Fixed Ops Article, May 2021

Efficiency, Not Bodies

By Anthony Greenhalgh

“You need more techs!”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that when I ran the body shop and reconditioning for my former dealer, I’d be retired. Yes, sometimes you need more techs, but before you go spending money on people, you need to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to assist your team in doing their job with excellence.

Flat-rate techs might earn their wage, but that doesn’t mean they’re cheap. You’ve got training, benefits, payroll taxes, uniforms, and a load of other expenses that come along with adding more headcount. I learned the hard way - I needed more production and hired six more techs -- and blew the whole department up. My journeyman techs were upset I was flooding the floor, my onboarding expense was through the roof, and six months later, I was right back where I started, looking for more production.

The fact is I had to get smarter if I -- and you – are to meet our goal, increase production. The old argument the dealership has been using for years – add more people -- does little more than provide temporary fixes and a ton of personnel expense. I had to make my techs better, but I was already heavily engaged in ongoing training, so what more could I do to help them improve? The answer: I needed (and you do, too) to remove obstacles slowing them down. There’s no big answer here that flipped my department overnight, but there were many small answers to my challenge, and they added up to big-time savings. Challenge yourself to find 20 small-time saving tips that will help your staff. When you do, you’ll cut days out of your time to line or cycle time. Your techs will have bigger paychecks (they’ll like that!), and your net profit will thank you. Here is a shortlist of just some of the things I did, and one (the cart) brought me a 9% increase in production.

  • Add phones to technician stalls (no more running up to find an estimator/advisor)
  • Stripe the floor in the shop with parking stalls (tech’s stick cars anywhere and sideways, so by striping the floor, we helped them move vehicles in and out without interrupting someone to move another car that might be in the way).
  • Move the detail bay, so it is a straight shot in and out from the overhead door (my policy expense dropped too, the result of fewer accidents).
  • Put in a complete onsite backup of shop supplies. Techs only stop working for two reasons — to retrieve parts/supplies and for information). 
  • Purchase multiple vacuums for the detail bay, so detailers need not drag the vacuum from one side of the vehicle to the other: this burns time, and vacuum hoses scratch the paint.

Here's the big tip: Organize supplies for each tech for their work area. I put these carts in my shop and saw a 9% increase in production hours. The supplies should go to the tech, not the other way around. At a 9% production increase, you'll earn back your investment in weeks, and your tech will thank you for it.

  • Load the carts with all the supplies the techs need.
  • Task a supply sergeant to keep the carts stocked. This includes opening packaging and loading the cart, not just dropping the supplies on the bench for the tech to deal with. Techs won’t deal, and you’ll end up with an expensive mess.
  • Choose products that will make the tech efficient, a cheap product that doesn’t deliver will cost you labor hours, you’ll lose way more in labor time than you save on product.
  • Even if your techs are pros, ask the manufacturer or jobber rep to provide training on using the products. You’ll find that techs use too much product almost always, and that kills production by creating more to clean up and murders your material budget simultaneously. I’m a huge 3M advocate, and a little of their product goes much further than an off-brand.
  • All techs use the same brand of supplies; If they’re not comfortable with the brand you’ve chosen, the manufacturer or jobber rep will provide training.

Before you run down to the local home store and buy a generic cart thinking you will solve this problem and save $400, consider your efficiency goal. Rubbermaid-brand carts are carts, but they have only two solid shelves, and they’re the perfect catchall for dirt, sand, and water (a detailer’s nightmare). I (we) have no affiliation with Innovative Tools, but we believe it is so right for the job I’m talking about here; we purchased one of them for use when we showcase our best practices. I’m just a guy that’s used their products and has succeeded using them. This cart offers unique shelving for buffing pads to keep them clean; its open shelf eliminates the buildup of dirt, sand, and water and provides dedicated spots for compounds, glass cleaners, degreasers, and similar detailing products.

Keeping supplies organized, so the tech goes to the same place for the same product every time makes them more efficient. Less wandering around wondering, “where did I leave that?”

There are easily 20 opportunities around your shop you can point to that slow efficiency down. Think not? Simply follow a tech or two through their day and look for small things you and I take for granted – do we keep printers stocked with extra paper and toner, things that burn tech time when they must leave a task to get those items.

Adding reconditioning software to my former body shop and recon operations boosted tech efficiency by 27% year over year. Recon and tech efficiency comes down to people, processes, and software in that order; the software provides the communication engine that keeps techs working and eliminates wasted time chasing people for answers.

Stay efficient, my friends.

About the author: Anthony Greenhalgh is the director of sales and marketing operations for Rapid Recon. Before joining the company in 2016, he spent 24 years at a multi-franchise metro dealer, responsible for internalizing all cosmetic reconditioning into its collision center. General Motors has recognized him as a “Top Performer” for his success in the automotive parts industry. Reach him at anthony@rapidrecon.com

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Keeping supplies organized so the tech goes to the same place for the same product every time makes them more efficient. Less wandering around wondering, "Where did I leave that?"

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Organized and capable people working from a structured workflow plan bring efficiency and quality to reconditioning processes such as detailing. Good management observes workflow to identify how to get more done without adding headcount.

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Potholes in your workflow slow down productivity. The answer to more production is often making small efficiency tweaks on how things are done historically at your shop.

About rapid Recon

Reconditioning workflow automation from Rapid Recon is the industry standard in time-to-line inventory turn and speed-to-sale vehicle revenue enhancement for automotive retailers. Benchmarking data based on 13 million vehicles processed uniquely positions Rapid Recon to advise dealers on how to improve their store’s profitability. Used by more than 2,000 dealerships, Rapid Recon ensures the accountability of processes, property, and people. Hence, dealers know answers quickly, find assets anywhere, and sell vehicles promptly to grow dealership profitability. www.rapidrecon.com CALL US: +650-999-0497

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