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
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.