I frequently hear from body shop leaders that are frustrated with their “blueprinter” because they make too many mistakes. The blueprinter defends him or herself with reasoning that they are “only human,” therefore it should be acceptable to make an occasional blueprint mistake. As a former shop leader myself, I too struggled with how to respond to such reasoning, that is until I discovered the solution.

I thought about how doctors performing brain surgery, or a Blue Angels pilot would respond to such reasoning? I’m only human… oops! I also thought about lean practitioners such as those producing vehicles in a Toyota production facility. How do they avoid mistakes, after all, they are “only humans” too?

The answer soon came to me that the way master practitioners in any field avoid mistakes and become the very best is because they rely on a proven process that alleviates or catches potential mistakes before it’s too late. Once I understood this, it changed everything for me and my blueprint efforts.

Four ideas I recommend for eliminating mistakes:

  1. Arrow-down method | Think more like a computer and use the groups and sequencing available in your estimating system. Go to each group, and each part in each group and ask yourself the question, “Are there any parts needed for this repair in this group?” If yes, open the group to the first item (example bumper cover is usually the first item in the bumper group) and ask the yes or no question “is there anything we need to do to the front bumper cover?” Then go to the second item in the group, and so on. This is a much more thorough way to capture damage than jumping around the estimating system entering damage from a sheet of notes.
  2. Keep the computer at the car | Most mistakes are made because shops frequently have technicians write their supplements for them and then the estimator enters the information from their cozy office. (This is NOT blueprinting!) You must have a computer out in the damage analysis area if you want to avoid mistakes.
  3. QC the blueprint estimate | In our blueprinting training clinics we ask techs to stage all removed parts on a six-foot table so that the estimator or “blueprint analyst” can quality control his so-called finished estimate. We recommend that he or she prints out the final estimate and loads the parts cart while checking each line of the estimate as they go. If there are still parts on the table when you get done checking off each line of your estimate, you may have missed something!
  4. Use a repeatable process | At Elite we supply our clients with simple standard work instruction sheets. We call them “10-step sheets.” Essentially, we have condensed a complicated SOP manual into 10 simple steps that, if followed every time, make it very difficult to make a mistake. When an error does occur, it can almost always be traced back to a skipped step and a skipped step is not a “human error,” it is a poor choice made by the technician or estimator. Simple SOP’s like the 10-step system make a huge difference when it comes to holding teammates accountable for doing the right things.


I feel like it is time that collision repairers stop viewing common mistakes as their “normal.” Blueprint errors are too costly to ignore any longer and poor excuses such as “I’m only human” can no longer be seen as acceptable. Since we are humans and not computers, we must rely on simple systems that help us identify the problems when they occur and before it’s too late.

Set-up a simple, EFFECTIVE Blueprinting operation with the Elite Blueprinting Guide available exclusively on the Elite Body Shop Academy.