When I work with the service techs at a store, my goal is to help them, and management, understand the value they bring to a dealership and how they can do their work in the most efficient way possible. A service tech’s inventory is “time” and your goal as a dealer is to sell all of the tech’s time each day. Is it possible to sell eight hours of labor each day per tech? Absolutely. Most of my dealers sell more than that. I am a NASCAR fan and love to watch the efficiency of a pit stop. In most stops, a pit crew can change four tires, adjust the suspension, and fuel a car in less than 13 seconds. So why does it take a car dealership more than 16,000 times longer (about an hour) to put new tires on your car? It’s all about planning.

In a pit stop, the crew chief (service manager) has been in constant communication with the driver throughout the race and knows what changes need to be made before the car ever hits the pit stop. His people are positioned with the tools and parts they need to get the work done in the least amount of time possible. Everything is set and ready to go the moment that car comes to a stop. They don’t wait until it gets there to find the tires, and locate the jack or impact wrench. It’s all there ready to go. When a piece of equipment comes into your service tech’s area, it has just entered the pit. I challenge you to stand back and watch what takes place. Is the tech ready to start working on the equipment or is time being wasted as the tech gets ready to start working?  Does the tech have the right tools, the right parts and the right equipment to do the service? If not, then every minute the tech wastes costs you money.

In NASCAR, one second more or less in a pit stop can mean the difference between winning and losing a race. One second doesn’t seem like much, but in a NASCAR race, it is equal to about 200 feet or about 10 car lengths. As a business owner, I always think better when I put things in terms of costs. If your posted labor rate is just $60 per hour, one minute of wasted time costs you $1. That may seem insignificant until you look at how many minutes are wasted on every repair your shop completes.

One tech wasting 30 minutes per day could cost you more than $7,000 per year of unbilled labor. Multiply that by a couple of techs, and you start talking about some real money. It’s not that hard to eliminate that waste, if you are willing to spend some time watching what happens and improving your processes. You may find that your techs are wasting time waiting for parts to work on equipment. If that’s the case, change your process and pre-diagnose equipment so that they have the parts they need before the equipment comes in to be serviced. If that is not possible, at least have the fast-moving parts they need — blades, filters, plugs and oil — right beside them so they don’t have to take time to get them from the parts department.

Have the equipment they are going to work on each day staged, so they are not wasting time dragging it out from behind the new pile of equipment that came in the previous day. Hire a high-school kid to test and wash the equipment after it is serviced instead of having the techs use their valuable time doing it.

Look at the tools you have and consider investing in equipment that will speed up your process. Something as simple as a service lift can add six minutes per service hour to your shop. In an average day, you have added about 45 minutes of service time or, at $60 per hour, your techs could bill out another $45 in labor. For just one tech, you can add another $8,000 to your bottom line. Don’t forget about extra air hoses or even another broom so that your techs aren’t walking around trying to find the one broom the shop has that someone has misplaced.

Take some time over the next week and look at your check-in process. Are you and your employees getting the right information, so that when the equipment reaches the service department, it can easily be moved through the process and back into the customer’s hands in a smooth, seamless process? If not, make some adjustments. It is not the time to make sweeping changes, but a few minor adjustments won’t upset your system and can make a big impact on your turnaround time for your service.

Think about your pricing. If you are already behind and have customers pounding on you to get their equipment serviced, is there any reason why you couldn’t or shouldn’t move that posted shop rate up a few dollars? An increase of just a few dollars an hour won’t be noticed by a customer this time of year and, depending on your number of techs, could add thousands of dollars to your net profit.

And finally, do a quick evaluation of your techs and the time that may be wasted by waiting for parts, moving equipment in and out, or crawling around on a floor instead of using a service lift to get the equipment up in the air and serviced efficiently. Invest some time and fine-tune your shop and processes. If you do, you can take advantage of the busy season and make your service department a money-making machine.