How auto repair shop software increases billable hours…
This article hyper-focuses on the 5 best ways to increase automotive technician efficiency. Ironically, for the most part, these 5 best practices have little to do with the skill or efficiency of the technicians and mechanics, themselves. Instead, most experts agree that performance is most significantly affected by the things that management either does or fails to do, for or to the technical production team members. Often, it’s the very processes, operational procedures and policies of the repair shop that negatively impact the auto tech and his or her ability to perform at a high level of efficiency.
What do high performing automotive technicians and mechanics have in common besides good attitudes, suitable aptitudes, and the required level of ability? “Authentic Manhood” answers this question in one of their study courses titled “A Man and His Work”. They assert that all men want four things from their work:
- Success – They want to master what they do and to receive recognition and respect for it.
- Fair Compensation – Note the word is fair… not high pay, more money than the other guy, or some other similar catch phrase.
- A Good Fit – Feeling comfortable and reasonably challenged in the job, itself, as well as enjoying the work environment including the people.
- Meaning – The feeling that the work matters… that it’s purposeful and significant. For instance, auto techs and mechanics don’t just fix cars; they fix people by solving transportation problems for people.
So, what are the 5 things an auto repair shop owner or manager should do to boost productivity?
- Establish a baseline of current performance levels for each tech and a composite for the entire technical team. The best way to do this is with a concept called adjusted capacity.
The idea is to determine the individual tech’s adjusted capacity and then combine each of the individual results into a team adjusted capacity. This is important because it identifies the shop’s current level of productivity and serves as the starting point for measuring progress in boosting the shop’s production.
Here are the steps to calculate adjusted capacity for one mechanic for one week. Do this for each mechanic and then add them together to determine the shop’s weekly combined adjusted capacity.
- How many hours is the mechanic at work per week?
- Estimate how many of those hours are actually available for doing work. Deduct the following:
- Structured lost time - breaks, lunch, paid holidays, paid sick days, paid vacations;
- Process related lost time - time spent waiting for job assignments, time spent waiting for parts or ordering parts, time spent performing technical research or calling a tech hotline;
- Under-employed lost time - doing non-billable work like cleaning the shop, running customers home, stocking parts inventory, or other things that under utilize the tech’s ability to produce revenue that matches his skill value;
- Doing non-revenue jobs like warranty repairs or fixing another technicians mistakes;
- Technician efficiency – this can be an addition or deduction because it answers the question, “How long does it take this tech, on average, to perform a job compared to the time allowed (and hopefully billed) in the labor guide used by the shop? For instance, if he can do a 2 hour job in 1.5 hours, he has an efficiency factor of 33% (2 divided by 1.5 = 1.33). But if it took him 3 hours to do a 2 hour job, he has a 67% or a -33% efficiency factor (2 divided by 3 = .67). Note: it is imperative that you use the same labor guide all the time for this calculation because the guides do vary.
While this might seem like a daunting task, it’s actually quite simple. Once you’ve done it a few times, it will go fairly quickly. However, the challenge is accuracy because so much of the data is estimated or purely subjective.
However, there are easy-to-use time clock features available on auto shop software that can capture and calculate the precise data needed to accurately determine an auto repair technician’s adjusted capacity and the production team’s adjusted capacity.
- Use adjusted capacity in setting production goals. Since billed and produced hours are the best measure of a shop’s efficiency, why not use adjusted capacity as the criteria to measure the technical proficiency of the shop?
Set short term targets related to improving adjusted capacity for each mechanic as well as a team target. Achievement of individual targets will result in achieving the shop’s objectives and goals.
Employees typically perform better when trying to achieve a goal against which they can measure themselves. But most of all, they need to feel that they can directly impact the achievement of the goal.
People like to play games that have winners and losers or at least, provide performance feedback. How interesting would it be to play a game that concealed the results from you? Imagine bowling and only hearing the crash of the ball into the pins because the pins are concealed behind a curtain that drops down after the ball is on its way down the alley.
When it comes to technicians and mechanics, they often feel that they’re efforts are lost in the shop’s focus on sales dollars. They need to know that what they do matters and understand how improvements in their adjusted capacity translate into more billable hours and greater success for everyone and the shop as a whole. After all, it’s their production that drives billable hours and therefore drives revenue, as well.
- Incentivize with rewards for meeting production goals. Add small incremental bonuses when techs exceed their respective individual targets. Give production team bonuses when they exceed the team’s production targets.
Bonuses based on shop sales are lost on the tech team members. But they do understand hours produced and will respond favorably to bonuses based on that.
Consider posting the daily targets on a whiteboard in a prominent spot in the shop, and periodically throughout the day update their progress toward those targets. At the end of the day update the weekly tally, as well. Also give each employee his individual weekly tally as the week progresses. All of these things demonstrate that you’re paying attention and that what they’re doing matters.
The time clock feature on auto shop software streamlines this process. When technicians are connected to the network with workstation laptops or tablets, they can receive real time reports and “virtual high fives” throughout the day.
Celebrate achievements. Acknowledge individual techs when they set new production records. If you have a shop loud speaker, let everyone know when it happens as soon as possible to when it happens. Getting noticed by the boss and getting high fives from peers is energizing for everyone.
When the production team sets a new record, it’s time for pizza! Make it fun and exciting.
- Remove obstacles to productivity. Here are some of the common obstacles.
- Assigning a job to the wrong technician – When a job is assigned to the right tech, he or she has a better chance to beat the allotted book time thereby increasing technician efficiency.
- Technicians waiting too long for the parts for their assigned job – this is a process problem that needs to be fixed.
- Jobs hung up in the office waiting for customer authorizations – this is also a process problem. But this one is almost invisible because it doesn’t directly affecting the technicians’ efficiency. This does affect adjusted capacity, though, because it’s a bottleneck. Auto shop software can save time in this area by sending customers text messages with estimates and pictures of the damaged parts, and by receiving customers’ text authorizations, as well.
- Rushed diagnostics – when a tech isn’t allowed sufficient time to perform a thorough diagnosis, it can cost the shop in several ways. For example:
- Lost sales from overlooking needed repairs so they don’t get sold; and
- Misdiagnosis that leads to longer repair times, warranty repairs and other types of comebacks.
- Doling out the jobs too slowly causing delays while the tech waits for his next job, or holding the next job back until the job the tech is working on is completed. It’s better to keep at least one job on the board ahead of the technician. That way he knows there’s a job waiting. This eliminates the time wasting situation of the work expanding to fill the time. Also, sometimes a tech can jump on the next job while another job is hung up for parts, authorizations, or technical research.
- Provide a first class working environment. This shows that you care and respect them.
- Start with a climate controlled shop area. It’s been proven time and again that happy technicians are more productive. What could make a technician happier and therefore more productive than working in an air conditioned shop in the heat of the summer or a warm shop in the depth of the winter.
- Provide state of the art equipment and diagnostic tools. The days of technicians providing 100% of their tools are long gone. Some of the needed equipment is simply too expensive and each technician doesn’t need it… it’s appropriately provided by the shop and shared by the production team. It’s the shop’s responsibility to supply the essential diagnostic tools, computer and electronic equipment. You wouldn’t expect your service writer to provide your auto shop management software.
The 5 best ways to increase automotive technician efficiency are most effective when they’re accompanied by a company culture that cares about its employees. These 5 steps to improving performance are best implemented with an auto shop management software system that is easy to use and provides accurate reports to share with the repair shop team.
Profitboost Software offers an easy, accurate and beneficial time clock feature within its newest version, Auto Shop Software and they’re committed to helping shops boost productivity and billable hours.