Is there a bottleneck in your body shop? Do you have so many cars on-site that you feel you will never catch up? Robin Taylor, Axalta Services Manager, comes across this issue all too often. Having worked closely with customers for over 30 years, he reminds shop owners and managers that they need to look at the whole process to determine where the congestion is occurring, not just focus on a tiny section of it.
A few small changes can reap improvements in productivity and efficiency, and ultimately deliver increased throughput. The paint shop is often identified as one area where workflow is held up. Not being able to paint enough cars becomes the starting point of our journey to reduce the bottleneck and increase throughput. Flow through the paint shop is dependent upon upstream processes being carried out to the agreed quality standards. As with all the production processes, if the original estimate is not accurate, it dramatically impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of the downstream operations.
It is timely to remember that the paint-shop is just one part of an integrated process, and the overall process is only as strong as the weakest link. To improve the overall performance of the paint shop, the process can be broken down into separate processes and further into smaller sub-processes, often grouping several steps into logical chunks. The illustration shows the typical steps in the painting process.
Once the sub-process has been established, analysis is done to determine where the bottlenecks are, what is causing them and what can be undertaken to fix them. For simplicity, the primary bottleneck should be the main focus.
When analysing each of the sub-processes in detail, the following should be considered:
- The time it takes to complete the process.
- How we can standardise the steps.
- The quality standards required.
- How to remove the waste from the process.
Many body shop owners and managers identify the painting process, and specifically the booth cycle time, as the primary bottleneck that controls a shop’s throughput. It is important to define the shop throughput required – that is, jobs per day. This is measured as throughput dollars per day, and we encourage you to first focus on understanding the throughput required in both booth cycles per day and jobs per booth cycle. Once these requirements are recognised, the overall paint shop process can be looked at in detail to determine the process and sub-processes that are necessary to achieve this goal.
Having identified the required throughput and process capability, the process improvement activity can begin, and to achieve these throughput goals, there may be a need to think and act differently. For example, if panels are painted off the car, this allows multiple jobs to be painted and baked simultaneously. Selecting the right paint product and paint process can significantly impact the baking cycle, reducing it from say, 30 minutes down to as low as 10 minutes. The reduction in bake time can allow for another booth cycle within the day, giving a potential 20% increase in capacity.
The results from any improvement initiatives will only be fully realised after standardisation has occurred. A crucial part of standardisation is standard operating procedures (SOPs) designed to ensure that processes are carried out consistently whenever possible. In the format recommended, SOPs are not intended to teach the technician how to do a task but are designed to set the standard for how the task should be completed. Standardisation covers all aspects of the process, from grades of abrasives to the products used.
If you are interested in learning more on how to eliminate paint shop bottlenecks, join Robin and the Axalta Services team for the latest training course on “Paintshop Optimisation”. For more information, visit www.axalta.com.au/axaltaservices.