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Managing Your Cycle Time

If you’re looking to improve your operations, look first at your cycle time.

When you’re a high-production collision repair facility, particularly one with a large percentage of insurance-paid work, keeping a close watch on your cycle time is critical.

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At my three CARSTAR locations in Sidney, Troy and Piqua, Ohio, we have a very focused approach to cycle time. Cycle time is probably more important
than any other metric. If you have a quick and timely repair, all of your other KPIs are naturally going to fall into place.

Measuring Cycle Time

We measure our cycle time from keys to keys, which allows us to include the time for a thorough repair. Our cycle time across the three shops is 6.0 days for drivable vehicles and 10.0 days for non-drivable vehicles. We are usually in the upper tier in the CARSTAR network, and my Sidney store received a LOR (length of rental) award last year at the annual CARSTAR Conference in July. The CARSTAR Edge Performance Group (EPG) meetings regularly discuss this metric as well.

Why Is Cycle Time So Important?

Basically, your cycle time reflects all of the other performance metrics in your shop. If your cycle time is good, your LOR will be good because customers aren’t sitting in rentals for extreme amounts of time. The customer experience will be good because it was a fast turnaround to get their vehicle repaired. Through proper disassembly, you’re doing the pre-work ahead of time in the repair process, which means you have less comebacks because you found all of the issues in the beginning and had time to deal with them correctly and in a timely manner.

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I feel that complete disassembly for repair (DFR) is the key. We try to do everything on the front end of the repair and build the repair plan around knowing it might have to go to sublet or leave the shop for some reason. We measure to find suspension issues and scan every car that comes in so we can diagnose as many problems as possible in the beginning.

There are some other things you can do to maintain your cycle time as well.
We price match a lot of parts to keep our cycle time down, which allows us to get good quality parts faster. We test aftermarket bumpers before we paint them to make sure they fit. Sometimes we will even order both OEM and aftermarket parts just in case the aftermarket part doesn’t work. This way, we have the OEM part right there to take its place.

We also work closely with our team members on how they can improve
cycle time. Honestly, they are the ones who can make or break your cycle
time. Office staff have to make sure we have parts here that are ready to go
so when the job starts, work doesn’t stop until it leaves. We focus on creating one smooth cycle from start to finish. Technicians are the minds and hands out there doing the work. If they understand what drives our workload and have a “in it to win it” mindset, then we will be able to succeed.

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Expectations

Setting reasonable expectations with your customers on when they’ll get
their vehicles back is also critical. Sometimes the rental car company says one thing, the insurer might say another, meanwhile neither is realistic per the procedures the collision repair partners know need to be done. We actually tell customers we can’t give them an exact date or time until we have the vehicle in and perform our DFR process. Once DFR is completed, we set the repair plan and call the customer. We don’t tell them a date in the beginning because they hear that date and that’s what they expect to happen, even if we tell them there is more damage that needs to be repaired. We found it’s better to explain in the beginning, be honest with them, then call and update them within 24 hours to say we have their vehicle ready.

There’s also the challenge of meeting the insurance company’s expectations. If our work isn’t meeting one of their requirements, there is a sitdown meeting where we set a plan as to how we’re going to do better. However, if you have standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place and they’re being followed, you shouldn’t ever get to this point.

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Summary

If you’re looking to improve your operations, look first at your cycle time. By evaluating every step in the repair process from the time you receive the keys to when you return them to a customer, you can find areas to enhance the work quality, increase efficiency, reduce your LOR and enhance your
KPIs.

Tom Martin is the owner of three CARSTAR locations in Ohio – CARSTAR Sidney, CARSTAR Troy and CARSTAR Piqua. He started working in a collision repair shop at 15, then went on to purchase the business. He joined CARSTAR in 2003 with his first location. He opened his second CARSTAR location in 2014 and a third in 2019. He has long been a champion of advanced technology and also training for his team. He also donates his time to a variety of volunteer organizations, veterans in need, the homeless and youth sports. He can be reached at [email protected].

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