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Episode Description

The ability to visualize and measure your labor inventory allows your staff to work as a team more effectively and increase productivity – without hiring more staff. Visual data can be used to measure performance and track growth, allowing for accountability. The different views of today’s vehicle page can also enable great teamwork. Hear from Greg Masewic, a Meineke multi-shop operator, and our hosts, Uwe and Bill, and learn how to maximize shop productivity without adding more staff.

Episode Transcript

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

Bill: Good morning. Good afternoon. I’m Bill Connor, and for those of you that have registered and joined us live, thank you. You can register at and be able to get to our episodes where they are all loaded in a nice little file, and also find it on many of the podcast platforms like Apple, Google, and a whole bunch of other ones that you can pull up.
So, here today I’ve got Greg Masewic, a Meineke multi-shop owner, one that’s been doing a very good job of educating and delegating responsibilities to a large amount of staff he has and transition to the digital world. And I’ve also got AutoVitals’ very own chief innovation officer, which we really rely on to keep us out in front the marketplace so that we’re always innovating.
Today, what we’re going to explore is workflow and labor management inventory and how changes from the past to today’s digital shop benefit everybody in the shop. So, today’s focus is going to be on process changes and strategies to maximize your labor inventory and increase production with your existing staff, and the key here is with the existing staff, because we find out nationwide across all shops – and there’s a wide term that gets used to categorize somebody as a technician – but on average, as far as productivity, a lot of statistics show that across the industry, about five hours billed, paid and posted on a daily basis is what’s being produced, and we can certainly do a lot better than that. And we’ve got the proof from shops that we work with.
So, Uwe, what I’m going to ask you is, do you want to first define what labor inventory is and use some examples on it and then go into the different workflow steps, or would you like to go into workflow first?
Uwe: No, if I can I would love to pick a third option and that is let’s talk a little bit about why workflow management is such an awesome thing and then I would love to hand it over to Greg and have him describe how it all started where we couldn’t even spell workflow management and how it is now. Because often by looking back, you realize, wow, what a difference. And if we are in the middle of it and still doing it, we are not really aware of the differences.
So, workflow management basically started – we just talked about this earlier — Bill and I started collaborating –. Bill was wanting a shop [in] 2013-2014. That’s also when digital inspection became a big deal. And we realized just giving the service advisor another tool in addition to the other tools they already have to master, that’s not enough. We have to find another way to eliminate busywork. And that’s how workflow management got created.
And now we have the tool we believe is pretty flexible for all different types of shops, but today we want to really focus on the foundation of workflow management, any of the workflow steps. We are going to talk today about the necessary [ones that] I don’t think can be skipped. But you can add a lot more.
And what it does overall is, it allows you to manage production, and production determines hours produced, and that is what this whole thing is about: How many hours, billed hours, can I produce in a certain period of time? That’s the whole name of the game. And workflow management helps getting a constant overview of where we are in labor inventory management. It’s a fancy word for, how do I dispatch technicians the smartest way to maximize production?
Have I passed your test, Bill?
Bill: Awesome. So, as long as you’ve opened door number three, let’s go down that path.
Uwe: So, we started working with Greg. Greg, do you remember that? It’s a while ago – four years, five years – something like that.
Greg: Yes. Yes. Five years now. Yep. Yep. Yep. It’s been a journey.
Uwe: And it’s been a journey. And you had at that time, I think, one location, if I’m not mistaken. 1332. And now we are at what number? I lost track.
Greg: We’re at five, and we’re a week away from closing number six.
Uwe: Really? Awesome. So, if you could summarize how it was before when you had 1332 and then you got involved in workflow and going digital. What were the biggest hurdles or differences looking at this from that?
Greg: In the beginning, like everything, when we went from paper to paperless, there was a lot of fear. It’s not a small amount of pain involved. It’s everybody kind of trying to rewire themselves and rethink about how they do it.
We had our struggles. Our then manager, now our general manager, Paul, it’s a pretty famous story, I think, at this point. We spent about a year and a half of him just clawing at the floor and refusing. He was a manager running a really successful shop. We threw this whole bucket of wrenches at him and said, here’s the new way you’re going to do it. He really had a hard time seeing why any of it made sense. I’ve got this thing nailed down. Why would you make me change this? He was convinced we couldn’t get another dollar through the doors of that building. It was maximized.
It literally took about a year to finally get the light bulb go on in his head. And since, he will be the first to tell you that he would retire before he’d go back to the way it used to be. And for what it’s worth, the sales in that shop increased almost $700 thousand dollars once we really got it humming with smartphone and workphone and all of that.
Uwe: If I may, that’s the same staff?
Greg: Same staff. Yep. Yep. Same amount of –.
Uwe: That’s amazing.
Greg: Yeah. It literally added almost $700 thousand dollars a year in sales. So it went from $1.2, $1.3 [million] up to about two million. So, it was there, and it was just the result of everything that comes along with smartphone: the better, more consistent inspections, the workflow, just working a lot more efficiently.
When we talk about workflow, I think the breakthrough for us was, the workflow steps have always existed. Every car that comes onto our lot goes through those same steps that are laid out on the TVP. It gets here. It’s here for its initial work. It’s waiting for the initial inspection. Then it goes to looking over that inspection and estimating the job. Then it goes to waiting for approval. Then it goes to waiting for parts. Then it goes to waiting for complete. And then it goes to waiting for pickup. And that’s been true since day one.
I think the biggest difference in having workflow in AutoVitals is, in the past it was all just running around with your hair on fire and never really being sure what step any car was in a particular moment without running half a mile to the other end of the building and getting an update from a tech.
Now at a glance, you know right where everything is and what step it’s in, and that increases efficiency tenfold. It’s a quick glance. You know right where that car is, and everything just moves more efficiently when you do that.
And it’s better for the techs, too. There’s less of that wait time. They’ve got two or three cars queued up on their end, on their tablet, and if they submit a car, and they’re waiting for the service advisor to build an estimate, there’s none of that standing behind him for five minutes while he’s talking to somebody waiting for their next instruction. They just go get their next car and get started on that one.
So, techs are always working on a car and always producing. I shudder to think how many hours we were losing with all of that wait in the past. So, that’s for us been the biggest thing for efficiency.
Uwe: And back to what you said in the beginning, if you don’t know it can be better, you of course say, I’m already at the best shape I can be. What are you talking about? Why would I change that? And so, there is this famous/infamous story about how you made Paul not run around and stay at the service advisor desk.
Can you talk about when the light bulb went on for him? I want you to tell the story for two reasons: One, it’s an interesting story [as to] what length you went. Some other people might have given up before. But on the other hand, it illustrates so nicely that if you go the traditional way, everything is in somebody’s head, in this case in Paul’s, and needs to be updated constantly. So, you have the current status right in your head, so you can make decisions.
And he found many service advisors, or now managers, find that having that in your head is the best place, forgetting that running around or getting asked questions is one interruption after another.
There is nothing worse, nothing worse, and that is completely independent of what activity you do, whether you write software, whether you work in a shop, whether you train for a sport, interruptions are poison. Because they take you out of what you’re doing, force you to remember it somewhere, stack it somewhere, do what the interruption requires you to do and then go back and get it back up and, where was I? Where was this thing?
There are enough studies out there which basically say that if you want consistent output, eliminating interruptions is the absolute best and most successful way as the first step before you do anything else. Life in an auto repair shop is a sequence of interrupts, so that’s in my opinion, one of the biggest advantages, but I would love to hear your story.
Greg: Yeah. I think it goes to that. Multi-tasking is a fallacy. No one on the planet is actually capable of doing it. We all trick ourselves into thinking we’re good at it.
Uwe: Especially men, if I might point it out.
Greg: I agree. Myself included. One day, we’re going to prove it wrong. We all believe that. I think it speaks to successful service advisors, that whole description you just gave, I think they wear that a badge of honor. That’s that whole service advisor is a superman thing. And they’re really not happy unless they’re running around with their hair on fire because they think that’s what makes them valuable. That’s why you need me. I’m the guy who runs around and puts all these fires out and can juggle all of these things. So, kind of turning their heads a little bit to saying, that’s great, but how about if that wasn’t necessary? How much better would you be to concentrate more than three seconds on one thing?
With Paul, I literally put a bench in front of the counter and told him that’s where he stays. When that didn’t work, I threatened to put a seatbelt on the bench and strap him to it if it didn’t change him. And even that took a little time.
And then it finally came to that hard conversation that we’re all afraid of: This is where we’re going. You’re either coming with us or you’re not. [Inaudible] You have to make the decision one way or the other. If you’re not willing to do it, we’re going to have to make a change.
How about this? Try it my way for two weeks. Let’s see what happens. Got him to bite on that. The results were pretty much immediate. His day-to-day life improved, and since then as I’ve gotten more shops, I’m less and less day-to-day stuff involved, and now he’s my AutoVitals enforcer. He goes around to every shop, and he’s the hardest guy. No, no; they’re not doing it right. So, he drank the Kool Aid. It took him a long time to get it into his mouth and down his throat, but once he drank it, there was no turning back.
And I think for shops that are starting out or struggling, that’s the best advice I could give. Hang in there. You might have to have those honest and hard conversations. And you may have a guy who just refuses, that you can’t get through, and you may have to make a change, but it will all be worth it. I can’t even tell you how worth it it’s been for us. It made huge changes and everybody’s life is better. The techs are making more money. Things are smooth. The day is smoother. It brings joy to this business.
Uwe: If we ask Paul when the light bulb went on, was it a one-time event? Or was it after the two weeks or even earlier during the first week [that] he came to you and said, oh, I didn’t realize XYZ is better. Do you remember those times?
Greg: Yeah. It was kind of after that conversation in those two weeks. Because even when someone says they’ll commit to doing it your way for two weeks, the first three days they’re still in denial. They’re going to try to figure out a way to prove you wrong. They’ll even sabotage it a little bit if they can because nobody wants to be wrong, especially men, especially successful men.
It was a matter of me being right next to him to make sure that we are staying on that track, and after those two weeks, day by day, things were just kind of a little better, a little easier, making more sense. And he’ll also be the first to admit that he sabotaged himself because he’d be out there with the text complaining about it and didn’t understand why we would –.
Uwe: Oh.
Greg: He just kept putting bullets in his foot as he was doing that. He had to get the [inaudible] around. Wait a minute. You hated this yesterday, and today you love it. I don’t believe you. No time for that to happen.
Once he had that epiphany, it was almost instantaneous how everything in the shop just got better.
Uwe: Very cool.
Bill: So the whole premise of the workflow and labor inventory management really is come about because we really want to make the text and service writers and everybody more money. And in the past, we had to wait until they put their payroll reports together to find out whether they passed or failed, so to say. And then, maybe we got to where they could do a daily report. But when we started getting into the workflow management, and the labor inventory management is a highly visual tool, we could make adjustments and corrections before it ever got into a bad paycheck.
So, that’s kind of the nature of the visual tools that we wanted to make sure get put together.
Greg: Yes. That’s a great point. I didn’t even think of that. Our guys are constantly looking at where they’re at. They can see it right on their tablet. They know what they’ve got for sold hours. That makes them feel good because there’s a lot of sold hours always now, and they know how many they’ve completed. So, they’re invested minute to minute. It’s never a mystery. To your point, Bill, they’re never finding out on Friday how they did last week. They know right now how they’re doing.
Uwe: Right. So, why don’t we go—. I don’t know, Bill. I look at the clock and we’re almost half through and haven’t really started. Maybe we look at 1332’s workflow and lean back and let Greg explain how it works.
Bill: I don’t have their workflow. But I’ve got a different shop. The numbers are going to be the same.
Greg: That’ll work.
Bill: You can never tell what I might come up with. Let’s find the right monitor. I’m going to make the assumption that you see a shop with green bars, red bars and so on.
So, if you could explain a little bit about what you’re doing and kind of guide my mouse to the right places so that way we can show other people where you’re talking about.
Uwe: I don’t know. I would really start with the workflow management infogram maybe and just go through the steps before going here. I don’t know. Would that be better or worse? I’m game. Whatever you feel has the highest value for our listeners.
Bill: Let’s talk through the steps on the actual workflow and what gets done by the service advisor, technician, and more importantly, how does the motorist receive the information or respond to it?
Uwe: Yes. And then go to the TVP to go into some intricate details on how to use it, if that’s OK.
Bill: Sure. Yep. Perfect.
Uwe: What you see here is [a] service advisor. And in the meanwhile, we would talk 2014, we have 2021 now, we further developed it and covered it in several episodes. Specialization is the next way of production output increase. That’s why right now we are not only saying service advisor; we are also saying production manager. The production manager, a dedicated resource to dispatch techs, maybe write estimates. But in the simple workflow, it doesn’t really matter who it is, but just in the meaning of and the goal of production output increase with the same staff, we recommend specialization.
So, we have service advisor, production manager, the technician and the motorist. And it all starts with an appointment. And the service advisor and the motorist, or the motorist alone on the website, makes an appointment. And you see this in a different color here; our optimized recommendation is [to] build the estimate and the point of sale at the time of the appointment. Saves a step and also allows us tool-wise to pick certain recommendations and send them in the appointment reminder, which the motorist is going to receive 10 days and one day before the actual appointment.
Bill: But before you leave the appointment, would this be a great time to preorder any parts that are maybe hard to get, so that way we don’t stumble when the vehicle gets here?
Uwe: Very good point. Then you would turn [in] the estimate and the work order before the drop-off, which allows the person to preorder the parts, and that point, the work order’s already approved. Lots of shops rely on – in their area – excellent parts supply several times during the day, so they turn an appointment estimate into a work order at drop-off and educate the motorist about the process, including the inspection in the next step. This sounds just like a line in a process to have checked, [but] this is one of the most important steps.
Because the moment you can manage expectations, what happens now and what happens next, the motorist does not feel the call is being dropped into a black hole and I get a phone call maybe sometime later. We talked about this in so many episodes, educating about the process, why the inspection is being done. And ideally the motorist gives some feedback that they’re excited to wait for the inspection results. That automatically increases the opening rate.
And the turning of the estimate to a work order is for most of our clients linked to the so-called drop-off detection. That is when the vehicles moves from today’s appointments into the first workflow step, which is in most of the cases, waiting on the inspection. And it’s automatically done, and that is when the production manager/service advisor can start conducting labor inventory management meetings. Who is the most suited technician for this type of work? And that could be skill, could be availability. And then on the TVP, by moving on the tech view the vehicle to the tech, the assignment happens, the technician gets a nuclear powerpoint catastrophe signal on the tablet so it cannot be ignored and starts performing the jobs on the work order ideally in the order that it is and mark the job as finished.
So, we recommend have always the inspection as the first job on the work order.
Bill: So, you’re saying that we need to consider the skill level of the technician, their availability, and there’s one third one that we want to do is also the balance of hours across the shop so we don’t get anybody thinking we’re playing favorites.
Uwe: Good point. That’s an important point. Very important. It eliminates all the envy about favoritism, as you just said.
Bill: That guy’s getting all the gravy.
Uwe: Exactly. Really important point is that the techs mark the job as finished as they’re finished. If that’s not being done, Paul would have been right to not stay at the desk, because you don’t know when the job is finished, so you don’t know what the progress is, so you have to go back and ask or use chat, which is additional work to be done.
So, the moment the tech says the job is finished, if it is the inspection job and marked as such, then the vehicle moves automatically into the creating estimate workflow step. Service advisor doesn’t need to do anything. And they get an alert. It’s actually more than an alert on the TVP. It’s a task, and that task stays on until it’s been finished. So, it’s not one of those interrupts which keeps hanging in the air and then hopefully somebody picks it up. It stays on in the manager task queue until it’s being done.
And the service advisor, as he approves the inspection results, builds the estimate and sends the inspection results to the motorist, not the other way around. It’s important to build the estimate first; otherwise, you get phone calls with questions you might not be able to answer.
Bill: There’s even one thing that’s worse than that: [and that] is you get a phone call and the service writer goes into survival mode and only presents the low hanging fruit.
Uwe: Right. That’s even worse.
Greg: And that’s always a challenge. Yeah.
Uwe: Greg, maybe we go through the whole process and then look for exceptions and difficulties. One of them is, how do you deal with waiters? When you’re on a time crunch, presenting the whole estimate is often a challenge, and service advisors sometimes work with their own wallet, and then we can talk about how we can make sure that it’s minimized or even eliminated.
But this workflow here describes the standard procedure we recommend.
The technician basically through all the workflow steps performs the work order jobs in order as they are on the work order and assigned to him, marks them as finished and switches to another work order with a higher priority. So, that’s where labor inventory management comes in. And Bill, we’ll hopefully – if we have the time later – explain how that works. It shouldn’t happen too often, but it does every day, that you stop working on the car and have to hop to another one without finishing it. And for this, you can use the TVP to switch priorities.
The motorist, in this step, receives the inspection results, and then the service advisor moves it for waiting for approval, the vehicle, in which the service advisor watches the motorist research time, which in real time updates every 10 seconds and produces the number of seconds a motorist actively looks at the inspection results – actively, not just having a browser open on their mobile phone and sitting in a business meeting and doing something else. Has to be active. Has to be scrolling. Has to be tapping on a picture. Has to be watching a video.
In the ideal case – and you can manipulate that a little bit – the motorist calls back, not the service advisor calls the motorist. That is even true when the waiter is there. So, please send the inspection results even if there’s a waiter in the waiting room. The process is the same. If there was no answer from the motorist within the 20 minute window, then you can call.
The whole reason is, it’s a completely different conversation that when the service advisor calls the motorist and applies – wanted or not – some type of sales pressure, or whether the motorist calls the shop and has a bunch of buying questions.
The service advisor then gets the approval for the jobs and marks the jobs as declined in the point of sale, or deferred, or whatever the point of sale term is for recommendations that will not be performed at this visit but should be in the queue for the next visit.
The next step is auto parts. We forgot to mention the smart markers. Smart markers are an incredible tool for making everybody in the shop aware, not only the service advisor, what’s special about this vehicle, like the waiter, which automatically increases priority and accuracy of the promises, especially the promised time.
And in this case, you would just set a smart marker for the time when the part is supposed to arrive: same day 10 a.m.; same day 2 p.m.
And so, everybody in the shop sees on the TVP when the parts arrive. That helps the labor inventory management a big deal. Could be the next day. You can do that too.
Technician cranks out work, but there is no change.
And then we go into work finished, meaning parts have arrived. You conduct again labor inventory management. Some shops pile up more work for the same tech who is already working on the vehicle. Other shops look at the same numbers in the morning and see what is the most balanced approach to have skills and availability managed, so maximum output can be created.
So, it’s not unusual that different techs work on the same car based on the approval of the work, so you have a constant smooth running of the whole shop, and not just stick with one tech for one car for one [inaudible].
You see on the right hand side also our proposal to use the workflow notifications so that the motorist has some sense of progress. For pickup, we basically almost think it’s mandatory. It helps the shop and the motorist to know it’s ready; I can pick it up. But we also recommend to do it for other steps because that keeps the motorist engaged. They actually look at their phone more often.
You know all the Domino’s Pizza tracker phenomenon. Although you are just interested in the end result of getting a pizza delivered, you all of a sudden get hooked on, hey, what’s the progress. And it’s actually a game [inaudible]. It gamifies the experience.
And then at pickup, the invoice is prepared and presented. And then the most important thing is after getting the payment done digitally or otherwise, talk about what recommendations are pending for the next visit, educate on the why, and in the ideal case, schedule the next appointment.
And on the side of the motorist, they get educated, and agree to the next appointment, which is a confirmed next appointment.
So, that’s the simplified standard process for workflow.
Greg and Bill, any additions you guys want to make?
Greg: No. Again, it kind of speaks to what we were saying before. That’s been the workflow process for 100 years in shops. Just now it’s organized, and it’s laid out, and it’s in stone. It’s not going on all over the place.
Bill: There’s three important things on here. One, is to use the messages to keep the customer in the loop, and if you can do it automatically, that’s even better. The second thing is to try and get everybody to understand that it’s so important for the technician to mark the jobs complete or partially complete as they go along. This is what gives the service writer the visual of how to manage and move things around in the shop. And the third thing is, there is no vehicle – just like there is no human that leaves the dentist’s office or a doctor’s office that doesn’t need a next service visit – there is no vehicle that leaves your shop that doesn’t have some type of next service due.
Uwe: So, yeah. The difficulties come in when you have to shift priorities, or parts are not available, or other interrupts.
Bill: So, your analogy that we talked about years ago is, running a vehicle from one part of the visit to the next is kind of like rolling logs down the river. You might have to touch that same log three or four times to keep it going in the right direction.
And there’s many times that the repair order goes through the estimating and approval step three or four times as it goes through the shop.
Uwe: Right. It’s a very good point. The most important thing is that technicians have no downtime. But also as important they’re not overwhelmed with too much work. Finding the right balance: that is where labor inventory management comes in.
If this is the right time, Bill, maybe you can share the TVP and talk about that.
Bill: So, this is a shop that is a really busy shop and they use the workflow management pretty much exclusively to understand what’s going on in the shop, and of course, the main thing is the visuals here. And right off the bat, we come across here and we see these nice green bars. Well, if you walk by and look at the panel here, and every one of those bars is green, that means that everybody’s making money. When we start getting over here where it starts turning yellow, then we’re getting close, and then red, of course, means that they’ve exceeded the time.
So, right off the bat, if we start thinking about today’s vehicle page being very similar to the metal repair order racks that we had years ago, or the hooks on the wall with the multiple clipboards stacked one on top of the other, that’s how we used to dispatch and the technicians would come by and kind of cherry pick and things like that.
But the main advantage here is that I’ve never seen that metal rack or a group of clipboards constantly be recalculating and updating all day long as things progress throughout the shop. So, this is one of the main tools to be able to see near live time information that we can use to make good decisions.
Uwe: Tell us how.
Bill: So, that’s exactly where we’re going to go next.
I prefer that every shop should have a morning scrum to let the technicians look over the repair orders and see where they’re at and kind of decide, is this going to be a gravy day or am I going to struggle on everything?
And then I would like for them to report to the service advisor, and I’d like them to adjust their daily goal to reflect the amount of fuel they need to burn during the course of the day. So, in this case this technician has decided – the top left hand corner of the column – that’s the hours they want to produce before the end of the day.
And I would really like the technicians to participate. In settings, we can choose the average over a long period of time as a starting point, but to give that technician the flexibility to participate and say, everything I’ve got today is going to be easy; put me in an extra couple of hours on there.
And then just to the right of it, you’re going to see another number, and this is the hours yet to be completed for the day so far that I’ve already approved. So, this is the amount of fuel the service advisor’s got for them to burn.
And we move over to the right, and this is probably the most important number, is the technician has been updating repair orders as they work on them, this is the amount of hours they’ve completed for the day so far.
So, if this guy wants to do 10 hours and he’s halfway through the day and he’s only got 4.2, we might send the message to update the statuses or at least understand that we might need to revise, reschedule, and move some things around. And we can make all those decisions without ever having to have a verbal conversation with anybody.
Uwe: Just to make that point: If you move two columns to the right to Michael, the guy has tons of work assigned with 13.1, but has a measly 1.5 hours finished, isn’t that a red flag for you as a production manager or service advisor?
Bill: As a production manager or service advisor in my case, and I’m sure Greg would probably agree, that probably somebody should send a message to that technician to update his statuses: either the job has been partially done and he’s just in the middle of something and hasn’t got back to it, but it might be important to get that update in case they need to reschedule some jobs and shift them to somebody else, call the customer and beg for mercy, put them in a loaner car, whatever the case may be.
Greg: Here in the northeast, in the rust belt, do we need to change this estimate? Do we have a broken, rotted bolt that he’s spent the last two hours trying to extract? So, we need to find, does he need help? That should definitely be reviewed. Looks like he’s moving along a little bit better now. We give a lot of labor away. Something got quoted for two hours and a bolt breaks, and it’s going to take three and that rarely gets passed on. So this is a great opportunity for us to get with the consumer and let them know what’s going on. Once he knows, [then] recoup that cost, as we should.
Bill: This is the first time I know that we’ve been able to be proactive based on visual data rather than reacting in a negative manner when the customer calls us and says, is my car done yet? I’d rather contact them first than have them contact me, the other way around.
Uwe: So, back to helping, Michael. If I’m the production manager, I would just click on the chat button and say, Michael, can you explain what’s going on? You’re behind, or whatever the verbiage is. And then determine, is it the lack of marking the jobs finished, so it looks like he’s not done but he is in good shape, or what is the obstacle for him to be behind, and then solve the obstacle by reassigning the work to another tech. If you have a foreman, have the foreman help out Michael to get the work done. Just eliminate the hurdle the moment it becomes obvious and not as you said, Bill, when the first customer reaction recourse comes in.
Bill: Right. If it’s turned into a heat case, it takes a while to put the fire out.
Uwe: Cool. What else do you see? It’s actually even worse for Buddy. 15.7 hours assigned and 1.5 finished. So there is clearly a need for the production/service advisor to look into some details.
Bill: So, the time to react initially is when you start seeing this yellow bar here, and then by the time it’s red, you can’t really do anything about it other than just understanding what happened. So, you want to be proactive. That’s when the yellow bar comes in handy. And most likely, knowing this shop, a discussion has already been had and they understand what needs to be done here to get him back on track.
Again, we want to be proactive and prevent fires rather than, in this case, they might have to call the customer and beg them for more diagnostic time or whatever. I don’t know what the case is. But again, that could have been done earlier in the process by just being able to see the visual.
Greg: This puts you way out ahead of all of those things. Again, if you’re a busy service advisor and you’re dealing with a ton of interrupts and you’ve got a tech down on bay six who’s upside down on a job by about two hours, you just don’t see it. You’ve got all these things jumping out in front of you. Until it’s three hours and you kind of look down there and see, holy cow, he’s still working on that car; what’s going on? It’s too late. You’ve lost.
Bill: There’s another great visual on the screen here that we really didn’t touch on and that is in the collapse mode when you look at it, the tiles that are actually expanded here are the ones that they are actually working on. So, at a glance, a service writer or anybody can see, are they working on the right vehicles? Are they working on vehicles in the order that it was dictated by the service advisor in order to satisfy the customer?
Uwe: Good point. And right now, this is perfect, right?
Bill: You love to see that, except I’d like to see two more green bars.
Uwe: Right. I agree. Bill, you mentioned the other day that there’s another way of looking at actual hours by not putting the budget hours, in this case the 10 hours or eight hours. Can you elaborate?
Bill: Yeah. In the settings area, and I guess we can go right to the settings area here, for the technicians it gives you the ability to put their goal in. And we’ll just choose one. So, I went to inspections and then technicians and then click edit on one, and it gives you the ability to put a goal for the day in here.
In a lot of shops the technicians are not quite as wanting to know how their pace is for the week. What they’re really wanting to know is how many hours they’ve already done for the pay period. So, if you go in there and change them to zero, this fourth number here is going to the number of hours they’ve completed for the pay period so far rather than a pace with a plus or minus number.
So, again technicians like to view the data differently, so you can go about it whatever way you want to.
Uwe: Let me summarize. If you put a daily billed hours goal in, the fourth number is the deviation from that. If you keep it at zero, it simply accumulates the billed hours produced for the pay period.
Bill: That’s correct. And they still have the ability when they come in in the morning to say, hey, this is what I feel I want to do today. So, basically, they’re going to start out with a zero every day, they’re going to enter their goal, and then the calculations just take place.
Uwe: Yep. Cool. Wow, we have eight minutes left.
The audience, if you have any specific questions, fire away right now so we can cover it.
What I would love to talk about is, if we can go back to the workflow management, this is the absolute standard workflow. There’s probably no step you can leave out of those, but there are other steps which can be added. And I would like to ask you guys, one of the favorite ones is put quality assurance in between finishing work and pickup.
Bill: So, how about while we wait for them to chat in a little bit, I show them a couple different ones that have specific uses?
Uwe: Sure. OK.
Bill: So, this is the standard workflow where they can see today’s appointments, and this is pretty much the exact same thing that’s on that chart.
Moving on a little bit further, we have a lot of shops that actually have a separate department that actually their job is to make sure a couple of days in advance that there’s appointments booked so they never run out of work.
So, this we’ve got today’s appointments, last week’s no-shows, and appointments a couple of days in advance so we can use different workflow steps or a different view for a different purpose. And then, here’s another example where we’ve got a shop that’s a huge shop, and they actually have a parts department.
So this is a preset developed specifically for that, where the service writer sends it over into this bucket that needs parts added, then the parts guy moves it back over to waiting for approval, the service writer moves it back over to order parts, waiting for parts, parts are here. It gets moved back over to waiting for work finished. And then, they want the parts department also to know when it’s waiting for pickup, so they can gather up cores and returns.
So, these are a few examples of what can be done depending on the level of complexity of the workflow in individual shops.
Uwe: Very good point. And again it goes to specialization being touched upon. So, now the parts department, if you have one, is in full control over there. It’s their responsibility.
Anything else?
Bill: No, we want to [inaudible]. So, like I said, the different calls and stuff I’ve been on recently with all kinds of shop owners across the country is that there’s a technician shortage, and the first thing we need to do is solve the productivity problem so that way we can maximize the staff that we have, then we can understand not only the amount of people that we need but the type of people we need to enter our shop, and the number one way to do that is by understanding and managing your labor inventory using the today’s vehicle page and the tools and stuff that are available for everybody as a visual.
So, I keep saying that there may not be as much of a technician shortage as we all think there is, as much as there is a shortage of processes in the shop to build and grow high paid, high valued employees.
Uwe: In other words, before you look for another tech to hire, check whether there are opportunities to crank out more with the same staff by tidying up the process, and that’s a win-win for everybody.
Greg: I was going to make that point. Our first instinct when we’re over-busy is to think that we need more bodies. This can really help you expose some of your inefficiencies and correct them, and you might find that you can put off looking for and finding that other good tech. You may not need him.
Bill: To put it a little bit differently is, the flag hour system was designed to protect a shop owner from employees that didn’t produce very well, and our tendency was to take that guy that could produce only four hours a day, put him in a bay if we had space, let them do their thing, and if they starved to death, that was OK.
Now, because we are getting into the time frame that we have to pay a combination of hourly and bonuses, we can no longer do that, and like you said, our main goal should be to grow highly competent people of the different career paths that are all contained in the shop.
In order to attract the best and brightest, we’ve got to step up our game and actually manage our shop, understand and use labor inventory, and make sure we can develop high-paid employees that invite other people into the industry.
Uwe: So, is there a cheat sheet of symptoms we could just mention, if you have any or all of those symptoms, workflow won’t help? How do you know when workflow is an awesome way of helping out? The one I would mention is [that] if you have technicians complain about not enough work or too much work that would be a good symptom.
Bill: So, I prefer to use data to understand what’s going on.
Uwe: Of course.
Bill: Yeah. That’s how I am.
Greg: What a shock.
Bill: I’m going to use service advisor efficiency. I’m going to look at the technicians. And when I’m looking at technicians that are averaging eight or 10 hours per day more on a five-day work week, these guys here, they’re managing their labor inventory and they’re maximizing it. But when I’ve got guys in the five, six, seven and eight range, those are the ones that I’ve got a lot of potential for improvement on, those are the guys I want to help out and watch a lot closer.
So, the data’s available, we’ve had it for a long time. We just need to understand how to use it as a –. Again, the business control panel is like a diagnostic tool for your shop. You look at the data and understand how it correlates to each other, then put some type of different exercise and practice for your shop, and measure and see if it changes in the right direction.
Uwe: So, for people who have not looked at the business control panel, service advisor efficiency is the number of hours written up per day.
Bill: Nope. It’s paid, posted and invoiced.
Uwe: OK. Paid, posted and invoiced.
Bill: Yep.
Uwe: And here it’s broken down by …
Bill: … by individual employee.
Uwe: Very cool.
Bill: That’s one of my favorite ones, because if over time, I can keep a technician that wants to build 10 or 11 hours a day, if I keep him in that window, that guy is never going to entertain going anywhere else because he’s got exactly what he asked for.
If I’ve got a guy that’s asking for eight hours a day and they’re only doing six, then I’ve got to find out, is it a training issue? Is it an equipment issue? Are my service writers not charging the right time for the job this person is being assigned to do? Or whatever. And then I can perform an experiment, look for a change, and then go back the next week and measure it.
Uwe: Or a dispatching issue, right? Could be.
Bill: Could be dispatching, favoritism, whatever the case may be, but the data doesn’t lie. All it is, is a way just like when you’re diagnosing a vehicle, the data is there for a reason, and if you use it to develop some type of a change on that vehicle, and then if you see what’s expected actually in the data, then you’ve solved the problem. If you don’t see it, then you don’t give up on that vehicle or that person; you go back after it a different way.
Steven wrote a note in here that motorists are very hesitant at booking an appointment. That’s something that you might want to talk to your trainer about [so they can] give you the different words and phrases to help you through that. But a doctor and a dentist, they don’t have any problem giving that customer the next appointment, or guest that next appointment, and we shouldn’t have it either, so it maybe be just the conversation that’s being used.
Greg: That’s actually fairly simple. What you’re really doing there is preparing them for the reminder that they’re going to get. So, we always just add in that your next appointment will be on this date; you’re going to get a reminder. If you need to change it, it’s very simple to do. You’re not making that customer feel like they’re committing to something in that moment. You’re letting them know they’ve got some flexibility.
For us, when we do it that way, it works well.
Bill: It also explains to the customer what’s in it for them. As short as we are on technicians these days, we need to make sure that our regular customers get first opportunity to come in. Therefore, we’re going to send you this and let you reschedule if you need to. So, always take it from what’s in it for them.
We’re at the top of the hour. I would like to encourage people to go the radio and register. And also look for our podcast. We put it on Apple, Google, and all kinds of other podcast platforms, so you can go ahead and [listen to] it. And more importantly, find somebody else in the industry, maybe another shop that’s having some of the same opportunities for improvement you have, and share [with] them one of the episodes or one of the podcasts, and help them out also.
Uwe, you want to wrap this up here?
Uwe: You already did.
Thank you, Greg, for coming on. Very helpful for our audience, I believe. Next time, you have to bring Paul.
Greg: Yes. Yes. Yeah, I know. He’s on vacation this week because he’s got a good life.
Bill: And he’s not chained to his bench anymore.
Greg: That’s right. Thanks for having me. Every time I do this, I feel like I leave with twice as much as I gave. So thanks. I always learn too.
Bill: When you share, you’ve got to get something in return.
Greg: Yep.
Bill: Awesome. Once again, great episode.
Like I said, thanks for joining us. Everybody go out there and make some money.
Greg: All right. Thank you guys.

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