Tools of the Trade

Jerry Wakefield NewsletterWe all have walked through shops and seen the enormous tool boxes many techs have. We most likely have also seen techs with multiple tool boxes overflowing with tools. Some of you may ask why do they need all these tools and tool boxes? I’m confident that if you ask the techs, you will hear a common response; “The right tool helps me complete the job much quicker”. You also may hear “I need the big tool box so I can find the tools I need quicker”. Is there a theme here? You bet! The more efficient the tech is, the more money they can make.

 The ironic thing about this is in many cases is that if you look at the computer they are using, it is old and slow or often barely works at all. A technician in today’s world can use a computer more per day than most any other tool in their tool box. All of their technical, wiring, and installation diagrams are online. They use their computer to program vehicle systems, reset warning lights, and help identify customer concerns. Thus a slow computer can be counterproductive.

 How about service advisors? I have seen many advisors struggle with a slow outdated computer. Remember that are waiting on our customers. Think of this from the customer’s perspective. Most of our customers are in a hurry and have little patience for delays at write up. It can also affect the advisors ability to perform a proper vehicle inspection and menu presentation, and don’t we all want that process to happen on every car?

 So, let’s talk computers. Many stores are still using the Windows XP operating system. Windows XP was released on August 24, 2001. That’s older than most of the vehicles we see on our service drive, and probably older than the car you drive. Now I know it is unlikely that these computers are twelve years old, but I’m sure there are some out there are. The other important point is as of April 8, 2014 Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP and is not providing any security updates for it. I have also seen some manufacturer’s software not function properly on this operating system. Using a computer with an outdated operating system can prevent getting the latest internet browser, and can prevent some manufacturer’s programs from functioning properly or even working at all. Outdated operating systems lack modern security, leaving systems open to attack from viruses and hackers, like in the recent Sony and Target attacks. Will hackers go after your store? That’s hard to say; but is it worth the risk with your financial data, or worse your customers? What damage could a virus do if left unnoticed on your internal network?

 Computers are a part of nearly everything that is done in a dealership today, and unfortunately not always used for work functions. They can also be a major contributor to non-productive time spent by our employees. It may seem that we are replacing or repairing these computers on a regular basis. It may also seem that the same people are having computer issues frequently.

 So, what can you do? Each one of the manufactures that I have worked with has IT guidelines and recommendations for computers for each of your departments. I highly recommend that you search for this information, and compare to what your employees are currently using. They also may have minimum bandwidth requirements. Sometimes these recommendations can be hard to meet because of geographical locations of the store and internet capabilities of the providers in your area, but it is important to know what the manufactures recommend and what your bandwidth is. It’s quite possible that these recommendations are needed to run programs necessary to fix cars.

 So, what can we do to protect our stores, keep our people productive, and prevent people from abusing the internet? First of all update all computer operating systems to the manufactures minimum requirements. Unfortunately, this may require a new computer. Make sure the software updates are running to receive the latest security upgrades, and internet browsers that the manufacturer recommends. In some cases, the latest internet browser will not be compatible with the manufacturer’s software. Once again, see what the manufacturer recommends.

 Do you have enough internet to prevent slow web page and manufacturer access? Check to see if your internet bandwidth is at factory recommendations, and what your Internet Service Providers capabilities are. Look for software or a service to restrict where your employees are going on the internet. This can have the most long term benefits in preventing viruses, halting non-productive work being done, and freeing bandwidth for work related functions. You may be able to get this through your ISP, and this also can affect the longevity of your computers.

 Also, something I did in my stores was to allow techs to bring in their own computers. Let’s face it, if someone pays for it with their own money, they are more likely to take better care of it. This could create some heartburn for IT people, but with an internet access manager and a good firewall, this really is not a concern to your network.

 In closing, the tools that we use in our store are more than just the tools in the shop and as we know, tech productivity is an important measurement. Computers are a tool in our tool box, and our advisors use this tool to take care of our customers. I hope I have been able to show the importance of how the right tool for the right job can affect other areas of the dealership, and that waiting for a program to load will ultimately affect your bottom line.

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