector businesses, the need to operate more efficiently, effectively and profitably has never been more apparent. Developing problem solvers, increasing labour productively, improving quality and reducing waste are essential factors if you are to succeed.
    
Increasing competition, rising customer expectations, and of course increasing technology are all squeezing already thin margins, while changing competition regulations in Europe bring an uncertain mix of threats and opportunities. Due to increasing product quality and reliability, today’s cars need fewer services (routine maintenance visits) and less service time at each visit. This means that, to maintain workshop viability, garages have to service and repair more cars each day. This has knock-on effects, such as the need for larger car parks and more admin staff to handle the extra number of jobs.
    
To tackle these challenges, you need to adopt a continuous improvement strategy. There are several such strategies and methods to achieve these goals, however I want to focus on two most commonly adopted continuous improvement methodologies that I used in my previous business, Brunswick Garage, and continually use today to help other garage businesses.  

Plan-Do-Check-Act
Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, more commonly known as PDCA cycle, was developed by Walter Shewhart as a continuous improvement process that can supplement the statistical quality control methodology. The PDCA cycle was, however, popularised by W. Edwards Deming who introduced it to Japan after World War II and is commonly referred to as the Deming cycle. As the name suggests, PDCA is a four-step process:
    
In the plan stage you establish what you want to accomplish and also establish the metrics and measurement system that can help you verify whether you have been able to accomplish what you set out for.
    
In the do stage you carry out or ‘do’ what you have planned. This is the step where the actual work happens.
In the check phase you compare using the measurement system that you have put in place, how you are progressing towards meeting your accomplishment and analyse any deviations.
    
In the act phase deviations are analysed and solutions implemented to ensure they do not happen again in the future and the gains are standardized. This is also the phase where a debrief or lessons learned exercise is carried out.
PDCA cycle is one of the oldest forms of continuous improvement methodology and almost all of today’s improvement methodologies.

Kaizen 5S/Gemba Kaizen
Kaizen is a term that was coined by Masaki Imai who founded the Kaizen Institute. The Kaizen Institute still holds the copyright to the term ‘Kaizen’ and ‘Gemba Kaizen’. Kaizen is an everyday Japanese word often translated into English as ‘improvement’. Kaizen is actually made up from two words. The first being ‘Kai’ or to change continuously’ and the second, ‘zen’ meaning ‘to improve’ or ‘to get better’. Therefore, a more complete understanding of the word Kaizen would be to continually make changes to get better.
‘Gemba’ means ‘real place’ – the place where real action occurs. Japanese use the word Gemba in their daily speech. Whenever an earthquake occurs in Japan the TV reporters at the scene refer to themselves as ‘reporting from the Gemba’. So, for our purpose, we would classify our reception, workshop, car parks etc. as our Gembas.
    
5S Kaizen is an improvement method that brings together these tools and techniques into a unified whole with 5S forming the base that links all other methods together. For many who have heard of 5S before you may be forgiven for regarding it only as a simple housekeeping exercise. Indeed, when some people first learn of the 5S method they find it hard to understand its power and strength as an improvement tool.
    
In other words, 5S Kaizen allows us to change our whole method of working and develop a culture focused on continuous improvement. It can contribute towards:

  •  Improved quality
  •  Improved labour productivity
  •  Higher levels of efficiency in the workshop
  •  Improved staff morale  
  •  Improved brand image
  •  Lowering operating cost –affecting  your charge-out labour rate


Kaizen focuses on small incremental changes that over time provided my garage with a sustainable means of delivering improvement. I have constantly stated you must look to improve 100 things by 1% rather than improve one thing by 100%.
    
Though it is true that a Kaizen event can be completed in a relatively short period of time, with some exercises taking little more than a few days, its strength lies in setting in place a method for continually looking at and improving what we do. For us, at Brunswick it became a permanent feature of our company’s culture – ‘the way we do things around here’.

Kaizen has also become an umbrella term for a number of tools and techniques that can be used to implement a continuous improvement program, with 5S being one such technique, which I’ve often talk about in my many presentations. Others include ‘just-in-time’, also referred to as JIT or ‘lean manufacturing’, and ‘quality circles.
    
Applying lean thinking is simple in principle. Look at the processes in your business from your customers’ point of view, understand what value looks like from the customer’s point of view, and focus hard on making sure you deliver this value right first time, on time, every time. The other side of the coin: eliminate waste – all those activities that don’t create value for the customer.
    
If you do this thoroughly, you will be astonished at how many things you currently do – how many costs you currently incur – that don’t create any value for the customer. You’ll also be surprised at how many things you can do, often at very little or even zero cost, that significantly improve your customer’s experience of dealing with you so that you end up delivering better value at lower cost.  Good luck in your change!




Related Articles

  • Exploiting Aircon 

    Although it may be hard to believe given the weather so far this year, but a lot of customers will soon be starting to use their aircon systems only to quickly realise that their system is not working as expected, leaving them hot under the collar! So an ‘exploitable opportunity’ exists as the people in suits might say, but will you be in a position to exploit it most profitably?

    Modern systems
    With the majority of new cars now having some form of HVAC (heating, ventilation and airconditioning system) fitted as standard, it is no longer considered a luxury, just another part of the vehicle’s array of functions that should work when needed – summer or winter.
        
    Many modern systems are designed to be highly efficient and rely on much less refrigerant than previously. Unfortunately, most customers do not understand that the system will naturally leak the refrigerant at a rate of between 10% and 20% per year (depending how often the system is used to circulate oil around the various pipes and seals) and it therefore requires regular servicing and maintenance to ensure continued efficiency. Ultimately, if the refrigerant level gets too low, the system will not operate at all.

    Added value
    The easy way to deal with this is to offer an ‘added value’ service whenever the vehicle is in your workshop – namely a free air-con system efficiency check. If the system does not perform to expectations, or emits a bad odour, then the opportunity exists to sell the service to your customer. So, make sure that you optimise the opportunity that aircon maintenance and servicing presents ensuring that your customers can keep their cool when summer finally arrives.
        
    The fully automatic units available from the leading suppliers will allow full functionality with a minimum of technician’s time – who can still be servicing other aspects of the vehicle while the unit does the work. A printout at the end details what was done and if any problems exist – useful for both the customer and as an activity record for the F-Gas regulations.
        
    If a problem exists with the vehicle air-con system then there is a requirement to diagnose and repair. A good understanding of the principle of operation and system design is necessary to both identify and repair profitably, in terms of time and for fitting the correct parts. The typical mathematics for the return on investment (ROI) are something like (prices as of May 2013 for illustration purposes only):

    Cost of equipment                     £2,795
    Cost of training                         £350
    Marketing materials                   £250

            Total costs:                       £3,345

    Air-con service                          £65 (net workshop revenue)
    2 x air-con services per week     £130 net income

    ROI    3345 ÷ 130 = 26 weeks.


    This excludes any additional repair/parts revenue and is based on only two vehicles per week. With this in mind I really think the decision to invest in the training and technology is a no-brainer.

  • Staying ahead in the aftermarket 

    The automotive aftermarket is facing a period of great opportunity and change. With sales of new cars in decline, third-party parts providers are recognising the increasing importance of aftersales service. Faced with increasing competition and evolving customer expectations, garages must adapt their processes and adopt new technologies to succeed.

  • Detecting the opportunity: ADAS  

    Vehicles are being equipped with advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) in increasing numbers. It is predicted that by 2020, more than 40% of new vehicles will have at least two types of  ADAS system fitted as standard.

  • Replacement parts – true to type? 

    The aftermarket has developed for well over a century to provide choices to the vehicle owner concerning how their vehicle is repaired, with an increasing choice of replacement parts and emanating from all of this, ‘affordable mobility’ for vehicle owners and drivers.

  • The Garage Inspector - Training dates 

    The Garage Inspector a.k.a industry consultant Andy Savva has announced a number of one-day business training course dates.

Most read content


Search

Sign Up

For the latest news and updates from Aftermarket Magazine.


Poll

Where should the next Automechanika show be held?



Facebook


©DFA Media 1999-2019