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Paper Flow Tips

Tips - Paper Flow Tips

How to properly flow and track paper in a bodyshop office

This record retention and paperflow system is based on the use of several key components. The most basic being a Repair Order Jacket (ROJ) or folder. The system was designed to increase profit by $50 per job while spending less than $.50 per job for additional supplies. This can easily be attained if you utilize the following description of HOW paper should be handled in a Collision Repair Facility. It would be handy if you have our Repair Order Jacket or Repair Order Folder in hand before proceeding, or print this out and go to

When beginning this paper flow program, it is very important that everyone understand the Repair Order Jacket CANNOT leave the office for any reason. It is the heartbeat of the office paperflow control and it must be kept in its appropriate rack (or file).

Note: We constantly receive phone calls from shops requesting assistance in tracking work through the shop from the office. The best, and simplest way I know is to use repair order racks in the office. See the photo below.

  1. As soon as the estimate becomes a job, the estimate is mated with a new ROJ (Repair Order Jacket). The secretary fills out the ROJ. A parts order worksheet is generated. One copy goes in the ROJ, one to parts.
  2. A hard copy Repair Order needs to be generated at the same time and signed by the customer when the car is dropped off. Put it in the ROJ (if you practice repairing cars without authorization signatures, I would recommend that you begin immediately getting signatures on every repair - too many lawsuits have been won by crafty lawyers, and granted by bleeding heart juries. It would be wise to protect yourself from this day forward.)
  3. As estimates really have no place in the hands of employees, a Technician's Work Order needs to be filled out at the same time (usually a copy of the repair order is used). Make three or four copies. Insert it in the ROJ.
  4. Fill in the written warranty. Put it in the ROJ.
  5. Place rental forms and insurance release forms, etc. in the ROJ.

Parts Ordering

  1. Put the ROJ in the "Parts Ordered" rack or file.
  2. When the parts arrive, they need to be checked in by SOMEONE that can make sure that everything ordered has been received, everything on the invoice has actually been delivered and is undamaged. At that time, COPIES of every invoice must be placed in the ROJ.
  3. Once the vehicle is scheduled, move the ROJ to the "Scheduled, Not Here" ROJ rack.

The Vehicle Enters the Metal Shop

  1. When the car arrives in the metal shop, the ROJ is moved to the metal shop (or paint shop if it is paint only) ROJ rack. Two or three copies of the technician's work order are then inserted in a repair order protector and given to the technician. It is advisable to protect the technician's work orders by inserting them in a clear repair order protector. These are available from us, are approx. $2.50 each, and are all reusable (1-800-367-6575).
  2. The copies of the repair order(s) are now given to whomever will be in charge of bringing the cars into the shop in proper order, and/or assigning the work.
  3. When ROJ's are residing in the appropriate rack, I would suggest that they be kept in alphabetical order for ease of identification. Having separate racks to split paint/prep/metal/detail is preferred, but the same thing can be accomplished by using color coding of the ROJ with colored adhesive dots. We have them in 20 different colors and some with insurance companies printed on them. An office administrative person is in charge of keeping the dots up to date as cars move through the shop.

Work Begins

  1. The metal technician receives the work order, performs the work, and retains a copy of the work order for his records.
  2. He then feeds the repair order protector with the remaining work orders to the leadman/foreman in the paint department. Paint is performed. The painter retains a copy of the work order....and so on, through all the departments of your shop.

Work is Finished

  1. When finished in the detail department, the detail person in charge of that vehicle brings the keys and clear repair order protector with final copy to the appropriate manager.
  2. She/he alerts the PERSON who wrote the estimate, and/or sold the job, to inspect the car for correctness. (Don't forget the promised freebies!! (This is a part of our Repair Order Jacket system.)

Final Bill is Generated

At this time, the final bill and supplement are generated between the person in charge of final billing AND the person responsible for that particular job. The customer is's a done deal.

Receiving the Money
If the job has a receivable (money owed), file it in the receivable drawer. Have the person in charge of receivables keep a list of all money not received, by date, for review by the shop manager on a weekly basis. If they're past due, somebody has got to get on the phone (it should be the person in charge of receivables first, then the shop manager person who was responsible for the vehicle when it was delivered).


  1. With all the paperwork in the ROJ, file in a quarterly file cabinet drawer (Jan, Feb, Mar, etc.) alphabetically, but ONLY if PAID in FULL.
  2. After one year, the file contents are emptied into a cardboard file box. Keep the cardboard files within easy reach for two years thereafter. Then file away. Be sure to mark the end of the boxes with the quarter (1st, 2nd, etc.), the year, and the approximate beginning and ending RO numbers.


  1. Write the paint number in paint area of the ROJ. It seems to be the one item that we search for quite often. Also, if tinting was done on the color, have the painter fill out a simple form with tint instructions. Then write it on the ROJ.
  2. Have someone take time to write down everything that happened to the job that was out of the ordinary. For example: Prior damage, supplements, hard time with insurance company, insurance agent tried to refer to the customer to a different shop, the customer was overly picky, insurance sheet was extremely low or high, we made money, we lost money, etc.
  3. When special promises are made to a customer (delivery date, touch-up at N/C, installing door molding), write them in the special promises section of the ROJ. Check the "Special Promises" section of the ROJ just prior to delivery of the car. Then take the time to make sure that all the things YOU SAID would be done, have been successfully completed. Nothing makes a customer any more upset than finding something that isn't finished, especially if it's a freebie.
  4. Write down every contact with the insurance, time, and what was said and/or agreed upon. Seems like they (insurance adjustors and customers alike), have a short memory when it comes to remembering verbal "agreed upon" supplements, prices, parts prices increases, etc. Especially on the telephone. Every time you talk to an insurance representative or customer on the phone, have that ROJ in front of you. When finished with the phone call, write down what was said.
  5. The small boxes marked waiting for parts, production, etc., midway to the top can be used for just about anything you wish. We use them to label parts problems, etc. Also it is used to list the amount of down time generated by waiting for insurance companies to approve supplements, down time waiting for parts, etc. Use them to log the day and time the car came on the lot for repairs, the day and time we started repairs, and the day and time the car was actually finished and available for delivery. This is interesting data when you begin to compare it to flat-rate hours. Every invoice that is charged against a job needs to be copied and inserted in the repair order jacket. Besides facilitating figuring the final bill and supplement, you will always have proof of what was purchased for the job; i.e. insurance re-inspections, IRS audits, sales tax audits.
  6. Be sure to leave the contents in the the repair order jacket when stored away. You never know what you may need it for.
  7. You may choose to use the information in the lower right hand corner to balance the amount level and the amount paid on the job. It's a good way to make sure that all the money is collected on the job.