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No matter the size of your shop, a visual shop workflow organizes your growing businesses. A visual understanding of where all work orders are as they progress through the shop help to reduce bottlenecks and improve customer satisfaction.

Join Jamey Whitlock of Whitlock Automotive Repair, Edgar Reyes of Schertz Auto Service, and Bill as they discuss what a clearly defined workflow means to them and how it helps reduce the chaos that occurs in the repair shop.

Episode Transcript

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

Bill: Good morning and good afternoon. My name is Bill Connor. And for those of you that are joining us live, thank you for going to and joining with us live. For those of you that aren’t live, you can go there anytime and get the previous episodes. There are a lot of them there with a lot of great information. Or, if you prefer to listen to us, you can go to your favorite podcast platform and type in the Digital Shop Talk Radio and be able to download it and use it in your drive time or so on.
So, today, I’m here with Jamey Whitlock of Whitlock Automotive up in the top corner there, and I’ve also got Edgar Reyes of Schertz Automotive Service. So, today, we’re going to be focusing on or discussing workflow. And I’m talking about workflow as a visual understanding of all the vehicles as they move through your shop. We’re going to talk about how workflow was handled in the past, and we’re going to talk about laying the foundation for workflow for a unique operation in the digital shop.
There’s a lot of things in common with shops, but there’s also a lot of unique things that we do differently and we want to be able to understand that with workflow.
We’re going to provide two example workflows to give you some solid ideas to put in place for building a team culture in your shop and a secure future for the shop’s entire staff. So, all the while delivering a consistent communication to the shop’s clients, that’s the most important thing – making sure our end user clients are taken care of.
And so, today, we’re going to focus and we’ll define and share workflow strategies you can implement in your shop.
So, gentlemen, are you two ready to dig in here?
So, what I’d like to do first is start with Jamey here, and I’d like you to tell us a little bit about your shop as far as your staffing and your car count and things like that, and then we’ll have Edgar explain his a little bit differently.
Jamey: I’ve got a shop here in Dripping Springs, Texas. I run 11 bays. Five techs. Two service writers. We’ve always been a pretty high volume shop, meaning in car count. And that always poses a challenge when you’ve got limited staff – I say seven people is limited staff, but it seems like a pretty good staff to me – but we’ve done it with a lot less. That’s something that I think that goes in with our conversation today.
Basically, we’re 120 to 150 cars a week. Some of those are small jobs and a lot of those are big jobs. We used to manage the whole shop with paper, just like everybody else, and 950 clip boards and this big rack on the wall, and guys would have to ask a million questions in order to stay on task and know what to do next and shuffle parts around and that kind of thing.
That’s kind of where we came from. I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s 23 years for me in the automotive industry. So, I’ve seen it change quite a bit. Thanks to AutoVitals years ago, I made the leap and continue to try to be innovative inside the shop, with not just shop flow and workflow – what we’re going to be talking about today, but also the way we communicate with customers, etcetera.
Bill: So, in your case, your service writers handle their whole ticket from cradle to grave, and your technicians for the most part handle their repair order from cradle to grave, and your technicians are flag hourly or hourly and some type of bonus structure.
Jamey: I’ve got a little bit of both. I’ve got flag guys in the shop. Most of my level techs are always going to be flat rate guys. The other guys are hourly plus commission. They like it that way. I can keep them doing small jobs and doing bigger jobs, and they can benefit financially – which we figured out that works really well over the years.
But yes, the service writers handle that ticket from literally cradle to grave. The customer from the point that they walk in and the greeting. We are obviously we are going to figure out if that customer has been here before. Most of the time we know our customers, which I hope most shop owners do.
If they haven’t been here before, we want to educate them on what the experience is going to be like. I think that’s something that even though maybe a customer might not see all of this back workflow with what we’re managing inside the shop, in other words, dispatching the work, getting the inspections back, approval, etcetera, that experience is still felt by the customer, and it’s something that I think that just increases the experience of a customer using your shop, which is why we joined AutoVitals, why we looked for something that would give us an advantage over the other shops. We can elaborate into that if you want, Bill.
Bill: Don’t worry. We’re going to get deep into it here in a little bit.
Jamey: I thought you were going to say that.
Bill: But you would say that regardless of whether a shop thinks they have a workflow, whether it’s defined or not, every shop has some type of workflow.
Jamey: Well, I think that’s all relative. I mean, there’s a lot of people that go to an AutoVitals convention and they have to buy in. And they’re buying in from what they thought they had that they thought worked and worked well, to something that’s completely different that works, I think, exceptionally better.
When I say exceptionally, that’s relative as well. I mean, you may find some shop owners that take pieces and parts of AutoVitals that work really well for them and they can implement those actions in and they can get it done. And there’s some guys that can’t, and that’s OK. I think that’s the beauty of the whole thing. It’s got a lot of whistles and bells and buttons. And it’s up to you to find out which ones work really well for you.
For us, managing the entire shop with two service writers, five techs, [and] the shop is 125 feet long, it gives us a huge advantage on just a matter of one thing that you can’t make more of, and that’s time. It may sound silly that it takes three minutes to walk the length of the shop, but if you do that 20, 30 times a day, it turns into a lot of time.
So, there’s a huge time savings in workflow management of just using AutoVitals inside the shop.
Bill: Edgar, how about giving us an overview. There is no right or wrong way. Jamey’s shop is more of the service writers handle everything from cradle to grave. Now tell us a little bit about the location that you’re at there, if you would, Edgar.
Edgar: Sure. So, I’m the service director here at our location on FM 3009. Our technicians are all at an hourly rate. Nobody here is flat rate, and they do have a possibility to make a bonus based off of productivity.
With that being said, it allows me to move tiles around and exchange work that maybe one technician looked at a vehicle and diagnosed it, but he may not be the person who is doing the repair. It may be somebody else, and that’s for the sake of efficiency, just getting the vehicle back to the customer as quickly as we can.
We also have a production manager role, which means that my service advisors do not need to spend time building the estimate, editing the inspection, or sourcing parts and labor, dealing with our parts vendors or anything like that. We have a position that is able to manage all of those things. Our service advisors can just focus on building the relationships with our customers and making sure that our customers are taken care of and constantly being updated.
Bill: Don’t you have one other person’s role in there that actually greets the customer as they come in?
Edgar: Actually, no. I have two service advisors and one service advisor assistant. My service advisors are solely focused on taking care of my customers. When they walk in, they greet them. They are the person who is their primary point of contact. They contact [them] throughout the whole process. That’s who they get to interact with. That’s who the customer gets to know.
Bill: This what I’m talking about. We’ve got two different shops here. One is the employees pretty much handle everything from cradle to grave, and then we’ve got another one here that they’ve got specific roles defined and workflows that go according to them.
I’ve got you guys pretty much squared away on that?
Jamey: I think so.
Edgar: That’s right.
Bill: Cool. I’d like to go a little bit further. Let me see if I can share one of my screens here. I think it’s going to be this one here.
We want to dive a lot deeper into not only workflow. People have been doing workflow for years. They’ve used whiteboards. They’ve used spreadsheets and all kinds of other things to do this.
But what we’re going to be talking about is visual workflow, that everybody can see what’s going on and using that as the backbone of the operation.
So, before we go any further, we need to be thinking about in your operation who needs to see what and when. That’s part of what we’re going to be covering. And that’s important, especially when you’ve got different roles in your shop. We’ve got to be able to understand, does the parts guy need to see only certain topics and other ones? And then we also want to be able to give you some ideas on how to define workflow for your individual shop.
So, with that being said, one of the other important things that we want to talk about is not only workflow steps and who does what and when, but some other important visuals, and that is combining the power of these smart markers that we have along with the workload steps to give some clear understanding of what’s going on.
So, here you can see a list of markers. I believe this is probably Jamey’s shop. I can tell by the Thor in the lower right hand corner there. So, Jamey, can you tell us some of these different smart markers that you use to help further clarify within your workload steps?
Jamey: I’ll be honest. I don’t know that we use all of the markers. I don’t know if that’s the right answer for anybody anyway. But whenever we are using the markers inside of dispatch, like key in the vehicle, we’re also using wheel lock key, the customer waiting. These tiles can become very valuable whenever a technician needs to know something about that vehicle. It’s always been tough because technicians need to have small bits of information that makes their job just a little bit easier, and these tiles do that if you use them. I’m pretty sure they’re customizable too. Right Bill?
Bill: Yep. Absolutely. So, they can be used for counting down a certain time to the next event or parts delivery and so on, but the main thing is that we want to make sure that people don’t just randomly start creating additional workflow steps when anything within a workflow step can be further defined [by] using a smart marker for identification, a visual identification, and also there [are] certain things that you would define with a smart marker that could take place over multiple workflow steps.
So, these things have a specific purpose in mind there. And then we’ve also got another view here, that these are the ones that go in the work order to define, do you have a loaner car out for this particular customer? Do they need a shuttle? Certain things that they need to know. Does it have a wheel alignment on it? Is it going to need the wheel alignment bay? And things like that. A wheel alignment bay would be something that would be great to know across all workflow steps, not just specifically a workflow step for a wheel alignment.
Go ahead.
Jamey: I was going to say, the one thing about these tiles – if you want to use them and use them well – try to keep it simple. These tiles are there to help the technician not to have to make trips back to the shop or even a text message through the tablet itself. You’re giving them small bits of information that they need. They know the customer’s waiting. They know that there’s a wheel lock key on there. The key’s in the vehicle. They don’t have to come and ask you for it.
I think that, again, if you use these small – I guess I called it whistles and bells earlier; this is definitely a whistle or a bell – you can create time by making it easy on your technicians by using these quick tabs.
Bill: Yep. Let’s go a little bit further. We’re going to talk more about communication also. So, all these things are about clear visual communication without anybody having to take a step anywhere.
Edgar, this is one of the screenshots from your work order screen. I see that you make use of your vehicle health inspection, warranty and some other ones. [Tell us] a little bit about how you’re using the smart markers in your shop along with the workflow.
Edgar: Sure. So, right in line with what Jamey was saying, it’s all about saving time for the technician, the production manager, the service advisor, and everybody being able to get on the same page.
We have three different types of inspections: our vehicle health inspection, which is our courtesy inspection, our annual inspection, which is our mid-level inspection, and our total true, which is our pre-purchased inspection.
So, if the technician can just go through his tablet and see what kind of inspections he has on what vehicles, it will help him get organized and see a little bit of what he may need to do or necessarily what equipment he may need to use on each one of those vehicles. Not only that, we have the warranty marker on there, which lets the technician know that, hey, we have some warranty work on this; we may need to save on parts; we may need to look into this a little further, or something like that.
Then we obviously have other things like a car wash. If a customer wanted a car wash or anybody other than the technician who does our quality control inspection feels like this vehicle’s pretty dirty and hey, it could use a car wash, we’ll put that on there and make sure that it gets washed. It’s all about making sure everybody’s on the same page and everybody can look at this one tile and know what work needs to be done or what may be going on with the customer or the vehicle.
Probably the biggest one that we use would be the today marker. Any vehicle that has to be done today, no matter what, has that marker on our tablets. That way, the technician knows that’s a priority job that needs to get done today. Not only that, but if he feels it is unrealistic to get it done today, he can communicate that to me or whoever is running production early enough in the day so we can contact that customer and not be [in a situation where] we’re getting ready to close down and technician comes up and tells me, hey, this is not going to happen.
So, it’s all about planning for the future and everybody being on the same page.
Bill: That’s a great way to segue to where we’re going next, and that is about communication. So, here’s two different forms of communication that are important also along with the workflow.
So, on the left hand side of the screen, what you see is a vehicle communication that’s tied right into that repair order along with all the communication, along with date and time stamps and so on. And on the right hand side, you’re seeing a staff member to staff member communication or even a group communication.
Would either of you two care to comment on, in the past, a technician would have to walk up to a service writer and hand them a note or stand behind them or whatever. Could you explain a little bit about what you did in the past versus what you are doing today with this type of automated communication?
Edgar: Sure. I’ll actually take that, if you don’t mind.
I come from being a technician. And I know that before having any of these communication systems set up I would go up to a service advisor and ask them for something. Let’s say they forgot a wheel lock key and I need to do a front brake job. I’d have to go up to a service advisor and tell them, hey, I need you to call this customer and ask them where the wheel lock key is. Then I’d go back to my stall and 15, 20, 30 minutes later, I still don’t have an answer. I go back up to the service advisor, and I ask them, hey, what happened to this? Oh, I forgot.
Now this system of messaging actually has helped in two ways. Number one, obviously [the] technician can just send you a message right on the spot. No need to walk across the shop and waste however long it takes for that walk to go back and forth. It’s quicker and easier to convey that information through this messaging system and also it creates a reminder. It pops up on the right hand side of your screen, and that little red dot won’t go away until you read the message and click off that you have read it. Having that reminder, especially when you’re in a production manager role or have a production type position, that’s going to help a lot. You’ve got hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of messages going in and out every day, so being able to have those red dots reminding you, hey, you still have something you need to tend to will definitely help out.
Bill: Awesome. You got anything that you’d like to add to that, Jamey, as far as what you did in the past versus what you do today?
Jamey: In the past, we had basically a column of slots that would hold a clip board, and that’s how we dispatched work. And when the technician had a question, he would have to go find that clipboard, write his note on it, open the door to the office, slip it in a needs attention folder, and hopefully the service writer recognizes that the door opened.
We try to eliminate a lot of communication inside of the office, but let’s be real. Back then, technicians would come in there and stand next to the counter while a service writer’s tying to talk on the phone or order parts or talk to a customer. And so, it’s extremely inefficient for a technician to go and just stand there until he has an answer because he doesn’t know what to do next.
So, if I would say that happened then, now it’s not like that. Obviously with a digital way to communicate, not only are we eliminating that trip and eliminating the need for somebody to come and stand and wait and use valuable time, there’s other cars dispatched to them. So, if a technician has a problem, that message gets sent up front, and then that technician can do something else while he’s waiting for an answer instead of going up there and standing there.
That was one of the biggest differences: getting that whole communication narrowed down to something very effective and efficient by using a digital apparatus, versus walking up and standing and waiting for an answer for something.
Bill: A qood question came in through the chat here. I’d like to cover that before we go on in relating to the smart markers. The question was, did they hear me correctly that there’s a countdown timer? And the answer is yes.
There are a couple of countdown timers in there. One of them you can set for a certain number of minutes and it will countdown and then start flashing. Another one you can set for a specific time, and there’s even other ones you can select for a day or time. And again, those markers are very important to organize the chaos that is the normal repair shop operation.
So, that was a great question to come in.
The main takeaway here is we want to make sure people understand all these tools here are digital replacements for things we used to do in the past. We didn’t even think about them, but we also didn’t think about the amount of time that was wasted that we could use to turn into higher production for the shop.
So, with your permission, what I’d like to do is go on a little bit further, unless you have anything you two would like to add on these topics.
Jamey: No.
Bill: All right. Silence it is.
So, what we’ve got here is on the top, we’ve got the workflow from Jamey’s shop, which is a high volume where the service writers do everything from start to finish. And you can see when we start out here, we’ve got today’s appointments and then we move across here.
And then we’ve got Edgar’s workflow from one of his different staff members, so this is a workload that’s set up for a particular role within his shop.
And what we want to do is start out talking about the different workflow steps on Jamey’s timeline, and if there’s the same workflow step on Edgar’s timeline, we’ll discuss them together, and then the ones that Edgar has that are different and unique, then we’ll let him outline them.
So, you guys okay with that process?
Edgar: Yes.
Jamey: Sure.
Edgar: Of course.
Bill: So, Jamey, in your particular shop in your workflow, you’ve got it to where your service writer can see today’s appointments up on there. And Edgar has that also, just in a different way.
Can you define what your service writer, technician, or even customer would see at the different workflow staff? Is this just internal information only so the service writer knows it’s coming, or—?
Jamey: Most of it is done through the technician view, and the workflow view we obviously do use. And I think that’s a topic for maybe if we discuss —.
Bill: Labor inventory management. That’s a good one for the Technician View.
Jamey: There’s some people that are definitely going to be watching this show that have used AutoVitals for a while and they are well versed. There’s some that are the infant stage of AutoVitals and they’re looking for differences. And there’s some people haven’t bought into it yet and they are looking for something cool.
Workflow is just that. Obviously Edgar uses it way different than I do. My guys lean toward the technician side of things to manage the shop flow, and they prefer to do it that way. So, I don’t know that I’m going to be a whole lot of help on what you’re asking. But, at the same time, we do use the – it moves along the workflow as we go.
Bill: Sure. And what you’re doing is, you’re just reading the workflow on the bottom of the tiles versus on the actual workflow screen. Does that sound correct?
Jamey: It is. And that may go back to the difference between one user versus another. Luckily I have a couple of guys that are very organized and they can handle a lot of data at once. But the thing is that they prefer to use one screen versus multiples, and that may be because it’s just them handling it.
In a shop where you’ve got a little more infrastructure, it may be way more advantageous for me to use both screens and move everything through workflow because you have a lot of moving parts and you have a lot of people touching that data. So, keeping it accurate might be way more important.
Bill: And so, where you’re seeing workflow –. This is an example Technician View. I hope that’s what you’re seeing on your screen right now. And one of the places where you would adjust your workflow steps is on the bottom here and then your list of workflow steps would be here.
Jamey: Yes.
Bill: Cool.
So, you’re using the same thing. You’re just using it from a different view. So, I just wanted to make sure that people are clear that you do use Workflow. You’re just using it on a different screen.
Jamey: Yes, sir.
Bill: OK. So, let’s move on to the next step, where is where a lot of shops actually start things out, waiting for inspection. And both of you have that particular workflow step. So, when you’re waiting for inspection, each of you, what is your service writer doing at that point, what is your technician doing, and more importantly, is there anything specific? Are you messaging your customer at that time? How are you handling that particular step?
Edgar: Sure. So, with our waiting for inspect, the main thing to remember about workflow is that every single step that’s in here is going to create either a task or a series of tasks for anybody or somebody in the shop to do something.
For waiting for inspect, it’s pretty self-explanatory, and I think most of the workflow steps are on the name themselves. Waiting for inspect is exactly that. The customer came in, dropped off the vehicle, and the technician needs to look at it.
Throughout this process, while it’s in waiting for inspect, my service advisors better be keeping all of their customers updated. Our goal is to have answers for a customer within a two hour window. If it’s something that’s difficult or is going to require more time or it’s just going to be an extended test, then we need to constantly inform the customer and keep them updated on what’s going on.
Once the inspection has been done for the technician, then we’ll move on to the next workflow step, and then obviously the tasks change at that time.
Bill: Jamey, do you have any specific time frame that you’d like to get the inspection completed and back to your service advisors by?
Jamey: Well, I think that’s all relative to demand.
Sometimes the shop is overloaded and we have days delayed, and then sometimes we can look at a vehicle on the same day. So, I don’t know if there’s a perfect answer for that one, Bill, but we’re always trying to make sure that we’re communicating with that customer about when were are going to be looking at that vehicle and going to be inspecting it.
Of course, we want to do it as fast as possible, but I don’t know if there’s a really great answer for that one because —.
Bill: I guess maybe a little bit differently, in your shop, are you more apt to when a customer lands in the door – a lot of them aren’t by appointment – and you’re going to do first come, first serve, kind of triage them, and then decide, do I do it right now? Is it a state inspection? Is it an oil change with inspection? And then judge the opportunity and go from there.
Jamey: Exactly. I’d say 75% of our business is all by appointment. We do have walk-ins. I’d say most of those walk-ins are smaller jobs or people that something happens and they needed to drop their car off and they know that it’s not going to get looked at today anyway.
I think that’s obviously going to be from one shop to another, how many technicians they have versus what their car volume is and what they can handle. I think the idea, though, is that we’re trying to discuss how to move that through your workflow so that you can maintain some shop function and utilize AutoVitals to do that.
Bill: Let’s move on to the next step, which is here after the inspection is done, the service writer looks it over and creates an estimate.
So, both of you share that particular workflow step in common. But I’m thinking that your workflow at that step goes to two different locations.
So, Jamey, if you would start out with yours. Obviously, in your case, it’s going back to the service advisor to edit, estimate, and send. Is that pretty much correct?
Jamey: Yeah. Once the vehicle’s inspected, that inspection is pushed back to the service writer. They will go through it, edit it, check the pictures, ask questions, and we do that via tablet.
But all answers will get solidified at that point so that inspection can be pushed to the customer. During that time, we’re creating an estimate and making sure that we’re ready whenever the timer goes off and that customer needs to be contacted.
Bill: So, Edgar, your shop is different. Your service writers aren’t creating the estimate, so what role takes over at this point? If you would go through a little bit of it, please.
Edgar: Sure. So, when our tile goes into creating estimate, our production manager or production manager assistant would step in. This is someone who is responsible for looking through the entire inspection, editing all the notes and images that are on there, sourcing all the parts and labor, finding out how long it will take to get parts, and also just asking the technician questions and clarifying questions.
Sometimes technician notes can be very confusing, and in my opinion, if I can’t make sense of what is going on there, I don’t expect the customer to be able to either.
So, that’s where our production team takes over and is able to make sure that this inspection is ready to be sent to the customer and gather all the parts and labor information and letting the service advisor know what ETA we’re looking at as far as parts, and also just overall availability.
If there’s certain jobs that need to be done together, for the most part, I’ve got some very experienced service advisors and it’s not really an issue, but for some of the more intricate jobs that will take a lot more time, there’s certain jobs that we want to do together, and we just make sure that we have all that information for the service advisor.
Bill: What are your top advantages of having somebody else other than the service advisor create that estimate?
Edgar: Well, number one, is always going to be the relationship with the customer. If you take building estimates away from a service advisor, how much more free time do they have to be in touch with your customer, constantly giving them updates? Probably one of the worst things you can have at your shop is a customer calling you asking for an update on their vehicle. They should be updated already. It’s going to completely change their experience in your shop.
So, freeing them of that time and having them be able to focus on our customer’s experience, constantly giving them updates or taking care of some other things in the shop that you don’t necessarily realize are so important, like all the phone calls that you get of people who are price shopping or people who are just calling around seeing who can help them out with their vehicle. When they have more time to spend with that customer on the phone, that’s a potential customer that you can make an appointment for, bring them into the shop to increase your car count.
So, number two would definitely be people who are in production roles typically tend to have some more automotive experience or knowledge, a lot less parts that are missed, overlapping parts. For example, you’ve got a Chrysler 3.6 engine for spark plugs or oil filter housing and you already know what other parts you are going to need while doing that one job. When you replace the spark plugs, you are going to remove the plenum, so you better include a plenum gasket. Other things like that.
Just having somebody who can focus on certain tasks overall elevates the quality of the final product.
Bill: Do you find it also takes some of the emotion away from the service advisor as far as pricing, and it also lets you have somebody –. I mean, right now, today, in this environment to locate parts that are actually available is kind of like an art.
Do you find having somebody who specializes in this versus a one person fits all, do you find that helps that out some?
Edgar: Of course. As far as the sourcing of parts and everything, anybody who’s building these estimates is in constant contact with somebody and we’re sort of being able to get buddy-buddy with our parts vendors, and we are able to get some great service from them.
Overall, just someone who has already seen that part 300,000 times knows who can get it, who’s going to be able to give you the best quality and the best price, and get it to you quicker is always going to be an upside.
And yeah, you’re absolutely right. Having someone building the estimate who is not necessarily emotionally invested with the customer –. You always hear the customer that’s coming in with some pretty bad issues and they have a lot of things going on in their personal life. It’s not that we don’t care about them, it’s just that we want to give them everything that’s going on with their vehicle. We want to let them know about the overall health of their vehicle. And a service advisor who’s invested in that emotionally can definitely take a little bit of a step back and be like, well, maybe I shouldn’t tell them about this because it’s just going to break their day, and they’re already having a rough day as it is.
Bill: What I’ve highlighted now, [is] I’ve got estimate ready. My assumption is, using this in the shop in a similar manner, this has to be done like this so the service writer knows that it’s ready, looks it over and familiarizes himself with it before they move it to waiting for approval.
Have I got that pretty much right?
Edgar: 100% right. Yes, sir.
That was actually implemented early on last year. We were going from creating estimate to waiting for approval and we were having customers call our service advisors, asking them questions on the inspection that maybe they haven’t seen yet.
So, definitely implementing the estimate ready step there has given us a little bit of a buffer or a break. Nobody’s perfect, but if there’s certain situations where someone in production may miss one thing or two, or the service advisor’s not understanding technician notes, it gives them that time to get clarification and be able to go fully prepared to go into a conversation with the customer over their estimate or their inspection sheet.
Bill: Perfect.
And so, the next thing we’ve got up here – both of you share this workflow step the same – is waiting for approval.
So, Jamey, if you would outline a few of the things that have to happen at workflow approval, and what does your customer see, what does your service writer do, and what do your technicians do at that point?
Jamey: The customer probably is not going to see that. He’s just not. But the technicians know that we’re waiting for that work to be approved once that inspection is sent.
It’s a nice bit of information for a technician to have, because they know that something has happened up front, they know that the customer has gotten information pushed to them, and they can obviously move on to another job.
Since we have a backlog all the time, it helps them stay much more efficient. But waiting for work approved, we don’t usually let cars sit there very long, honestly. We’re trying to get those vehicles approved quickly, as fast as we can, parts ordered, and then those redispatched out in the order like Edgar was saying. Sometimes it takes a little while to get parts. So, we have to push those cars around a little bit. And we’re constantly changing that order of workflow for those two technicians so that they can stay efficient.
Bill: So, is it safe to say in your case that before the service advisor sends the inspection results to the customer, they’ve already completed a full complete estimate and they send it, and now they’re waiting for the customer to respond. Is that pretty standard?
Jamey: Yeah. I’d say it’s kind of a mix. If it’s a big list of items, they’re probably not going to send the inspection and then try to squeeze in this estimate in 20 minutes. If it’s a bigger amount of jobs, they may start getting a lot of that stuff put together at the same time they’re editing the inspection and send it and time that all out.
We try to stay super efficient up there only because if we don’t, we’ll get overrun.
Bill: Cool. Edgar, you have anything you’re doing different at the waiting for approval step?
Edgar: Not really. Once it hits waiting for approval, the inspection gets sent out to the customer and the service advisor goes over it and it’s pretty much what it is. It’s waiting for approval. We’re waiting for approval for the customer to get some of the work done on their vehicle.
Bill: Cool. And so, your next step after that as a service writer I assume is letting the production manager know that it’s approved, so that way you can order parts. What are you doing at that particular approved step and what role takes it over in your shop?
Edgar: OK. That’s a little bit of a buffer step. I saw somebody ask the question about moving their tiles from waiting for approval to waiting for work finished, and technicians were getting confused because the vehicle is actually waiting on parts, so that’s a little bit of a buffer step.
Definitely our production team takes over on that as well. Once we see a tile in there, you’re absolutely right, the service advisor will send us a message in letting us know that the work has been approved. At that point, the production manager will review the ticket and make sure that there isn’t any work that may be needed that wasn’t sold.
For example, if you sell a rack and pinion and there’s no alignment, I would probably go ask some questions as to why an alignment wasn’t sold with a rack and pinion, but the main reason is so that I know exactly what is going to happen next.
In some cases, it’s just services or battery or an air filter that I have in stock and there’s no need to do anything else with it. I put it in waiting for work finished and give it to a technician to get the work done. And in some cases, there’s parts that need to be ordered, parts that may not be in the shop for a few days, sometimes maybe a couple of weeks now.
And from there, I would track it to one of the later steps that you’ll see on the far right hand side after that red line you have drawn there on waiting on parts. That doesn’t assign any other work to the technician. It just sits there until the parts actually get there. In some cases, we also have sublet work. I don’t necessarily need the technician to know about it. I need to be able to know that we are waiting on sublet jobs to get done so that they can be put in that category.
Once it’s there, it doesn’t spend more than a minute in there. Just go in there, review the ticket, make sure that we’ve got all the work and from there determine what the next workflow step will be, and be able to put it in that position.
Bill: Right. And that’s a great way to transition to what Jamey has next on his list, which is parts ordered/on hold.
So, you’re just using that kind of as a pause to decide, do I move it to parts ordered or on hold, or do I move it over to the waiting for work finished. Jamey, can you tell me on this particular step on yours, parts ordered or on hold, you are using this as a dual purpose, I assume. Maybe it’s waiting for the customer to get back from vacation, or maybe it’s waiting for parts that are going to be a few days out.
Anything special you do at this particular step?
Jamey: No. Other than that, it literally is a parking spot. When we’re ordering parts, or maybe we have parts on order or maybe even them here, but while we’ve been waiting for those parts to get here another vehicle has filled that spot that parts have showed up for.
So, Aaron and the guys up front use that as literally a holding spot, a parking spot, so the technician can move on, and we can move it around, and they know that parts are on order. Again, [it’s] just passing information to the technician so they know what the status of the jobs are. It also allows them to help keep the shop flow moving. They had input back and forth, with my service writers anyway.
Bill: Cool. So, after parts arrive and so on, both of you in common move it over to waiting for work finished.
Anything special that goes on at this particular step for you guys, or is this pretty much obvious, hey, get ‘er done?
Jamey: [Inaudible; garbled audio] you have listed underneath that technician. We’re always moving that around. I’m sure Edgar does the same thing. I’m sure every shop owner does the same thing. Once the stuff shows up and we’re waiting for that work to be finished, we want to make sure we’re re-dispatching that work out in an order that is the most effective way to get it done.
Edgar: Yeah. 100% on board with that.
Bill: Cool. So, let’s look at a few of the other steps that Edgar uses. After the work is finished, you go over to a QC step. What happens there and who does it?
Edgar: Sure. So, we actually have a service package on Protractor, which is a quality control inspection. Once all the work is done by a technician, then it goes into quality control, which is our QC workflow step there.
Nine times out of 10 it will be our shop foreman who will look over the entire vehicle, recheck the work that we have done, make sure that everything is up to our standards, and that there isn’t anything else going on with the vehicle.
Probably one of the worst things that could happen is that the customer picks up the vehicle from us repairing an oil leak, they pick it up and you go outside and the under-hood of their vehicle smells like burning oil. That’s something that we wouldn’t tolerate and definitely something that I wouldn’t like if it happened to me.
So, through our quality control check, those are the types of things that we are checking for. Also going back to the smart markers, if it has a car wash, this is when it would actually get done, right before it’s delivered to our customer. During our quality control inspection, our shop foreman would actually take this through the car wash and make sure it’s good to go.
Bill: But the QC is actually done by somebody other than the person that worked on the vehicle and it actually has an inspection sheet that you fill out, and you show right on the repair order that a QC was done. Do you send that QC inspection to the customer, or is it internal?
Edgar: So, we currently do not have an actual quality control inspection. It’s just the service package, if you will.
Bill: I see.
Edgar: We are working on developing a quality control inspection sheet, and there are plans of maybe sending that to the customer, so that way they know that before the vehicle was picked up, we rechecked these items, even though we checked them during our courtesy inspection. We rechecked these items just to make sure and verify that they were in good condition before your vehicle left.
But yeah, that’s the service package. It does not get done by the person who did the work. If my shop foreman did some work on the vehicle, the quality control inspection will go to somebody else.
Bill: Cool. And how about the service advisor review? Who does that, and what is the purpose of it? And more importantly, what is the advantage to both the shop and the end user customer? What happens at that step?
Edgar: There’s a couple of different things that happen there. The service advisor will go through and review all the work was done, making sure that there was nothing else that was added or changed while the work was getting done or through our quality control process.
In our quality control check, my shop foreman may sometimes add some notes. Sometimes it’s just some miscellaneous items that we took care of, for example, a splash shield was a little bit loose and we put some push pins or some bolts on it and now it’s good to go.
It builds value around what we do. It builds value around the quality control inspection. And overall, it lets the customer know, once again, the full health of their vehicle.
Another step that is done there, is we actually set our CRM there. The service advisor will go through, and if we do any work that may require them to return later on, we will set those reminders then and there. That way, six months down the road, when their oil change is due, we can be the first one to let them know and set that appointment for them. Be their full-time automotive shop for our customers.
Bill: Cool. And now, the next step, [which] both of you have in common, is waiting for pickup. If you would, Jamey, what are you guys specifically doing at waiting for pickup? Are they just notifying the customer or are they doing part of the CRM setup at that point? What are you guys doing at that particular step?
Jamey: Well, obviously that one we are using to push that text message to the customer that their vehicle is ready to go and done. The CRM does pick up at that point. Usually at checkout they’re getting email and [a] text message at that point as well.
But we do use that to communicate with the customer that their vehicle is ready for pickup.
Bill: Cool. Anything you’re doing different there, Edgar?
Edgar: We’re not necessarily sending out a text message to let them know that the vehicle is done. At that point, the service advisor will definitely reach out to the customer to let them know the vehicle is ready to be picked up. It’s overall just confirmation that CRM has been set and all the previous steps have been done up till there.
Bill: Cool. And so, you’ve got a fully defined workflow on there.
What I’d also like to point out is, normally in the past when we were doing all our workflow based on a whiteboard or a spreadsheet or whatever, we only had one view for everybody in the building. And now here, in this example on Edgar’s shop here, this is a role for one particular employee where they’ve got the steps that they’re responsible for defined.
And at a certain point, there’s not a red line on a workflow screen, but from here over are things that they are not necessarily responsible for but they also want to monitor so they understand what’s going on in the shop.
Can you tell a little bit about how you’ve got your different presets for your employees broken down based on the unique roles, Edgar?
Edgar: Sure. So, overall it’s really going to vary by position and individual. Certain individuals like to monitor certain things that others just don’t. This would be actually for a production manager role where you have to track the vehicle from beginning to end.
In reality here, probably on our screen right after QC, the production manager wouldn’t really care if it’s on SA review or waiting for pickup, versus a service advisor would want to keep an eye on the waiting for inspect column, estimate ready, waiting for approval, and maybe the QC line, and our SA review, of course, and waiting for pickup.
It’s just a matter of what tasks are you responsible for and what tiles or columns are going to help you keep track of that.
Bill: Cool. What I’d like to do, if you guys don’t mind, I’d like [to get] from each of you your top three things that you would like people that are either watching or listening to understand about using the visual workflow other than what we used to do in the past: either keep it in our head and hope that somebody doesn’t get lost on the way back from lunch.
Could you define your top three, Jamey?
Jamey: I think top three are, one, creating time with using the communication portion of AutoVitals. Two is managing workflow with efficiency so that the technicians know exactly what the status is of every car based on waiting on parts, etcetera. The last thing would be the technician actually updating the status of the vehicle for the service writer to know where the vehicle is at in the workflow.
Basically, they can check off the jobs as they’re doing them and labeling them 100% done or 50% done, depending on where that vehicle is.
So, dispatching the work, making sure the technician knows what’s going on, and then also the status back to the service writer so that the service writer knows what the status is of the vehicle from the technician standpoint.
Bill: Cool. And Edgar, how about you?
Edgar: Overall, I’m going to sum it up in one. Will your shop pass the hit by the bus scenario? If I was to walk outside of my shop and I get hit by the bus and I have to be out for a week [or a] week and a half, whatever the case may be, can someone step in and know exactly where all of my work is, and what needs to be done, what the following step will be?
That goes with every workflow step has to have an assigned task or a series of tasks that need to be done. That way, as soon as it hits that, someone who sees that it’s in this particular workflow step, we need to do A,B, and C.
Number two is knowing where each vehicle is in a visit. What is it that we need to do and how do we need to go about it? That ties in your smart markers. If you have a new customer, you have someone doing an alignment, a vehicle that needs to get done today, can someone just look at your board and figure that out?
And number three, overall is just your customer experience. When you’re able to have someone –anybody in the shop, really – be able to know what needs to be done next on a vehicle, it’s more likely to be done faster and in a more professional manner, which overall will 100% take your customer’s experience to the next level, and more than likely you’ll become their repair shop of choice.
Bill: Awesome. So, the big takeaway is that when you’re implementing this shop, decide what role, either director of greetings, service advisor, production manager, parts, etcetera needs to see what and when. So, that’s the number one to start laying your foundation.
And assign what is described by the workflow steps and what needs to be done using smart markers or the internal chat, and as Edgar said, more importantly, create some muscle memory to pass the hit by the bus test. So, if somebody that’s a main personnel that’s involved in this particular process in your shop gets run over by the bus, can somebody else just look at the screen, understand where it is and go on and take over from there.
Awesome, guys. You guys brought a whole bunch of really good information on there. I’d like to really thank both Jamey and Edgar for joining us today. Do either of you have anything else that you’d like to add before we go on? Edgar, I think this might be your first time that you’ve been on with us. Is that correct?
Edgar: Yep. That’s absolutely right. First time.
Bill: Awesome. Hopefully we’ll get to enroll you again sometime. We’ll have to ask John if we can borrow you.
And Jamey, you’re a multi-visitor. [You] always bring lots of good information and show your passion for the industry for sure.
Jamey: I appreciate that. Happy to do it.
Bill: Awesome. So, that being said, we’re at the top of the hour. I’d like to thank those that have joined us. I would like to ask others to go to and sign up, or go to any of your favorite podcast platforms and search for the Digital Shop Talk Radio. You can listen to us live or download them.
But the most important thing is that if you know another shop owner or somebody in the industry that might be struggling and you’ve already mastered some of these things, why don’t you grab an episode or two and send it to them, email [them] and encourage them to join us, so that way we can share and help others in the industry lift themselves up also.
So, once again, I’d like to thank you for joining us today. Have a great day, and go out there and make some money, and wow your customers.

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