There’s nothing more frustrating than losing time throughout the day from missing tools, misplaced or delayed parts, and technicians who aren’t turning wrenches.
A delay of 10 minutes on each car adds up to hours by the end of the day. It means lost production for the shop, aggravation for the mechanics and extra time, money, and frustration for your customers.
How can your shop increase productivity without adding cost? Efficiency holds the key to higher productivity. Take a look at these five common issues killing your productivity.
Loss of time due to poor communication may be the single biggest productivity killer out there.
Lots of shops have productive and efficient technicians (when they’re working) and right processes in place to intake cars and move them through the shop. Those things don’t matter if that efficient, productive technician isn’t under the hood.
Problems with communication start when the customer shows up at the business. There needs to be a thorough interview about what’s expected. This has to be a very detailed discussion that covers the noises, smells, and types of vibration that brought the vehicle to your shop.
Does the customer only want the cause of a single problem fixed? Is the vehicle due for a checkup based on its mileage? Are there inspections that you should perform alongside the work?
For instance, brakes or alignment problems that may not be part of the job can prevent problems down the road and build loyalty by informing the owner.
You can avoid delays that result from miscommunication in three simple steps:
- Set up a detailed process checklist. The service writer should cover all the basics. There should be a place on the paperwork for notes so that the technician is clear about parts and inspections, whether the owner wants the used parts back and any similar concerns.
- Keep all paperwork, keys, and the work order together. Use a box, folder, or pouch so that all information the mechanic needs is available without wasted time.
- Designate one specific staff member who clears information. You need someone who will find out things as requested so technicians can get on with their work instead of chasing answers.
#2 Planning is Your Friend
Processes, workspace layout, and customer handling are areas where planning pays big dividends. Plan as far ahead and as detailed as possible.
Plan your workflow so it makes sense. Bring the car in one end of the shop, designate individual bays for long-term or heavy work and others for quick jobs or light-duty tasks like tune-ups or troubleshooting.
Move the car through the shop in a logical order, so that when it leaves the work area, and it’s ready for washing or road testing, everyone knows what’s required by where it’s sitting. Designate a specific area for cars to be dropped off and a separate area for cars ready to pick up.
#3 Personnel Issues
Your people are your company. When you’re adding members to your team, some personnel considerations are apparent. Some are not. There are easy ways to ensure you’re hiring the right people who will add to your shop’s efficiency:
- Take your time when hiring. It can be tough to get by when you need another technician, but you have to go above minimum qualifications.
Find people with qualities like self-discipline, honesty, the ability to work in a team, and the desire to take responsibility for results. Otherwise, you’ll just go back through the hiring grind before you’re ready to do it again.
- Don’t miss the obvious. Consider hiring military veterans, because you know they have experience working in a team environment and understand intangibles like discipline and following rules. You may also consider trying temporary labor agencies so that you can take prospects for a “test run.”
- Treat your employees well. If you’ve hired good people, they’ll treat you well if you do the same. Make sure they get scheduled breaks and leave them alone as long as they get the work done on time.
There’s no need to badger grown adults about one tech stepping over to share a quick thought or a laugh. These are the things that build morale and make for good teamwork.
You don’t want wasted time, of course, but these moments contribute to productivity, allowing stress relief and a moment of subconscious consideration. These little refreshers can enhance problem-solving by recognizing issues they haven’t previously noticed once they return to work.
- Respect their outside time. If employees realize you understand their concerns about their families, paying bills, and taking care of business outside the shop, they’ll be more loyal, more relaxed, more productive. When you need a great new hire, they’ll recommend good people in turn.
#4 Accountability and Organization
One thing about hiring good people is that you’ll find it easier to hold them accountable for mistakes when you need to “have a talk.”
However, if they don’t have parts on time, shop tools need maintenance, or supplies aren’t available, you’ll be held accountable.
Be ready to take it on the chin and live up to the rules you’re expecting your employees to live by.
Make sure you prepare parts on time and you know where small tools are. Tools get easily lost and lack of equipment management leads to unnecessary waste of time and money.
Frequently-used supplies like lubricants, sealers, bulbs, rags, rubber gloves and such need to be well-organized and never empty.
#5 Training and Management
Match personnel to the job they’re best suited for. If you live in a hot climate and only have one air conditioning tech, plan for all those air conditioning jobs to go through that tech so the other guys aren’t wasting time asking questions all the time.
Train your employees, so there’s always at least two good techs for cases like this.
Give training a high place of respect in your business culture and use it as a reward for technicians who perform well and want to move up.
When you get a new analyzer or alignment equipment, make sure everyone receives vendor training. Follow it up by designating the tech who’s most competent as a supervisor for proper setup and use of the equipment. Responsibility breeds maturity.
These are just a few of the many ways you can improve productivity in your shop. You can always break these categories into finer detail to get your shop to the level of quality work and productive earnings you’d like to reach.
Communication, planning, organization, accountability, and good people will always account for most of your success. Understand them, and there’s no limit to the levels your shop can grow to.
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters