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Producing 50+ billable and produced hours per tech per week is the goal of every shop owner/manager. This episode focuses on what tools and processes are used to achieve this goal. Bill is joined by Ken Anderson and Brenner Newman. 

Episode Transcript

*This transcript was generated using Artificial Intelligence. Errors may occur. If you notice an error, please contact [email protected].

Bill Connor (00:06):
Good morning and good afternoon. I’m Bill Connor and you’ve reached a Digital Shop Talk Radio. You can find us on every Wednesday by going to and registering. You’ll get a invite and a reminder and we have a lot of people that prefer to listen to us on the podcast platform. So on your favorite podcast platform, search for the Digital Shop Talk Radio, and you could listen to us on your drive time or wherever you please. So today I’m here with Ken Anderson, the owner of B & L Quality Repair, LLC, and Ken’s joined us live here before and has went ahead and decided that he would go ahead and do it again. So that’s great. We appreciate you joining us. And I’ve also got Brenner Newman, the operations manager for Sav-Mor Automotive. They’re located in Plano, Texas, and this is a long time family business and he’s kind of maybe the third generation that’s been in there and now he’s kind of taken over to re’s operations manager and now Uwe, our AutoVitals very own Chief Innovation Officer is off innovating somewhere else today, and I can’t share with you what he’s up to, but we’ll be sure to do that at a later date.
So these panelists and I are going to focus on what’s needed for producing the maximum billable hours and completed hours per tech per week. That’s what we’re after. And this is the goal of every shop owner or manager and really it should be the goal of the entire shop as a team. It really takes a team to go and get this done. So this episode is going to focus on the tools and processes that are used to achieve this goal and you’re going to take away some ideas of shops just like yours on this important topic. We’re going to start out first by learning how to detect bottlenecks in the shop. So that’s going to be important to understand and your shop will master the tools of Digital Shop Talk to remove these barriers. Now, these panels have been using AutoVitals digital shop processes for a long time and they’ve scored some amazing results, but both these guys have shared with me that they’re nowhere near as far along in the path that they really want to be in the long run.
So we’re going to probably discover some things that they would like some help with along the way also. And so again, anybody has any tips for these guys that they’d like to share, please feel free to chat ’em in. So today we’ll give you some solid information for using the AutoVitals tool to understand and improve production and you’ll take away shops or tips that you can implement in shops just like yours. So that being said, I’d like to go ahead and start off and we had a little prep call and I wanted to go ahead and let these guys know what to expect so that way we don’t go ahead and just have them pull their hair out from the beginning here. And so what we wanted to do is first talk about what are the typical symptoms of shops where the service advisor team aren’t up to date on the work progress, part situation, customer status, and so on. So we want to identify some ways that you can easily tell that you have what I like to refer to as opportunity for improvement in your own shops. So Brenner age before beauty. So we’re going to go ahead and put you here first. I don’t know how that works, but
Brenner Newman (03:14):
Yes sir. Well, how as far as identifying problems within the shop as far as not producing billable hours or enough hours, one of the things that comes to mind is technicians standing around, obviously not turning wrenches. So that’s from the get-go. But also just being able to look from the TVPX screen and setting goals every day first thing in the morning as far as what expectations, what can each tech produce hour wise. And when you get around lunchtime or even around 10 o’clock and you see that one of your technicians only producing one or two hours and you’re four or five hours into the day, obviously you’ve got a problem at hand. And again, you can just identify that by looking at the TVPX screen right from the get go. That’s one thing that comes to mind.
Bill Connor (04:07):
Awesome. So in your case, do you have the technicians participate that by when they clock in morning, are they going ahead and entering on their tablet their expected hour goal for today? Or are they just verbally communicating that or are they sending a chat message to the service advisor? Hey, I’m feeling kind of porky today I need 12.
Brenner Newman (04:26):
So what we do is at the store manager, myself and the shop foreman, we get together and we look at the schedule every single day first thing in the morning. Then the shop foreman will go around to the technicians and list out the day and go throughout the day. And if the technicians like you say, feeling froggy and he feels like typically is producing eight or nine hours a day, but he thinks on this day he produce 11 or 12, then we may slide him a little bit more work. But yeah, it’s just having that communication first thing in the morning is typically what we do.
Bill Connor (04:58):
Cool. And you also said you further go ahead and adjust that throughout the day. So if somebody is getting way ahead of schedule and they had eight hours worth of work to done and they finish it by lunch, you would go in there and you would up their goal for today so that service riders got a good visual.
Brenner Newman (05:14):
Absolutely. Yes sir.
Bill Connor (05:16):
Cool. So that un wraps quite a few things there to definitely go and talk about. So your inner shop communication is one of your number one things that you can use to identify that you’ve got some opportunity for improvement and you’re using the today’s vehicle page technician view to kind of see how they progress. Absolutely. And so Ken, let’s go ahead and get you to go ahead and pile on here. Let’s go ahead and add some more. How do we go ahead and define that we’ve got opportunities for improvement besides going ahead and having the text complaint about not enough hours on paycheck I might add
Ken Anderson (05:49):
That’s common. One of the things we’re noticing with our guys is a lot of times you see, like you said, stand around wrenching aren’t being turned. One of the other kind of bottlenecks is the wandering around looking for a car, trying to find the keys to the car. Do we not? Finally, we had to work on that. We’ve tried multiple different systems for keys efficiency. It doesn’t do any good if the tech can’t even find the car to work on or get into the car. Something simple. I mean you kind of overlook it. So if you have the keys, one service rider has the keys, it’s something so small and it can put such a monkey wrench in your day. The keys are very, it’s extremely simple, but now we’re getting some processes in for that. Labels we’re starting to use the actual labeling, so the keys with the VIN number multiple ways so they can identify the vehicle right away in the parking lot.
We were not doing that before. We have a couple of processes with the, one of my service writer guys is now coming in early every day and we don’t let, I should say don’t let, we have not at this point in time had the techs pick their own time what they feel like for the day. We kind of have a daily goal for them not then we sit down and talk with them every so often and say, Hey, what are you feeling? Like? Can we bump you up? On average, we’re working off the averages and that’s probably old school, we’re not doing a daily repeat on that. But keeping again, like Brenner saying communications where guys going through makes a big difference every morning. We’re not quite that good yet. We don’t have that option down yet there. But the big thing is letting the guys know ahead of time what the day is laid out, how’s it looking today? Hey guys, we’re looking really backed up today. What do you feel like a little extra extra mph, I’ll get you a couple cans of energy drink here, a couple monsters and we’ve watched tear through these cars. What can we do? What can we do to help you better? And it’s back and forth. So we’re asking the techs on a pretty much regular basis, how can we help you? And they’re giving us feedback and we’re slowly making our systems based around that.
Bill Connor (08:11):
Well some of the things that cause running around in a shop, you’ve got the keys. That’s something that causes run around in the shop. And how about communication between the tech and the service writer when it comes to needing additional parts, needing additional time? Do you guys run into that and how are you addressing to where the technician doesn’t have to stand behind that service writer and wait for them to get off the phone or finish talking to a customer? These are all barriers to producing.
Ken Anderson (08:41):
We’re trying to push hard on the chat function. That’s something that we’re getting broke down to and everybody started to realize that we have not implemented it just recently, I should say we’ve implemented it and started really utilizing it and the guys are really starting to take to it. And that’s actually saving quite a bit of time. It knocks down a lot of things. We know if we have a breakdown somewhere who’s accountable or where the break is and how we can fix it. It’s not to point fingers at somebody, it’s saying you screwed up, but it’s to help actually. The chat function is actually quite a saver.
Bill Connor (09:18):
So Brenner, I’ve got two questions that can help me kind of discover here and let’s see if we can go ahead and price some information out of you. So one of the things he talked about was that meeting that you have with your technicians that you actually them to go ahead and tell how many hours they expect to run for today in the eyes of the technician. What does that mean to them? Does that help them go ahead and be more accountable? What is the purpose behind you doing that rather than dictating what it should be? You’re asking them what they want it to be.
Brenner Newman (09:55):
Yes sir. Well, it’s just like anything else. Getting their buy-in and getting them more involved has been huge. Getting everybody’s buy-in everybody’s opinion and feedback is crucial and every day, every day matter. But especially starting the day out, the day out, sometimes you got doctor’s appointments and things that are coming up that you weren’t aware of and somebody else may be aware of that you weren’t. And just being able to communicate that, letting the foreman know to store manager aware of, we got this coming up so there may be a little speed bump. It may slow down the process a little bit. So just being able to have, having that communication the first five minutes of the day has definitely been effective.
Bill Connor (10:39):
So the five minutes that you spend to go and do that with your staff is time well spent and it turns into more produced hours. Is that fair to say?
Brenner Newman (10:47):
Absolutely. Yes sir.
Bill Connor (10:49):
Now let’s go and go ahead
Brenner Newman (10:52):
Bill Connor (10:52):
Everybody on the same page.
Brenner Newman (10:53):
Yeah, just getting everybody on the same page starting
Bill Connor (10:56):
Out now let’s go ahead and take a little bit further. And I know you’re a big proponent of using the vehicle chat and the employee chat going back and forth between the staff. And if I’m not mistaken, I think you still have a service writer or a production manager that works off site. So can you go ahead and talk a little bit about not just the communication saving heat cases that might come up in a shop, but maybe trying to equate that to an actual time it saves during a process or maybe the flexibility it creates for you?
Brenner Newman (11:28):
Yes sir. Yeah, we still do have an offsite service advisor. So like I said, just being able to look at the TVPX screen alone, the shop foreman has a monitor in the back shop and of course all the service advisors have this run 24/7. And just being able to look at it from a standpoint, is somebody waiting for work approved or is somebody waiting for parts to be delivered? Obviously parts hold up is very common right now and being able to have just by just looking at the screen alone and seeing what’s going on, what’s happening, who needs work and who’s doing what is again, you can just look at the screen and you got information right in front of you at all times.
Bill Connor (12:13):
Cool. And I got a little bit tickled when we did this prep call. I was talking to Ken because he basically said that our service writers are real good about going ahead and storing all this information in their head. And I asked him kind of, well what happens if that service writer gets sick and has to go home? And he said, well, the other service advisor is there and they have a verbal communication with each other before they leave. And then I asked him, I said, what if the service writers both get sick and go home? And he said, that’s when Ken goes, oh shit. Or something like that. So Ken, you want to go through your process and maybe go ahead and talk a little bit about the hole that you found during that discussion.
Ken Anderson (12:54):
It was a good hole, a deep hole actually. That is one of the big things that you do fight a lot of times at any shop is your customer relations, your customer, your service counter, your front end is the first people. All the interactions with your customers is with them. So if one of them step away or they’re gone suddenly you have a big shoes to fill if you will. And there’s a lot of expectations on the customer side and now that I’ve just gotten two people at the front counter so they can cooperate together. And then we were talking about this yesterday and actually to find out, we’re still trying to implement how these two will work together. The best mentioning that we’ve been working trying to over the times past to use the note function in our POS system as well as trying to use our markers or other digital wrote down ways so that anybody can look at something and tell you, oh yeah, here’s the status of this vehicle. But having the communications between the two of ’em was great for their effects as you said, bill, but well if they’re both gone, that doesn’t do any of us any good. So I like the idea and we are actually start to push down if it’s not as you said, if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.
That is actually very good.
Bill Connor (14:20):
Yeah, that’s one of the keys even when you’re going ahead and technician’s asking for additional parts or whatever, they might have that verbal communication with the service advisor, but still somebody has to be responsible to document that. So if it’s not documented somewhere, it didn’t happen. So you can go ahead and really remove a lot of pressure and heat cases, but let’s go ahead and try and break that down into time. So not having to go hunt somebody down and ask them what’s going on where you can just see it with a marker or you can hover over a marker and see the texts and stuff. What type of time do you think that that saves for your service writer and or tech from having to go ahead and answer possibly the same question from three different people?
Ken Anderson (15:06):
It saves a lot of time. Techs are starting to use utilize it to where they will text chat in, say, Hey, I need this part and I’ve got to push the car out. I don’t have this part I’m waiting for. And then it suddenly shows up and it saves them walking all the way across the shop all the way up to the front end and the same thing. It saves your service advisor for walking all the way to the backend, interrupting them because invariably along the way there’s chitchat all the way with everybody else as well. So it’s not just a little bit of a saves five, 10 minutes, honestly, it probably saves close to 15 minutes every spec van where you’re at the shop, especially if you’re at the far end of the shop, you’re probably saving 15 minutes of time.
Bill Connor (15:49):
So if you’re saving 15 minutes for time on that one. And we know that the shops that we work with we’re all working on going ahead and getting a higher average repair order or higher hours for repair orders. So we’re writing some pretty long nasty repair orders in a lot of cases. So we always hear times of on average that they feel it saves about X number of minutes per repair order. Brenner, would you care to put an average number on that in minutes?
Brenner Newman (16:17):
Bill Connor (16:19):
We’re not going to ask your offsite driver to go ahead and drive back to the shop to ask somebody either.
Brenner Newman (16:24):
Yeah, no, definitely having the tools and has definitely made us more efficient, more productive, there’s no doubt about that. And just utilizing the Protractor and AutoVitals together and the way they integrate, it’s fed the entire process up a lot. But I’d say on average some of our say four or five hour ticket as far as estimates go, you’re probably looking at 15, 20, 25 minutes to complete the DVI get it cleaned up, syn the customer as well as the estimate. You’re probably talking about an average probably around 20 minutes, 15 minutes,
Bill Connor (16:58):
So that’d be 20 minutes editing and everything else. And I was just looking for on the communication side of things, we know that we’ve got to go and edit and stuff anyways, but just on the communication side, not having to repeat stuff and having everything documented and stuff you think in the six, seven minute range or you think more or less,
Brenner Newman (17:16):
It definitely adds up. I mean just back in the day before we had these tools of communicating, you’re always walking back and forth to the back shop, talking to the foreman or talking to another lead tech about diagnostics and stuff like that. You’re interrupting him so you’re getting him off track that’s slowing down his side of things. And again, you’re still having to walk all the way back a hundred yards to
Bill Connor (17:37):
And now let’s go ahead and talk about that walk all the way back. I’ve walked through your shop, I know the pain of walking from the front office to the back, let alone all the interruptions. You’ve got kind of a unique building structure. You got the office and you got some bays and then you go all the way to the back and you’ve got even more bays. Yes sir. That’s a lot of time for sure.
Brenner Newman (17:58):
Absolutely. As far as an average when you’re talking several minutes and then several minutes adds up daily into weekly and the monthly and then who knows really what that time adds up to. But yeah, having these tools in front of you definitely expedites this whole process.
Bill Connor (18:15):
Cool. And so we also talked during our prep call we talked about what happens when a service writer gets overloaded when they’ve got all kinds of stuff under plate, they’ve got people standing behind them and things like that. And Ken, you had made mention that at that particular point that you’ve seen service riders actually start going ahead and taking things in and arranging the day based on how they plan on surviving to the end of the day.
Ken Anderson (18:44):
Many times the service advisor will do that just to save their own sanity. They will look at it, what they can handle and what they can get out because in their mind, anytime it’s taking care of the customer, making sure the customer’s handled by the time, if they’re getting overloaded to where we suddenly have cars two, three deep outside waiting and you got people standing at the counter and just overloaded, they will actually break down to the point that they will have to suddenly cut way back and they will adjust the schedule because you have a couple of bad days and the schedule suddenly changes as down a couple of days later. Suddenly you’re less and less and less work and the shop suddenly your guys are trying to run out of work, but the service advisor is comfortable and you got to give ’em a little nudge to say, okay, we need a production backup up. And that’s usually a good sign that, hey, you need help at the front desk. That’s one of the big things you need to personnel in that case you’ve got too many, the balance is not there that you need to make changes in
Bill Connor (19:46):
Your root. So the symptom is is that the service rider is kind of managing the day based on their activity, but the root cause of it could be as simple as they don’t know the technicians outback, tossing a football into parking lot, running their RC cars, whatever they might be doing because the technician didn’t go ahead and select the tee time that says need more work or they didn’t go, maybe the technician forgot to go ahead and do that. And then even more basic than that, there’s a no activity on the screen and instead of being a 0.1 or 0.2 before they get on the next repair order, all of a sudden it’s 1.6, 1.7, blah, blah, blah and the story goes on.
Ken Anderson (20:29):
And that is something that we did and we have been dealing with that for a little bit as we break into the system because we’ve been into this Protractor AutoVitals for about a year now and we’re still learning a lot on both systems. But to watch the TVPX to actually utilize that, it’s going to be small focus on something and then realize once service advisors, production manager and the techs understand what they’re looking at, then give ’em another piece of information, all of a sudden they start realizing and they assimilate all this together and all of a sudden they start really realizing what’s going on and how they can plan their day out
Bill Connor (21:08):
Easier. And that’s good because before we’re finished here today, we want to ask both of you, what are your top three things that you’re going to go ahead and work on changing or implementing in your own shop? And then we’ll discuss a little bit about how we’re going to measure it and then we’ll invite you back to see how well you’ve done. So anything else on that list so we can have other things? Brenner, have you noticed that if a service writer gets overwhelmed they might go ahead and start managing their day based on the survival mode?
Brenner Newman (21:37):
Absolutely, absolutely. Especially when you’re shorthanded and you’re shorthanded up front, which you always got our offsite service advisor, rod, which definitely takes a big load of some of the bigger jobs and stuff, but let’s say he’s out and I’m out, then you’ve got two service advisors and we stay pretty busy and phone’s ringing and everything else all day long. You got interruption techs and working in the shop, things are going to happen. So absolutely service advisors definitely can get overwhelmed and overloaded and that’s one of the good things about the task manager and you can assign some of these tasks or when you are getting overwhelmed, some of these things that you got to do, whether it’s build an estimate here, communicating with the customer, whatever it is, you can go ahead and sign that. The task manager, whoever, whatever service advisor that needs to do something for you, he can help you out just by again using the task manager.
Bill Connor (22:32):
So in your case, using the task manager, these tasks are automatically created so the service writer doesn’t have to do it. And then you could go ahead and have yourself or Robbie or somewhere else actually go ahead and dispatch that task to whoever they wanted to go and complete it.
Brenner Newman (22:48):
Bill Connor (22:49):
And that’s something you use in your shop to go ahead and kind of smooth things out and balance that workload a little bit.
Brenner Newman (22:55):
Something that we we’re starting to use more and more. It’s not, we definitely don’t use it on as much as we should. There’s still other tools that we use, but that is something that we’ve talked about using more and more
Bill Connor (23:10):
And using the task manager. Do you find that helps eliminate a lot of the cases where customers are waiting for a callback and they don’t get the call or the inspection report’s done and it doesn’t get sent? How is that helping to go ahead and smooth things out for you?
Brenner Newman (23:26):
It’s basically a checklist and it’s not just like you guys are talking about, it’s not on paper, it didn’t happen or whatever. It falls along with that. A million things can happen in a matter of a few seconds and things can get thrown at you in all different directions and having that task manager there, that task in place, not checking it complete until it’s actually completed. So it’s always there reminds you.
Bill Connor (23:51):
So let me throw a Texas example at you and see if this rings a bell. Your service writer is in the middle of editing an inspection sheet and a customer walks in the door and says, I need a state inspection. Is that something that could derail a process and the task manager makes it to where they know exactly where they left off?
Brenner Newman (24:10):
Absolutely, absolutely.
Bill Connor (24:12):
Yeah. So a service writer can get interrupted by a million different things. So knowing and having them tasks created where when an inspection result is sent in, for example, it’s going to go and break it down into four chunks. It’s going to say browse it to make sure it’s complete, it’s going to say edit the pictures to go ahead and make sure that’s done. Then it’s going to say create estimate, and then when you send it to the customer, that task is going to automatically go away. So those are things that are there for a reason. In a lot of shops they have a tendency to maybe not understand ’em and they don’t go ahead and use them, but all these things are actually put here to go ahead and make everybody’s life easier. And when you follow the process, it’s almost damn near impossible for something to get missed right down to if a manual task created, if a customer calls and wants a certain employee to go and call them back, a manual task can be created for that employee when they get back from lunch, they can see that they’ve got that task to go and do.
So there’s a lot of things. So we’ve identified a lot of pain points and the main problem area is that how do we go ahead and give the service writer all the information they need working together as a team so the service writer doesn’t get into damage control mode, trying to just survive and then managing the productivity based on what they feel they can accomplish because they’re not getting feedback from other people. Does that kind of make sense
Ken Anderson (25:49):
What we do? What can we do to offset that?
Bill Connor (25:53):
I bet I got an idea and you guys are going to go and help me. So I’m going to go ahead and share your technician view and let’s see if we can’t go ahead and find a way to go and do this. So Brenner, I’m going to go ahead and share your screen first if that’s okay? Yes sir. And perhaps even if it’s not, and I’m hoping that you can see your screen on there and your technician view and so could you go ahead and let me know that you can go ahead and see it?
Brenner Newman (26:25):
Yes sir.
Bill Connor (26:27):
Okay. So what I wanted to first go and point out is that we talked about using this top area to screen as we go across here to go ahead and understand and be proactive about what’s going on in a shop. So to me, unlike traffic signal where it’s kind of viewed as a suggestion in the shop, this really needs to be a traffic signal. Green means everything’s going fine when it turns yellow, when that bar turns yellow like this one here at a certain point on here, it’s going to turn yellow. That’s where to be proactive and start looking to go ahead and solve production problems now versus waiting until it turns red and then you can’t do anything more about it unless you call the customer and beg them for forgiveness and gets some more time or money approved, if that makes sense. And so here you can see an instance where this guy here is in great shape, you can hover over it and you can see that he’s only in the 4% range of the total hours on it. So that’s good. At a glance here we can see this technician isn’t a problem child to look at. And further we can know that he’s working on the repair orders in the right order because we’ve got this orange icon underneath it. So Brenner, you want to go ahead and tell me where to go ahead and point out with the mouse here, some other things that are going on in the shop that you like to be aware of at just a glance.
Brenner Newman (27:50):
So you see Raymond Luna, he has shop maintenance right now, almost an hour. So let’s say that we get a waiter that comes in or some other drop off appointment. Obviously we know that we can assign work to him right away. You can see that Josh, he just went to lunch, Justin, he should be returning from lunch here the next 20 minutes or so. And then you got can’t see, but it looks like it says waiting for parts under Sam’s name. So just from a quick glance you can see exactly what each technician has going on and there are several other tools that we can definitely talk about.
Bill Connor (28:26):
And so if a technician is waiting for parts over a certain period of time, is this something that you would go ahead and have the service writer make sure that they go ahead and find something else for them to do or? Absolutely. Cool. And so did you go ahead and you had told me one time that you had kind of a rule of thumb you’d like to use in your shop about no activity. What’s the most amount of time that you really want to see no activity on that screen?
Brenner Newman (28:52):
Really you don’t want to see it at all, but three tenths is too long and there is sometimes guys will be pulling in other vehicles and they forget to open up the ARO on their tablet. So yeah, there’s definitely no mistakes that happen, but again, setting clear expectations and having those policies and procedures in place, I think it eliminates a lot of that and making sure that these guys are using the tools the way they should be again. So
Bill Connor (29:20):
What should a service advisor do if they go ahead and see no activity on that screen for over two or three tenths? What should the service advisor do or what should somebody in the shop too having
Brenner Newman (29:31):
To walk? Yeah, instead of having to walk all the way back the shop, you got your chat right there in front of you. Say, Hey, of course we have cameras and stuff on every base so we can see what each check is actually doing without having to walk back there. But yeah, just using that chat feature right there and being able to send that technician, hey, open up.
Bill Connor (29:49):
So if they don’t have any repair orders, you’d use the one just to the left of the customer or the technician’s name and you’d send them a message here to go ahead and get on something or you’d find another repair order maybe from another technician that’s behind to re-dispatch, something along those lines. Yes
Brenner Newman (30:04):
Bill Connor (30:07):
Cool. So you also, when you arrange your technician’s day, you arrange them from top down on the column and I see Ken does something a little bit different that we’ll cover here in just a minute. So you’re arranging them, the service writer or your shop foreman is arranging them in the order that they need to be finished to go ahead and satisfy the customer. The technician isn’t any longer just going in and grabbing and starting to work on any repair order they feel like.
Brenner Newman (30:36):
Yeah, so that five minute meeting that we have first thing in the morning, that’s exactly what we do. All the vehicles that we have here right now, the vehicles that we’re working on, they’ll get put, I guess each ARO is put in order for that technician each day. And again, that is what we go over in the first five minutes, five minutes during the day.
Bill Connor (30:58):
So can we go ahead and share a little bit with both Ken and anybody else that’s listening about that five minute meeting in the morning? So there’s a couple different places the technician can enter their hours on the tablet or they can be gathered up if you left click on this number here, you can go ahead and adjust each one individually, that will be their daily goal or at times during the day you can actually click on this number and edit it individually. So what is your weapon of choice you’d like to use? Brenner and Ken, does that make sense on places where you have your quick meeting where you can quickly go in there and set those goals for today?
Ken Anderson (31:35):
Yes, yes it does.
Brenner Newman (31:38):
Typically we’ll just use, I can’t move your mouse right, I dunno if you can see mine. But yeah, typically right over their name or right over the chat button, I can just hit that up or down arrow right there and make that change. That’s how I have been doing it.
Bill Connor (31:50):
Cool. Awesome. So let’s go ahead and look at Ken’s screen a little bit because he actually Ken’s a little different so he does things a little bit differently. So I noticed that you’re a proponent of using these smart markers to go and actually communicate a visual for everybody. And I noticed that you’ve got a first, second, third and some other things on the screen. So could you go ahead and tell your mindset behind what you’re doing there?
Ken Anderson (32:20):
A lot of times we will dispatch multiple jobs out to the tech at once and while you are the first, second, third, the idea is that this is urgent or this what needs to be done by noon, this one’s got to get done sooner. Everything else, otherwise it’s assumed it’s end of the day 5:30. So the tech can pick and choose their vehicle, a little bit of freedom to jump from car to car waiting on parts, jump to another one so they’re not waiting for it to be dispatched to. But the first and second generally is, hey, this one we need to have done. This one’s a priority. It is still top of the top of the column is first, second is down. But a lot of times if they get shifted around a little bit and that’s the reminders for the service advisors, myself and the tech, we look at it and say, hey, here’s where we’re at. Okay, what’s going on? This one as a reminder,
Bill Connor (33:11):
I get it. So you’re using them as a backup plan in case somebody gets hit by the bus, they know what the order was initially before things got moved around,
Ken Anderson (33:19):
We’re trying to have a backup. Yes.
Bill Connor (33:22):
Cool. So they’re not verbally communicating everything, you’re actually using them smart markers very efficiently for a few things also We are, and so there’s also, this is the technician view, but to keep the service advisor doing their own thing and understanding, we also want to talk about making sure we understand scheduling. So here in Ken’s view you can see that these are today’s appointments. He’s got a couple that are on here that haven’t come in yet. He’s got nothing in the last, so that’s a good thing. He’s either they’ve all come in or he is converted them or rescheduled them. And then we’ve got appointments a couple days in advance. So is this helpful for you to go ahead and see and understand what’s coming in at a glance a couple days in advance?
Ken Anderson (34:09):
It is, and to be honest, we’re just starting to utilize this a little bit. We spend 95% of our time on the tech view and then we use the scheduler program in Protractor. And the fact that you look it up there real quick and get an idea of what’s coming in, I say that’s something we’re just starting to get into.
Bill Connor (34:33):
Very nice. And let me go ahead and switch over here also and let’s go ahead and look at here. And so we can see that Brenner, you actually, you’ve got the same thing. You’ve got today’s appointments, you got nothing in last and then you’ve got things out there a couple of days in advance. So that’s good. And so another thing to go ahead and make sure that part of a service writer being productive, we talk a lot about technician productivity, but using the workflow screen where it’s separated and it can be arranged in order a service writer or a production manager needs to get things done. Can you talk about how you use that, especially with having a service advisor offsite and how does it affect productivity?
Brenner Newman (35:15):
Yes sir. So really like Ken, I don’t use the workflow screen as we should. We really don’t utilize this tool nearly as much, as much as we should. Again, there’s definitely a lot of good things right here in front of you. Just from a glance you can see exactly what’s going on from an operations manager standpoint as well as an offsite service advisor and two guys up front. It’s kind of spelled that right in front of you, but really it’s something that we don’t utilize nearly as much as we should.
Bill Connor (35:48):
Cool. And again, this can be really helpful to a service writer, especially if you’ve got an offsite service advisor to go in and know when it’s time for them to go ahead and actually take over repair order and start estimating it when it’s ready to go ahead and review for the service writer when it’s ready to send and so on. So I think that probably in your shop before I’ve seen a separate view that Robbie actually uses offsite.
Brenner Newman (36:12):
Yes sir.
Bill Connor (36:15):
Cool. And I could see that you’ve actually in your shop, you’ve actually done pretty good about going ahead and getting your staff to go ahead and keep up to date on their task and go ahead and make sure that they don’t go ahead and get billed up and then we can go ahead and look at another shop here. And I’m not picking on Ken, but you can see in his case that away he definitely has an opportunity for improvement. So this is something that maybe by the time we’re finished today, Ken might have on his list of things to go ahead and better understand to improve productivity.
Ken Anderson (36:54):
Bill Connor (36:56):
Or they’ve been extremely busy while you’ve been here talking perhaps.
Ken Anderson (37:00):
Absolutely. That’s the case. Yeah, that’s what’s happened. Yeah. Okay. No,
Bill Connor (37:06):
I’m glad I could provide you with that excuse.
Ken Anderson (37:09):
No, actually that is one of our work to be worked on points because it is not being utilized correctly and to its full source, it’s kind of the small steps and that is one of the things that we want to work on so we know, understand what the customer’s seeing we’re seeing and utilize the tasks. I mean mentioning some of the things, just set a manual task. I mean there’s some of the stuff that we still don’t,
Bill Connor (37:34):
I’m glad you mentioned a manual task. So let’s go ahead and click in here and we can say add a new task, assign it to whoever it is and it might be call a customer back and then assign it to a certain person. I’m not going to do this on Brenner’s screen, but that’s exactly what that’s there for to go ahead and create the manual task. It might be because Bubba at the parts store goes ahead and forgets what you ordered all the time and you better call him back tomorrow to go ahead and make sure the parts you ordered Friday were actually ordered. So there’s all kinds of things to use them for. And let’s go ahead and go a little bit further in here and also when we talk about visuals, I’m going to go ahead and click on here and let’s go ahead and open the markers here and let’s go and talk about if you would, Brenner, you want to go ahead and dissect a few of your favorite things.
Brenner Newman (38:21):
The insider, you can see Robbie’s ticket, the purple cigarette right there. That’s kind of just a clear indicator right off the bat you hint again him being off site, he’s writing up a lot of our bigger tickets and handling a lot more of our diagnostics and in depth repair orders and just using that marker right there, it’s clear marker. Just saying that this is Robbie’s ticket, you got the waiter.
Bill Connor (38:43):
Oh, so that’s what the smoking hot thing is for.
Brenner Newman (38:46):
That’s exactly right. Or another good one is having that waiter. I don’t, it should be under the work for you but it may be under vehicle or may be under customer. But yeah, having that marker for a waiter, it’s clear as day for everybody to see exactly what employer, what technician is working on that waiter vehicle. Again, that’s another good one that we use often. Alignment, we’ve got a one alignment rack so we know what vehicles have alignments or that need to be alignments that need to be performed using that marker right there is another good one.
Bill Connor (39:23):
So Kenny, could you talk, you also use the equipment type marker in your shop. Can you go ahead and talk a little bit about how you define yours and how you automate it?
Ken Anderson (39:36):
The alignment? That was one we just put in and you can see on some of the tags there, it’s just linked in with anything to do with alignment pops up as soon as it’s approved it will come across, I believe it’s under vehicle. I picked a different one than that one. The other one that we use a lot like the okay go bright green, that says a quick visual. So the tech has a closed ticket that hey, we got the okay to go on that. So take a look at this ticket, open it up and suddenly you have your jobs to do. We try and keep track of the other one is the, there’s a little shopping cart down there. It’s actually to let everybody know service riders, everybody else, all the parts did arrive for this vehicle.
Bill Connor (40:29):
Ah, the cart’s there. Yeah. Got it.
Ken Anderson (40:31):
And you can see there’s under, oh I don’t know, it’s under a few of the that one we use a fair amount if there’s an engine A done today is one because a lot of our projects come in, they’re not the same day turnaround, they are bigger projects so we need to, hey, we need it today, it’s got to get done. So tech stills mess with their own schedule a little bit, but that job’s got to be done by the end of the day and then you have the need ASAP or don’t drive some of the things, just the glance, everybody will know that this thing came in no oil, the engine’s out of it, something’s out of it. Just a quick glance of what’s going on with it. We’re starting to really push these and utilize it. Having a fill in if we have somebody just drops a car off so you can have it for as long as you need it, we’ll assign it to a tech but it’s been a big yellow fill in. This is not a priority. So in between jobs you don’t have something jump on it, you have something to do all the time and you don’t need to ask for another job, you’ve got something going on.
Bill Connor (41:38):
And I’d see that you’ve really done a good job with identifying your special order parts.
Ken Anderson (41:45):
That way we know we have anybody, we have multiple sources for our parts and it was, so we decided for our main ones where do we order from and when sublet, same thing if we sub something out to a training shop or do we sub it out to the machine shop. Hey those parts are gone at the machine shop.
Bill Connor (42:08):
And so there’s also another one here I wanted to get your feedback on whether you guys are using it. If so, how often this technician note is one that’s actually set aside different from the rest of them. So it has the ability to go and have up to 350 characters listed here. And I have a lot of shops, they’ll go ahead and they might use a special marker to say who they ordered it from, but here they’ll go ahead and put a note in here. I ordered a part from Bubba at Napa expected at 2:00 PM on Friday or any other notes in there. And basically this reacts a lot different on the technician’s tablet and is highly visible in a different way than the rest of ’em. So could you talk about are you guys using that and if so, how?
Brenner Newman (42:49):
I really haven’t been using that to be honest with you. I’ve been using the chat feature but that is something that we could definitely look into and seeing if we can’t utilize that.
Bill Connor (42:57):
I knew that when I looked at your today’s vehicle page, I noticed that you hadn’t used it in a long, long time. And so what I really like about that is you can hover over it and everybody can see at a glance up to 350 characters of why that alert was there. And the good thing about it is that particular one when it’s applied by the service writer is going to go ahead and pop up more intrusively on the technician’s tablet than just having a visual there that’s got a color on it and a little bit of text on it. This one here, you could actually tell a whole story, don’t remove the transmission from that vehicle because it’s going to be three days out and you’re going to kill your rack, whatever the case might be. So all these things are actually put there to go ahead and actually solve problems that our users have told about us that occur all the time. And then you’ve got other markers here that are countdown markers that parts are expected at a certain time where it flashes if that time’s exceeded or in a certain amount of minutes and so on. So anything else you guys are using the markers on that we haven’t discovered? And again, this is all about visuals. In Ken’s case, this is visuals that he didn’t own up to using that his service writers aren’t having to commit to everything to memory.
Ken Anderson (44:10):
We’re trying to utilize him a whole lot more because it is just another quick visual that you can just glance at the screen and know what’s going on and like you say, hover over it and suddenly you’ll have a little brief story. We do use that tech one not as frequently, but if it’s an odd case, we will definitely write a story on there.
Bill Connor (44:32):
You know what, I’m going to go ahead and share Brenner’s screen back here again if that’s okay and even if it’s not, I’d like to go ahead and walk through the mindset you use when you’re dispatching a repair order to the technician. Brenner, can you see your screen all right?
Brenner Newman (44:48):
Yes sir.
Bill Connor (44:51):
And so I’d like an example, we want to go ahead and dispatch based on the skill level of the technician, whatever technician has the skillset to do the job safely and efficiently. And we also want to go in and use the numbers on the top of the screen to identify their goal, whether they got room to do it yet today and where they are for today so far and maybe even for the pay period. So Brenner, can you walk through the mindset you might use in dispatching?
Brenner Newman (45:18):
Yes sir. So again, that’s something when we’re dispatching our work, that’s me and the shop foreman as well as the store manager and he is really our main service manager and first thing day we’re looking at the schedule and we’re looking at what we have here to dispatch already and who’s available for what. Every single one of our techs, just like everybody else have their strong suits and their weak suits. So we get two lead techs here, two A techs here. So obviously they’re handling more of our diagnostics, one of them is specializing really just about anything. And then one of them is kind of weak on the electrical side of things. That’s just one example. So we know that some of those diagnostics we’re going to give one way or the other. One of our technicians, Raymond, he’s kind of our front end guy or suspension guy. So we know if we have a suspension noise or anything like that coming in that we need to diagnose or look into, typically he’s going to be getting that work order. And then we got a couple C techs, Joly, Justin that really doing a lot of our quick service and really they’re heavy hitters on the dv.
That’s kind of the typical day as far as how we’re dispatching work.
Bill Connor (46:35):
So to go ahead and break that down a little bit more. So what you might do, you’re going to think about what technician has the skill level and expertise to do it safely and efficiently. You’re going to look at their goal for today, which is going to be the top left hand number to column. You’re going to see how much work that’s already here that they haven’t completed yet and see where they are for today and maybe even understand where they are for the pay period and then you’re going to drag it and drop it on the appropriate one. So this particular technician you can see is yet to be completed for today is 11 hours. So mentally you got to be thinking that hey, I can’t give him anymore. And so now you’re going to go and look for the next one. We got one at 1.9 and he might not be able to do that particular skill set you’re going to keep just looking down the line using the data to go ahead and understand is where can I put this thing to get it done in a timely manner and efficiently.
Brenner Newman (47:27):
Bill Connor (47:29):
Cool. And Ken, is that about the same mindset you use on your shop?
Ken Anderson (47:35):
It is very much. So
Bill Connor (47:39):
The only thing you’re missing out of the equation to go ahead and help boost your productivity is to go ahead and have that little communication with your staff in the morning and have the technicians let you know how froggy they feel
Ken Anderson (47:50):
That and the test manager,
Bill Connor (47:53):
Those are your two things. So we got about 10 minutes left. What I’d like to do is I would like to go ahead and very carefully go through from each of you three of the things that maybe that you might go ahead and understand better and improve in your shop or maybe three things that you would encourage people that you’re already doing to put in place in their shop. So I don’t know if you want to go ahead and flip straws to see who goes first or nominate each other, but I’m going to let you guys decide who goes first.
Ken Anderson (48:23):
I’ll go get done. Honestly, the icons, the smart markers are for anybody, customize it, take the time to actually do it. It’s made a world of difference for little, just a quick glance, know what’s going on. It saves so much time and you don’t realize it. It might take a few moments to build one or to figure out how to operate it, but once you figure out how they work, it’s the quick glance and boom, okay. It saves a lot of questions, a lot of time asking and that’s something that we’re ongoing mean. We’re saving it for parts, we use it for communications, we use it for, this is a dead card for two months, whatever the story is we’re using or started to really utilize those smart markers and now that we’re tying them, just recently started to tie ’em to jobs because we’ve had text ask, Hey can you make a marker pop up so that I know that there’s a car out in a shop that has say has a BG flush on it.
Suddenly it’ll be if they’re assigned the job, we have a barker pops up automatically so they know they can maybe put the chemical in the car and let it warm up and do its flush out while they’re working on another car. So help them a little bit. The other thing we need to practice on we’re working on differently is that task manager. That’s one of the things for us is there’s a lot of information there that we have not made use of that. And as the other part of it would be our workflow screen. We spend so much time on the have gotten getting so comfortable with tech view that we honestly have really overlooked the workflow screen. I know the guys don’t even keep that on at all. I do on my own computer, I glance over kind of keep a tab on things, but those are mainly the task manager I think would be our big, that’ll make a big difference for us. Keep up on who’s doing what and when and have that written down communications. So we have a fallback I
Bill Connor (50:29):
There’s your top two things. You got one more you want to add to it.
Ken Anderson (50:33):
Top two, the workflow. We want to utilize the workflow screen.
Bill Connor (50:38):
So the three of ’em in there.
Ken Anderson (50:39):
Yeah, the workflow is something that ease into it. Everybody, all the computers on in our shop have two to three screens so we can leave them up on the screen at all times and that might be worth keeping one up there just to maybe that will help the service writer have a better flow at a different glance.
Bill Connor (51:02):
So Brenner, you want to give me your top three? Either things that you’re using that everybody else needs to use or maybe something that you discovered today that you’re going to go and implement to drive your productivity numbers up. Yes
Brenner Newman (51:11):
Sir. So this is something that we’ve recently done is really setting clear expectations, having that talk with the technicians and going back and forth with what to expect, getting their buy-in and what can they produce on a daily basis, weekly basis, monthly basis as far as build hours goes, saving those clear expectations, utilizing the tools. Again, having that five minute conversation with the foreman and our service manager every morning and then kind of breaking away and talking to the techs and kind of laying that day out. That has been big for us. Again, something that we can definitely work on is utilizing that workflow kind like Ken said, that is something that I’ve lacked on. There’s a few guys, Robbie being one of ’em that utilizes a little bit more than us. Again, he is Offite, but again, I think we can really get a lot more out of that than what we have been.
And again, that’s on me just not utilizing the tool app in front of me. One more thing, what do I got Times report. I think that is something else that Burner needs to do. A much better job of utilizing and working with Mr. Bill on is getting a better understanding of how to use that Times report and dive into that and figure out what are some of your productivity routes. What is causing you did not reach your goal. Again, I think that’s another big tool that we need to look into and start utilizing a little bit more.
Bill Connor (52:45):
So next time I look at your shop, I expect to see all green and yellow bars up there because you’re going to use some work order statuses. That’s
Brenner Newman (52:51):
Right. Yes sir.
Bill Connor (52:52):
Yeah, well I’ll be in there peeking. So I want to hit one more thing. I’m going to go ahead and share a screen. There’s no point in talking about doing something unless we know how we’re going to measure it. And hopefully you can see my screen here. Can you let me know if you can see my screen.
Ken Anderson (53:11):
Yep. Yes.
Bill Connor (53:13):
So my favorite way of understanding productivity in the shop is using this KPI that’s in the business control panel is called Service Advisor Efficiency. This is average number of paid, posted and invoiced hours on a daily basis based across whatever timeframe you selected. So we could use this to go ahead and see average hours that the service advisors is actually billing out every day. But more importantly, I want to slide down and I want to go ahead and look at my technicians here and I want to go ahead and understand are they averaging over a certain amount of hours per day? We’ve got a starting point for both of your shops here in maybe three or four weeks from now. I would expect that we go in here and come and look and we should see these numbers going upwards. If you guys are okay with that, what I’d like to do is maybe invite you back in three or four weeks to go ahead and see if progress has been made.
If you have, then we might go ahead and try and identify the three next things to work on. If it hasn’t, then I don’t want to go ahead and forget about it. What I want to do is try and find out another way to go ahead and instill into your staff as a team what’s in it for them, for using the tools as designed to go ahead and make their lives easier, be more transparent. Go ahead and get fire drills from not happening by going ahead and being more proactive than reactive after things go wrong. You guys up for that?
Ken Anderson (54:38):
Yes. Yeah.
Bill Connor (54:41):
Awesome. So if anybody has any further questions, please go ahead and chat ’em in. If there’s something that covered as far as productivity or markers or task manager or anything else that you have any questions on, please chat ’em in. If not, we’re up against the top of the hour. So as always, I would like to thank both of you for coming in here and Brenner, I think this is the first time that we’ve actually had you on, although I’ve definitely talked to you a lot over the years.
Brenner Newman (55:08):
Yes. So this is the first time I’ve gone
Bill Connor (55:11):
And Ken’s kind of a glutton for punishment because when I call him, he says, I’m ready. He said, every time I come in here I learn. So anything that you’d like to go ahead and share with the audience before we go ahead and part
Ken Anderson (55:26):
Small? Go ahead. Go ahead Brenner. Go
Brenner Newman (55:28):
Ahead, Ken.
Ken Anderson (55:31):
Gentle, constant pressure is one of the phrases my guys use to keep us on track. Little things, nudges, guys, get out of line. Just gentle, constant pressure to get in the direction you’re going in.
Brenner Newman (55:46):
Brenner. I honestly Bill, I apologize, I didn’t hear the last thing that you said.
Bill Connor (55:54):
Anything you, any partying words that you want to go ahead and leave people with besides just do it.
Brenner Newman (55:59):
Just do it one step at a time is what I always say. And that’s really what it comes down to. It really is. Take it one step at a time and figure out the process.
Bill Connor (56:11):
And as you’ve shared with me many times is because you’re a third generation family business and your eyes failure is not an option in any way, shape or form.
Brenner Newman (56:19):
Absolutely not.
Bill Connor (56:21):
You got too much history riding on you. So that being said, we’re up to the end here. I’d like to really sincerely thank both of you for coming here and especially those of you that have come to Digital Shop Talk and shared more than once. I’m going to encourage Brenner to go ahead and come back. For sure. I would really encourage everybody to go ahead and seek out somebody else in their automotive neighborhood, so to say, a shop owner that maybe has struggle a little bit, maybe is the low price leader in the marketplace that they need to understand more about how to deliver value to the consumer, where they can raise their prices and stop holding down the rest and marketplace. Invite them to go to and sign up for an episode. Maybe help them go to a podcast platform of search for the Digital Shop, Talk Radio and share with somebody and invite them to come along with you and let’s all work to try and improve the industry together instead of being on here on island all by ourself. So that being said, we’re at the top of the hour. I’d like to thank both of you, gentlemen for coming in and invite everybody else to go make some money and while your customer is in the process.
Brenner Newman (57:31):
Yes sir. Thank you. Thank you,
Bill Connor (57:32):
Bill. Thank you guys. Appreciate it. Bye. You bet you.

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