How to Eliminate Repair Plan Errors

How to Eliminate Repair Plan Errors

Poor repair planning is a leading cause of most operational chaos. When you miss damage and operations on your estimate, it can cost you and your business in many ways. This includes delays, morale, profit, poor cycle time, poor customer experience, even poor-quality repairs.

I encourage you to make a committed decision to stop guesstimating and start building a systematic approach to repair planning to create accurate repair plans.

Above all, I do not condone writing poorly written curb estimates. Whenever you can, DO NOT write up-front estimates when you know you are just going to disassemble the car when it comes in for repair.

The only time this makes sense is on lower severity repair jobs where you spend time to write a proper appraisal that allows you to capture 100% of the damage.

If you can’t write an accurate enhanced appraisal in an hour or less, and unless you live in a part of the world where you can’t get parts quickly, stop writing these. It just wastes everyone’s time!

To build a systematic method of appraisal, I recommend that you start to think more like a computer and less like a human.

When I was taught how to write an estimate, I was told to take a sheet of paper on a clipboard, look at the point of impact and then work my way outwards. This is how a lot of old-school estimators were taught.

One day, a mentor of mine who I worked with at a large auto body shop chain told me that I was doing it incorrectly. He said that I needed to think more like a computer!

Computers, at the most basic level, answer true or false questions… 1s and 0s. This is the binary code system that allows a computer to compute.

If you are tired of missing damage, it’s likely because you are thinking too much like a human. You might be looking at a damaged component on the vehicle during your damage analysis, internalizing it, then downloading that information onto a sheet of paper and entering it into the computer system.

The way a computer would do it is to use the information contained in the estimating program in a systematic way, starting with each group, usually from front to back.

Perhaps the first group in your estimating system is information labels. To think like a computer, you would ask yourself, “Does this repair job require us to perform any operations involving information labels? True or false?” Or, as I like to say, “Yes or no?”

If the first group sequenced in your estimating system is information labels and your answer is “no,” you go to the next group in the sequence—probably the front bumper group.

Then, ask the same question, “Does this repair job require us to perform any operations in the front bumper group? Yes or no?”

If the answer is “yes,” then open up the group to see all the individual parts sequenced below it. Highlight the first one—front bumper cover, for example—then ask the question, “Does this repair job require us to perform any front bumper operations on the front bumper cover? Yes or no?”

Look at the bumper cover and verify the damage, add it to your repair plan, then go to the next item on the screen, perhaps a bracket. Continue with the same yes/no process until you reach the end of the group.

Go to the next group—grille group, for example—and start the process over again until you have gone through all the groups. Of course, you will want to be sure to incorporate OEM repair procedures along the way.

The simple distinction is that you are using the computer first to ask your yes/no questions, then look at the car instead of the traditional method of looking at the car, then referring to the computer. By thinking more like a computer and using a systematic approach, it will help you eliminate repair plan errors and create an accurate repair plan for every job.


For more information about eliminating repair plan errors, consider becoming a member of Join Operations Monthly Live (OML), an online management training program and community of high performers. Here you’ll find hours of world-class training, including information about how to set up a successful blueprinting program and creating an accurate repair. With a very affordable OML subscription, you can join me live for an hour each month, where you will learn a new, relevant topic and be able to ask questions while interacting with many of North America’s best collision operators. To learn more, subscribe to the Dave Luehr YouTube channel and visit the Elite Body Shop Academy at

About the Author:

Dave shares his experience from over 30 years as a collision repair industry leader in leadership, lean and Theory of Constraints. Once the owner of a body shop himself, Dave draws on the realities of a real world collision repair shop in his consulting, writing and keynote speeches.

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