Keep Work Delays from Stalling Your Repair Shop
In a previous post in this series, we talked about what to do if your bays are full but you're not making enough money. Closely related is something else you might be experiencing—lost money due to work delays. It can be a very frustrating problem, as you have the customers in the shop, but much of the profit you should be making is lost because of the amount of time it takes to complete the repair. But what can you do about it?
Have you noticed that jobs are taking a lot longer than they should in your shop, but you can't pinpoint exactly what's slowing them down? Is there something off with the quotes given to customers? Are your techs losing time having to clarify the repair order with the service writer? These are questions that can only truly be answered if you have the proper systems in place.
Something that's important to consider as you work toward improving repair time is your shop's efficiency. This measures how long it takes a technician to complete a repair against how long it was estimated to take. The goal is to have an efficiency rate of 100% or higher, meaning that your technicians would be completing jobs in the amount of time quoted to the customer, or less, making your shop more money. It's important to have a handle on where your shop is with this metric as you move to improve it.
Once your baseline efficiency rate has been established, you can make moves to improve it. That's where systems come into play. If you don't have proper processes set up for your shop, it becomes nearly impossible to track what's being done well and what needs a little work. It's difficult to pinpoint problems, and your shop will end up floundering. Instead, work on implementing or improving systems with an eye on boosting efficiency. Odds are, you'll figure out what was going wrong in your shop in the first place, as well as address any upcoming issues much more quickly.
Our infographic lays out some of these ideas:
Setting Your Goal
Like the other issues you might face in this series, solving your work delay problem relies on you having a clear goal. Your goal might be:
As a shop, we will complete repairs in the time quoted or less for every job that comes through, saving an average of $X per repair.
The way you approach this goal depends on what the major problem is that's slowing you down. Each shop will be different, which is why it's so important to have systems in place that can help you identify what's going on.
Who has Responsibility?
As with most things in business, the ultimate responsibility will end up being shared between several people, all with different roles to play.
The Shop Owner
As the shop owner, it is your job to make sure the proper systems are put into place to help your shop flourish. It's you who needs to monitor those systems to see where they might be breaking down and work with your employees to come up with solutions to those issues. You're the big picture person, and it's important to keep in that mindset.
Your service writers are the ones who provide quotes to the customers, so it's vital that they be accurate. If the estimates are off on timing, it could be part of the reason your technicians aren't able to get jobs done on time. They need to be accountable for following shop processes for writing estimates and performing inspections, and they need to make sure that they aren't rushing through things just because the shop is busy. The more accurate the estimate, the more you'll end up making in the long run.
It's the job of the technicians, though, to make sure the work is done on time. That means that they need to complete the job without wasting time, and following processes can really help with this. If they know exactly where everything is, and they're provided with a comprehensive repair order, they won't need to worry about spends an hour tracking down a part or verifying information with the service writers. They will then be accountable for their own efficiency.
Making Sure You're Measuring
As it's one of your main responsibilities, you need to make sure you're measuring how your employees are doing, both in regard to their efficiency, as well as their adherence to the processes. (Keep in mind that sometimes they might be disregarding a process because they don't want to do it, and at other times there is something broken that prevents them from completing it properly. It's better not to jump to conclusions before evaluating what the problem actually is.)
Terry Keller, writing for Shop Owner Magazine, reminds shop owners that you can't just measure your employees; you also have to analyze and use the data. What is it telling you? He finds that the numbers aren't about them as a person, but how they are performing in their position. This can help you to more easily handle difficult situations.
He also points out that you need to keep up with tracking the measurements. Having information from several weeks ago doesn't really help you now. You need to know what's happening in real time, so make sure you make it part of your daily routine to review the measurements coming from your shop.
Creating and Revising Systems
As we've mentioned before, having the right systems in place is critical to the success of this goal. Don't be afraid to change a system if it isn't working, especially as your shop grows. Continuing to use an outdated system can be just as detrimental as having no system at all. Some of the systems you might think about for your shop could include:
- Preparing Service Orders and Estimates: This is one of the most important things to have to help get your work done on time. If your technicians aren't given an appropriate amount of time to complete the job, it will always look like there are work delays, and you'll be constantly losing money. But, if you have uniform processes for how inspections should be completed whenever a customer comes into the shop and how their estimates should be written, it's much more likely that they'll take the time to be accurate and thorough.
- Shop Organization and Tool Placement: If everything has its place in the shop documented, your techs will be able to save time, as they won't have to be running all over looking for the part or tool they need. It might seem like ten or fifteen minutes to find a part is nothing, but it can really add up.
- Parts Inventory and Ordering: Having a defined way to know which parts are in the shop, which need to be ordered, and the best way to get those parts can also save time. You don't need to be spending time running all over town looking for parts. This takes away from the job at hand. Instead, get to know your vendors and work to make a process on how parts can be ordered and shipped when needed. This can also help with accurate time estimates.
- Communication Between Service Writers and Techs: Streamlining this process can help save time as well. If your technicians are forced to hunt down the service writer each time they need something clarified on the repair order, valuable time is lost. Instead, come up with a system to help keep communication open. What works will vary from shop to shop, so think about how your shop is currently organized and how best to coordinate proper communication.
- Job Procedures: Having a procedure for each repair job documented can help with timing as well. If each tech knows the exact process for how a job should be done, they can move much more efficiently through the repair.
The Review Process
Reviewing and monitoring your systems will be a constant, ongoing thing. You'll always need to know if your employees are hitting their numbers, or if your systems are falling apart. Keeping on top of this can help you address work delay issues quickly and efficiently, rather than responding after it's too late to do much. Try to make reviewing measurements a part of your daily routine to help you stay tuned in to the shop.
Obviously, you don't want to be losing money on the jobs that come into your shop, so make sure to maximize each minute. Putting systems in place and holding your employees accountable for them can help you boost your profits and set your shop on the path for future growth.
If you're looking for a way to save time and money on parts, we can help! You can also take a look at the great benefits of our Repair Shop Value Program!