The Benefits of Our Action Research with Auto Retail

In 1998 Dan Jones asked a couple of his researchers to understand if and how Lean thinking can be applied to auto retail. Since then we have worked with car dealers on a variety of projects and now have a number of great cases that showcase the benefits of Lean outside traditional auto manufacturing.

Back then, little was known about applying Lean principles beyond manufacturing so we started our work in auto body repair as (from the outside) the processes appeared most similar to the world of manufacturing where Lean production started. The organisations we helped were able to dramatically reduce defects and rework levels; while at the same time cut lead times from weeks to days and double their productivity.

Encouraged by these early successes we found pioneers to work with in after sales. By focussing on value to customers and getting that value to “flow” we have helped a growing number of dealers solve their business problems – improving their ability to deliver vehicles right first time, on time, every time, in less time – whilst achieving 2:1 productivity gains over their competitors with much reduced space requirements. Typical results are a doubling of the work that can be done in a typical service workshop. Of course after sales is only part of a dealer’s business.

We have helped a number of the dealers we’ve worked with in after sales implement Lean thinking in their used car processes – right from appraisal in the buying process, through preparation. The same pioneers have gone on to apply Lean thinking in the sales process – providing value to customers by developing a plan for every customer and a plan for every vehicle.

Sustaining such performance improvement wouldn’t be possible without developing a Lean management system – we’ve therefore been instrumental in helping dealers develop policy and strategy that is deployed throughout the organisation using the scientific method PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act.) Developing the problem solving capability to close the most important business gaps.

As part of our ongoing efforts to bring Lean thinking to the sector we published our workbook Creating Lean Dealers in 2007.