“When we argue for our limitations, we get to keep them,” a wise saying states.
I was visiting a marginally performing service operation taking a general review of the situation and the newest and hopefully the last manager for a lengthy time (six generals in two years is a bit much). I always make an organizational chart including all personnel, payplans, working hours, labor rates, job titles, stall occupation, etc. as a beginning to get a composition of how the department is setup and functioning. I also closely examine the incoming customer flow, pre-scheduling, shop loading, and related CSI measurements.
Too many times I am discovering the same issues related to planning workloads through the designated appointment system. First off, some of the schemes are sadly inadequate, not providing enough information / direction related to shop hours being available versus planned, adequate problem definitions, and other periphery items like shuttle times, loaners available, as well as staffing, etc. Keeping in mind that many, if not most, appointment-takers themselves are woefully prepared for arranging a proper shop preload. The appointment software needs to be designed for the lowest common denominator so to speak, and really none are that thorough that I have utilized.
The aforementioned department opened at 7am, but incoming appointments in the DMS didn’t even start until 7:30am listing only ONE allowed with a staffing of three ASMs and nine techs! Guess what the morning looked like – a ghost town with techs meandering in whenever, unless they had a carryover to complete. The appointments ended at 4pm, while the posted hours (and a tech or two) listed 7pm – you can image what the evenings looked like. When you figure that the average productive tech produces around $2.50 to $3 a minute in parts and labor sales, this unfortunate creation was quite expensive indeed. (Note: you should do the minute calculation for yourself – surprising)
There are vital controls which must be developed and reviewed at least weekly, if not daily, to ensure that a productive shop load is being structured in the appointment control system. Considerations have to made for situations such as 10 techs starting at the exact same time as the ASM staff – how does that work for maximizing production time? Speaking of that, keep in mind that the business model for service is a piece of cement containing 720 hours a month of expenses. A typical tech only occupies that piece of cement about 160 hours a month, which makes every minute count. And don’t even think about the stalls with no tech, just the expense.
“When you figure that the average productive tech produces around $2.50 to $3 a minute in parts and labor sales, this unfortunate creation was quite expensive indeed..”
I originally went to work in a high-end European shop as a tech apprentice out of high school. I recall our stalwart European-born service manager stating emphatically that he wanted to see two documents being clicked at the same time at the time clock – attendance card and starting RO in the AM, two ROs during the day (one clocking off, one clocking on), and the same as the AM for day’s end. He made a point to all of us of the value of producing every available minute, and the parts department even delivered parts and supplies to our stalls. I can’t remember a time when a vehicle and often the needed parts weren’t already in my stall at arrival. The parts department went to work with the ASM staff setting up the morning production about an hour before the techs began wrenching.
Unfortunately, few service managers / directors / gurus have been taught the value of time in service, beginning with ensuring that every tech has a job to start on parked in their stall, which means not all techs should be starting / stopping at the same time to give an opportunity for the ASM staff time to produce ROs. Reception vehicles should be driven into stalls when possible, not parked on the lot “somewhere.”
This type of planning requires closely managing shop pre-loading including daily tech staffing, working hours, shop output percentage (proficiency), ASM staffing, workmix, skills available, carryovers, and walk-ins. Yes, it is a hefty concoction, but all of these factors determine how successful the day will be or not. Finger licking setups put in place a year ago by the unknowing DMS provider newbie or the third past service chief is bad business – just sayin’.
I developed a preliminary appointment plan for a dealership with 20 techs and 4 ASMs, which I applied to the DMS appointment system as a beginning setup. Of course, proper care and feeding of the system is at least a weekly task to remain accurate and effective. If you would like a copy of this Excel worksheet just send a note to Ed@NetProfitGroup.com, and put on the subject line “Appt Plan Study Stan” so I know what to send you. At minimum, it will provide an overview of how an appointment system applies your shop loading data, and how you might apply your shop’s organization to your system. The worse that can happen is that your staff starts getting the true pre-loading picture with more focus, and maybe even the production will rise with the bottom line – a sweet result.
Author: Ed Kovalchick
Ed Kovalchick is the CEO and founder of Net Profit Inc., Alabaster, AL, an international fixed operation consulting and training firm located in Alabaster AL. Mr. Kovalchick and his firm have assisted hundreds of dealers and manufacturers, and conducted workshops throughout the world for thousands of students since 1979. He has written columns for Dealer Magazine since its inception.