Fixed Ops – April-May ’21 Editorial

Load Balancing for Technician Efficiency

By Anthony Greenhalgh

Load balancing has critical implications for inventory turn – and thus, technician efficiency.

Load balance is a crucial metric to be managed if a dealer and his or her team are to add additional turns to inventory and recondition that inventory properly to drive sold-vehicle profitability.

Ignoring load balancing can leave your techs jammed up or idling. We in the car business face the reality that techs aren't around every corner, and good technicians are hard to find. As department heads, you want to do everything in your power to ensure our techs are efficient. Load balancing is crucial to the productivity of the used car reconditioning side of fixed ops.

Why? Inventory availability is thin. The buying cadence has your internal service work bottlenecked one day -- and empty the next; workload balancing will even out the work inflow – and the output – so your reconditioning rhythm remains constant, regardless of recon volume.

We've all seen this before – a heavy sales weekend, so the used car manager buys a ton of auction inventory. The first words out of the fixed department manager's mouths are, "Well, we could get you all of these cars reconditioned in four days if you'd quit buying 30 at once. If you would just buy six cars a day, that would be great."

The fact is, this is the car business and buying cars at an even cadence is not a reality we'll see anytime soon. So, the service manager panics and pulls line technicians to do service cars in 48 hours. Now, though, your flat-rate-dedicated technicians hired to handle preowned inventory have flagged 22 hours, and they're out of work by Tuesday afternoon.

Then we exacerbate the problem further by throwing these vehicles to detail in panic and then repeat the exact same process. Only now, we sublet our overflow detail work to an outside vendor. We put 30 sub-par reconditioned vehicles on the frontline. We have dedicated flat-rate techs upset because we pulled the work we promised them. Internal gross suffers because we sublet our detail work.

Being aware of how you dispatch recon work can significantly impact your reconditioning time to line or speed at which you move cars from off-transport to sale-ready status and on technician efficiency.

I see so many stores adopt the "first in, first out" workload model, and they're consistently behind. If your tech is looking for work at 3 p.m., that's not the time to start work on a 92,000-mile time hog. He’ll pull it in, rack it, and save the job for tomorrow. Instead, rack the 11,000-mile certified preowned unit that needs a thorough inspection, the required replacement parts, and have it onto cosmetic and detail and out the door that night.

They'll still have time to take on the time-consuming high mileage vehicle in the morning. If you feel your workload is bottlenecking because you just got slammed with 30 units, it's certainly okay to detail a car first. Our most successful time-to-line dealerships detail and photo before recon when it makes sense is for late-model, low-mileage vehicles having no noticeable cosmetic damage.

Load balancing your techs doesn't just mean service techs. It includes your mechanical, detail, and cosmetic techs.

Your service manager is likely already using load balancing to ensure your service bays and service technicians maximize those assets' daily overhead costs. Shop loading tools help even out work throughout the available hours to prevent early-morning bottlenecks and reduce delays that run up costs and irritate service customers.

For the reconditioning shop, the best tool for recon load balance is a workflow communications and accountability dealership software tool.

Because this tool is capturing VIN and related data about vehicles flowing into reconditioning, it gives managers a top-down and granular look at the critical metrics needed to ensure cars move smoothly to the sale lot.

This system measures time to line or how quickly cars are getting from acquisition to sale-ready status (the efficiency standard is three to five days). By using a recon workflow management tool, dealers manage the workload through mechanical, detail, body shop and final photography to the availability of technicians and vendors. Smooth load balancing keeps cars moving, technicians and detailers busy, and the used car department happy.

All these personalities have at-a-glance convenience into all this workflow with a check of their computer or smartphone screen. If rebalancing is indicated, those changes can be promptly communicated by phone, text, email, or red-flag highlighted notes right into the department's workflow software or the individual assigned to act.

Delays, bottlenecks – or forgotten or neglected cars – that upset workflow need not happen. A used car department that is defined by lean used car supply and a necessity to get what cars the dealer does have - sale-ready for resale quickly, only when managing to a consistent time-to-line metric will recon be a profit center for the dealership.

Anthony Greenhalgh is the Director of Sales and Marketing Operations for reconditioning workflow company Rapid Recon. He joined the company in 2016 out of dealership operations as a fixed operations manager.

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. CALL US: +650-999-0497