Do You Really Need More Technicians?

mike stallings newsletterMany times when I visit dealerships the first thing the service manager tells me is that more techs are needed. Work is not getting out of the shop and carry-overs are growing.

 My first question is, what is the productivity of the shop? Many times there is no answer or a very vague one. Then I ask another series of questions:  How do you dispatch work to your techs? What are the required hours to be at work (do they clock in and out)? What is the skill level in your shop? Are special tools organized and easy to find?  Is the back parts counter staffed properly? What is the repair order fill rate? Do advisors know what inventory of labor hours they have available to sell each day?  How are appointments handled? How is the internet infrastructure?

 After being in the automotive business since 1972 and a dealer more than 20 years, I’ve learned there is more than 1 answer to any question. Everything I mentioned above affects your people in the shop and productivity. Until you know the answers we don’t know if another tech is needed.

 Let’s talk about dispatching work. What type of system are you using? Do we select the right tech for the job? How long does an RO stay in your system before it is dispatched? Is there favoritism? Do the techs get to cherry-pick through your RO’S? Are we running a specialized shop requiring multiple dispatching to different techs?

 Now required hours to work and be at work are usually two different things in a lot of shops. Heck, we don’t require our techs to clock in and out at a lot of our stores. If your tech is not at work at the required time, how can you track productivity? I hear this a lot:  “He or she works late sometimes, so it’s ok to come in 45 minutes late.” This is a highly competitive environment today; our people have to be in our shops on time every day.

 Concerning the skill level of your techs, have you sat down and actually analyzed their skill levels? I’m not saying every tech in your shop has to be a master tech. We need to know what our techs can handle and where a job needs to go. Who needs additional training. Our shops should have many different skill levels of techs.

 Special tools–we all have thousands of dollars tied up in these. Many times I find them thrown in piles or in a tech’s tool box. These are required to perform certain jobs effectively. Let’s get a process in place so that time is not wasted running around the shop looking for them.

 The parts counter is a resource that can not be taken for granted. I don’t want to beat up on the parts department. They are vital to our business and a source of revenue. So many times the parts counter is understaffed and our best people are on the customer counter. In most dealers the service department is our 1 customer. Let’s start thinking that way. Cut down the wait times where possible. Have someone else answering the phone (not your back counter people). Deliver the parts to techs’ bays. For you Parts Managers out there, don’t get excited about what I’ve said. Just think about it. We can and should do everything possible to improve on our wait times.

 Do our Advisors know how many hours are available to sell every day? Without this knowledge, you’re stuck at current production levels. You must develop a time-bank for your advisors. Production objectives are a very effective tool. If we don’t have a target, then how do we measure our performance?

 Some stores only work by appointment and some are on a first-come-first-serve basis. Both of these cost you business. We have to do both. An appointment process has to be developed and you must be able to handle your walk-in customers, too. There are many different ways to handle this. M5 can guide you through these processes.

 Internet infrastructure is a source of dissatisfaction at many stores. Our computers are many years old. Old computers cost the dealership money. Our techs need to be working with up-to-date equipment (our computers are the most used tool in the shop). Our band width in our shops many times will not support the number of devices hooked up to them. What this means is it can take 2-10 times longer to program a vehicle than what your tech gets paid for.

 Until we can answer these questions I would not hire another tech yet.

Would you like some help on these questions and many others?  An evaluation by M5 is a great place to start.

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