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Color-Coding Processes

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The Inspiration

It was the late 1990s and Dave Denmon, owner of Dave’s Car Care, was looking to improve processes within his shop. After reading The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber, Denmon decided to come up with practical solutions that would help his business run more efficiently. He looked into ways he could track repair orders without breaking the bank and creating an overly complicated solution.

Since technicians already used dispatch boards, he decided to take his work order tracking one step further and implement a system that would help staff easily recognize work orders, job status and which technician was working on what job.


What It Is

The color-coding process, which was first implemented in 1997, was put in place to streamline workflow for technicians and front office staff alike. The process consists of different colored hats that have an assigned number to them. 

“This system helps us visually manage the workflow,” Denmon says. “It helps management gauge any return work.”

The color-coding process has three main parts to it: the color-coded circular labels, color-coded service write-ups and the color-coded hats. 


What It Does

The color-coded circular labels help keep track of parts and other items that are ordered, repaired or replaced on a vehicle when it comes into the shop. The labels come in red, yellow, orange, and pink.  

Repair orders come in yellow, blue, tan, and red. Yellow means it’s a scheduled appointment. Blue means the work order belongs to a new customer and has referral information. Tan work orders are for existing customers who didn’t make an appointment. And a red work order means that the vehicle is a comeback. Comebacks are a priority and the vehicle is returned to the original technician.

The final part of the process is the color-coded top hats. Each of the six technicians is assigned a color (blue, orange, red, green, and gray). Each tech has six numbered “hats” on his or her dispatch board. Each repair order is placed on the dispatch board by number. The associated hat is then placed on the vehicle by number and color.


How It's Made

The different colored hats came from an automotive supply company, and the different colored paper and labels came from Staples. From there, the staff simply needs to fill out the orders and place labels and hats where needed. 


The Cost

The hats that are used to identify each technician’s work were a one-time investment made years ago, according to Denmon. The labels cost roughly $35 per color for 2,500 labels. The colored paper is approximately $18 per ream. He estimates that 10 reams (of all colors combined) are ordered per year. 



Dave’s Car Care has paired its color-coding solution with a paperless inspection system that uses tablets and links directly into the shop’s point-of-sale system. The paperless inspection system was adopted in January 2016. Denmon says that the overall benefit of the color-coding system is the elimination of errors and priority recognition based on color. 

“I feel that visual recognition of the work orders provides for an orderly process and we will, most likely, never convert to a completely paperless system,” Denmon says.  

SHOP STATS: Daves Car Care Owner: Dave Denmon Location: Glendale, Ariz. Shop Size: 6,000 square feet Average Monthly Car Count: 350 Annual Revenue: $2.1 million

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