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INSIGHT Inside this month's issue...
Letter to the Editor
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This series began in the july 2000 Issue of INSIGHT

Gus's Garage

By Jake Snyder

Jake Snyder, creator of the popular Gus抯 Garage series, is interested in hearing from shop owners with real-life questions.
E-mail JJ the Remote Pro, Gus抯 intrepid consultant.

Episode 1
This month we start a new series feature, the idea for which came from a series by the same title in Popular Science magazine in the �s and �s. As a kid in high school, starting with an interest in cars and building up a street rod (a � Ford coupe), I thoroughly enjoyed the series. Each month Gus ran into problems with customers� cars, and he and his sidekick would figure out the solution. Gus would ultimately present it as a lesson, either in demonstrating diagnostics, repair procedure or just customer relations.

With this series we are going to explore an ongoing business improvement process with Gus, a fictional bodyshop owner and JJ, an industry consultant, working together to examine issues and overcome obstacles faced by a collision repair facility owner. We welcome your comments and look forward to JJ抯 continuation of the series.

The basic setup is: JJ is an automotive industry consultant who has recently been introduced to the central character of our ongoing scenario, Gus. The series will be written in the style of a narration by JJ.

Gus is owner of a mid-sized, family-owned body shop located in the Midwestern state of Ohio. In our monthly series, you will become introduced to the complexities of this operation known as Gus抯 Garage: the dynamics of Gus抯 relationships with employees as well as the complexities of bringing his son into the business.

See how closely you relate with Gus抯 business style, philosophy, and how JJ and Gus build a working relationship in which JJ抯 "INSIGHT" provides Gus抯 business the ongoing assistance in facing and succeeding in today抯 automotive climate.

In this first installment, I arrive at Gus抯 Garage, where I抳e been invited by Gus to "have a look at this operation of mine. I抣l show you the books, we抣l tour the shop, meet some of my employees, so you can get a feel of the place."

Read all of Episode 1, July 2000

Episode 2
Gus and I reviewed his initial goals:
  • Reduce stress on Gus
  • $2.5 million sales
  • Son to manage shop.

We then layered in these problems:

  • More comebacks
  • More late deliveries
  • Customer complaints
  • Cash flow concerns.

As we looked at this total picture it became evident that Gus抯 drive to respond to growing customer demand by increasing capacity and sales had caused him to lose his customer focus, the very basis of what made Gus抯 Garage successful. In the past year, Gus had focused solely on generating higher volume to keep up with demand and pay the bills.

Read all of Episode 2, August 2000

Episode 3
During our conversations I repeatedly emphasized that we are staying focused on cycle time improvements. I had to keep reminding Gus that he decided that his first objective is to improve customer service and cash flow. In addition, I explained to Gus how a cycle time emphasis would also contribute to:
  • Eliminating wasteful practices
  • Improving operational efficiency
  • Improving quality
  • Increasing teamwork

Read all of Episode 3, September 2000

Episode 4
I took Gus by surprise this month when I suggested that he come down to my office for the day as part of the consulting session. I told him jokingly, that I was sick and tired of the lousy food and service at Charlie抯 Caf�.

We have been working together now for 3 months and before we move forward, it is important that we assess our efforts and strategies.

Read all of Episode 4, October 2000

Episode 5
I just pulled out from Charlie抯 Caf� and headed to Gus抯 Garage to help Gus resolve his first major problem since we have been working together.

Three weeks after beginning INSIGHT抯 Customer Satisfaction Index Program, Gus had received his first customer complaint fax alert from INSIGHT.

Read all of Episode 5, November 2000

Episode 6
Last month we calculated the costs and expenses associated with a comeback and warrantee claim that led to a negative customer survey. This month, Gus has been uncovering some of the root causes for his service delivery breakdown.

Not surprisingly, one of the underlying issues discovered by Gus was his attitude towards comebacks and warrantee claims.

Read all of Episode 6, December 2000

Episode 7
If Gus had only one issue to focus on, the elimination of warrantee claims would most likely have the greatest positive impact on overall shop performance and profitability.

As in most operations, Gus commented that the only thing that seems to improve in the handling of warrantee claims is the ability of his staff members to "smooth-over" the complaining customer by using larger and larger doses of "bull-dung."

Read all of Episode 7, January 2001

Episode 8
Staging assures that key information is compiled and quality checked for use in the Work Order Package that will be used by the production technicians. Staging also assures that the vehicle is prepared to receive repair processing and that the parts are inventoried, quality checked, and transferred to the workspace.

Read all of Episode 8, February 2001

Episode 9
Gus insisted on going to Charlie抯 caf� to discuss the staging process that he implemented last month. Dottie, who I think is the only waitress in the joint, always gives me the "evil eye" since I re-enacted the Jack Nicholson scene a couple of months ago. I have since restricted my orders to counter-muffins and coffee so that I can personally see them preparing my food.

Gus feels confident that the new staging is going well. Jose, the heavy hit technician who is participating in the new process with Gus, has already reduced his supplements per job and has not had to delay a job while waiting for last minute parts that were overlooked or incorrect.

Read all of Episode 9, March 2001

Episode 10
Last month we set up new processes to manage the scheduling of "off-line" repairs for the heavy hit jobs performed by Jose. As part of the new process, Jose is now keeping the production work-order package at his station until he completes the final re-assembly steps and sends the car to the Detail Department for final cleaning.

But if Jose keeps the work-order package at his station, what do the paint techs use for work instructions?

Read all of Episode 10, April 2001

Episode 11
Effective management and resource utilization throughout the whole system of multiple processing steps in the shop are the biggest challenges for Gus and all managers in autobody facilities. The ultimate goal is to get one process to make only what the next process needs when it needs it.

Gus抯 current "paradigm" or operating system is pushing work from process to process instead of pulling work at a pace in which the customer demands it.

Read all of Episode 11, May 2001

Episode 12
I really got charged up at this point in my comments and started asking Gus about how much time, money, and customer satisfaction would be saved if all jobs were completed on time and with practically zero defects. I then added a layer of lecture noting how much better customers would be treated if his employees did not have to be pushed and stressed to their limits by the high volumes of drop-offs and the high volumes of deliveries that were constantly being compressed into too few days and too few hours.

Read all of Episode 12, June 2001

Episode 13
Publisher抯 Note: We begin our second year with Gus this month, and I think a real sense of comradeship with Gus and his intrepid consultant has developed here at INSIGHT and among faithful readers who turn to the back page every month to catch up with what抯 going on at Gus抯 Garage. INSIGHT is proud of Jake Snyder, Gus抯 writer and real-life collision industry consultant, and congratulate him on his first year抯 literary achievement here! Body shop owners can contact Gus抯 expert for advice: JJ.

Gus and I sat down with Fred, the owner of Hometown Chrysler. Fred explained that, after 12 years of not developing the bodyshop as an equal and complimentary operation to the new car dealership, he had finally concluded that it was time to give up and hand-off the operation to an autobody professional.

Fred thinks that Gus is the one to turn the autobody operation into a market leading operation.

Read all of Episode 13, July 2001

Episode 14
If Gus was to take over operations at Hometown he did not want to mess around with the employees and their pay, he figured that if the staff stayed on board during the transition, he could eventually adjust average wages to lower levels with new hires and team systems.

Read all of Episode 14, August 2001

Episode 15
We both agreed that we must not build any "blue sky" assumptions into the first year of operations.

Read all of Episode 15, September 2001

Episode 16
Gus closed the deal to purchase Hometown Chrysler's autobody operations...

Read all of Episode 16, October 2001

Episode 17
Gus, Tom, and I developed "word-track" to use as scripting for insurers, Hometown customers, and employees to announce the details of the ownership change...

Read all of Episode 17, November 2001

Episode 18
Gus has limited his daily processing responsibilities. He depends more on his key staff members to run daily operations. In Gus's Garage, George his son, Kelly, and Pam run daily operations. At Cherock's, Gus depends on Tom, the GM, and Jenny the bookkeeper.

Gus and his son George wear the most hats and now follow a strict daily routine to keep up with management and operations. Gus splits his day between Cherock and Gus's Garage. He begins each day by opening up the Cherock facility and assists Tom in creating the daily production plan, updating WIP status reports, and dispatching work to technicians....

Read all of Episode 18, December 2001

A real sense of comradeship with Gus and his intrepid consultant has developed among faithful readers who turn to the back page every month to see what's going on at Gus's Garage...

Read all of Synopsis, January 2002

Episode 19
Each metal tech is like an individual work cell with different skills and capabilities. Each one also has WIP inventory of cars that can be all over the shop and in different stages of repair. Some cars may be in a tech's work space, others can be in paint, some might be on hold for authorizations, and still other cars can be in sublet or mechanical. When these are multiplied by the number of metal techs, it is easy to see why workflow management for the metal stage of repair processing can be challenging.

I told Gus to think about how much easier it would be to have his metal department operate in the same way the paint department does. As jobs come in, they are assigned to metal teams that know exactly what to do with each job, regardless of size or complexity. Like the paint department, their primary goal would be to process cars as they arrive...

Read all of Episode 19, February 2002

Episode 20
Gus and I devised a process quality control or job control system that records hand-off quality inspection results between each department. The idea of having technicians sign-off a work order or QC sheet between hand-offs is not new. Many shop owners have been employing some type of technician sign-off system for years...

Read all of Episode 20, March 2002

Episode 21
With his CSI measures, process quality control measures, and financial measures, Gus is developing a more balanced scorecard of company performance that can give him a better picture of how well his shop is performing.

Read all of Episode 21, April 2002

Episode 22
I'm writing this towards the end of my second week in KL on a consulting and training project in a greenfield "workshop that has been in operation for approximately 1.5 years.

Read all of Episode 22, May 2002

Episode 23
As I explained to Gus, effective process quality control is a function of three things being done accurately and consistently...

Read all of Episode 23, June 2002

Episode 24
Gus and I asked employees why the corrective action piece of the process quality control system was not being completed 100 percent of the time...

Read all of Episode 24, July 2002

Gone Fishing
Gus was talked into taking a long-overdue week off away from his shop. He'll be back at work in September...




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