If other problems emerge during the repair process, it’s important to alert the customer before the repair is completed, which also opens up the opportunity for add-on sales.
Waiting for Parts
Technicians standing around waiting for parts directly affects productivity, which ultimately affects shop profitability. Make sure parts people arrive early in the morning to receive and process parts. Consider having a designated parts person for the service department. Parts for routine maintenance jobs should be picked and ready before the tech starts the job.
If your parts counter person is properly trained, he or she will be able to answer basic customer questions, and possibly return machines to customers without having to bother the techs, who should keep working.
Computers in the shop (or even service bays) enable technicians to create pick tickets without having to walk to another area of the dealership. Some dealers have “parts runners” who then bring the parts to the techs so the techs, especially the higher-paid ones, can stay in their bays turning wrenches.
coffee, cigarettes & cell phones
When you consider that one minute of technician time is worth about $1.50 in labor and parts sales, it’s easy to see how the wise utilization of time is critical. Examples of poor tech time management are:
- Starting to work, which means all the coffee drinking and yapping about the previous night’s activities stop at 8 a.m. so wrenches can start turning
- Not pre-loading the shop the night before, including the pre-pulling of parts when possible
- Extended breaks and much too frequent smoke breaks
- Use of cell phones
- Chatting it up with tool vendors and distributor reps
- While a clean and orderly shop is essential to safety and productivity, cleanup times can also be a time killer if not managed closely.
It’s a delicate balance. You want your dealership to be a fun place to work, and you don’t want to come off as too much of a dictator. But this down time is paid for by shop profits, so it must be made clear to shop personnel that it cannot be abused. And you must enforce it.
No Motivation to Really Perform
The best way to manage time is to measure it precisely and post the use of it for all to see. Dealership owners and service managers need to be focused on efficiency: payroll hours vs. hours billed to customers. For most dealerships, a goal of 100% efficiency is unrealistic. A good target is 70-80%. Generally speaking, a minimum of 45-50% is needed just for the service department to pay its share of overhead and break even.
Some dealers like to pay techs a flat wage, or maybe a percentage of the hourly shop rate. But here’s a given: When technicians reach their weekly earnings goal, sufficient to support a pre-determined lifestyle, they often stop working. They need motivation. And they need to be on a motivational plan.
There has to be an additional reward for additional performance. Straight clock-hour pay plans send the message that any performance is OK; it’s more about attendance than performance. Share the daily cost of running the business with the technicians, along with the daily income that’s generated. It’s not about getting rich. It’s about survival and the profit necessary to sustain a well-equipped shop that’s able to take good care of its employees. Techs don’t see it this way until someone, namely the dealership’s owner, takes the time to explain how the business functions.
When an outdoor power equipment retailer builds a profitable service department that’s capable of providing better wages and benefits, skilled (and certified) technicians will knock on their door. Service department labor rate is seldom challenged when the maintenance and repair work is completed in a clean and well-equipped shop by skilled technicians who are professional in manner and style.