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Episode Description

Been trying to implement workflow management? Here are tips and tricks from two veterans who increased their shops’ efficiency by 30%.

Annmarie Aristigue (Arizona Auto & Radiator Repair) and Brandon Mueller (Mueller’s Auto) join us and discuss the challenges a paper-based shop experiences when dispatching work to techs, how that is overcome when a digital workflow is introduced, and also share tips & tricks that you can use in your own shop to increase shop efficiency.

Episode Transcript

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

Tom Dorsey (00:00):
Good morning and good afternoon. Welcome to the fifth edition of the Digital Shop Talk Radio for Wednesday, March 6th, 2019. My name is Tom Dorsey, I’ll be the host this afternoon. And always I’ve got a fantastic topic and a great group of guests lined up for you. Today we’re going to be talking about implementing workflow management, the digital shop operating process, implementing that workflow management through digital technician dispatching, and talked to a couple of shops that have gone through that transition and talked to my co-host with the most and a great trainer that has helped both of these shops to implement that workflow into the shop. And we’ll let them tell you all about the benefits and tips and tricks on how you can get that implemented into your shop starting today. So I want to introduce my co-host, Bill Connor, say hi Bill and introduce yourself if you could.
Bill Connor (01:07):
Good day everybody. Tom, once again, I’m actually happy to be here. These are always a lot of fun and let’s get rolling along.
Tom Dorsey (01:14):
Fantastic. And would you like to introduce your shops that you’ve invited today for the radio show?
Bill Connor (01:21):
Sure. So today we got Annmarie Aristigue from Arizona Auto and Radiator Repair, and she’s been a pleasure to work with and she has kind of a unique operation and kind of a combined workflow because she also maintains some workflow for a body shop also. So she’s a little bit unique that way. And then I have Brandon Mueller here also, and what’s interesting about him is that he has to keep his schedule very tight because he doesn’t have a lot of room to add new technicians and so on. So really workflow management, dispatching and so on is really near and dear to his heart to actually maximize the facility.
Tom Dorsey (02:04):
Fantastic. Well welcome Annmarie and Brandon. I know we’re excited to hear your story and your journey and really learn from the both of you in what to do and what not to do if I’m a shop that’s looking to implement the digital dispatching and digital workflow into my operation. So Annmarie, let me start off with you. I know you’ve been with us for quite some time. Did you jump right? I mean what brought you to wanting to go digital in your shop and did you come in with a strong need for the workflow management or was that something that just you kind of grew into with the need and the availability for the solution?
Annmarie Aristigue (02:46):
Well, to be honest with you, when we first started AutoVitals, we had two technicians and one advisor. So it wasn’t really necessarily from a workflow standpoint as much as it for not being able to read tech writing. We could never read their work orders and the loss of paperwork, I could never refine the repair orders and so it was just very dysfunctional. So the paper inspections were never really that far in depth. So I felt that there was not a huge amount of opportunity of being able to do a good show and tell to the customer. So when we were presented this program, I said to myself, this is it. This is what we really need to implement. And I’ll be honest with you, we would be totally lost without it.
Tom Dorsey (03:39):
Yeah, it’s hard to have a workflow in a tornado. Yeah,
Annmarie Aristigue (03:44):
Definitely. I mean as Bill mentioned, since we’ve even implemented it on the auto repair side, we’ve also implemented it for body and we’ve seen a huge impact on that too, being able to take pictures and showing people what it looked like before, what it was after, just the workflow alone with knowing what my body shop is on a whole opposite end of town. So I’m not even there, but I can keep track as to what my technicians are working on, how long it’s taken them to perform the job and it works really well for the labor stamp of their hours and productivity. So just keeping track of all that just saves me a lot of time and it’s just really helped with the efficiency and productivity all around.
Tom Dorsey (04:31):
Yeah, it’s like being in two places at one time. I love it. And that’s really one of the strongest things about the way our workflow is you can apply it to different profit centers in your shop. You’re talking about autobody, completely different process, but you can define a really strong process and like you said, be able to manage something remotely and keep track of it. I’m sure better than you would’ve been able to if you were even there on the paper. So Brandon, same question to you. How did you come into the digital inspections? Was it about wanting to sell better or connect better with the customer or were you looking for more of a shop system or process solution when you get started with us?
Brandon Mueller (05:12):
Yeah, so the approach that I took was one simple word and that’s transparency to the customer. I didn’t have to think about the fact that the customer won’t trust me because I can walk up to the front counter and say, does this picture do enough justice to justify the amount of money that you’re going to give to me? And every single time the answer was yes. It’s not hard to sell something when you are so upfront with the customer that it’s as if you walked ’em right out to the car and you showed ’em exactly what you are looking at through your eyes, but in an understanding that they can really appreciate and it really took away the need to have a sales person at the front counter. All we have now is a service advisor that talks to the customer and a service writer that builds a work order. And I don’t consider any of ’em a salesperson because it literally sells itself. We don’t have to try. Customer says how much we say is 400 bucks a reasonable number for what we’re doing? And they say, yeah. So it’s not simple, above and beyond the workflow and all that other stuff is great, but the primary thing that I love about AutoVitals is the transparency that it paints for the customer.
Tom Dorsey (06:13):
Yeah, exactly. It’s not about selling, it’s about educating. But the problem is you got to be careful because your service writers might join the teacher’s union or something and you’re going to be up the tree. So Bill, tell me about what you’re working on with Brandon and give us some insight. It sounds like we really wanted that transparency. Once you implement digital inspections, that’s kind how it is and then you kind of grow out from there. How’d you guys get onto the workflow management and what were the challenges that you ran into there implementing some efficiency and process into that workflow?
Bill Connor (06:51):
As I’m working with shops, the first thing I like to do is get them to understand how much fuel they need for the technician to burn every day. So it’s about configuring the technician’s goal for their hours per today, and that’s a matter of talking with the technician to see what they have. And then it’s also a matter of arranging their today’s vehicle page technician view in a logical way, shape or form so they can see what’s going on. So we start out by taking the no tech column and then the least experience or your general service guy and then working from left to from least experience to most experience so that way we can manage everything as we see it in a visual way rather than the hope and guess method that we used to have with the paper rack. So again, to have a goal for each technician to be able to see where that goal is and have it calculated automatically kind rolled up at the top of the column to be able to see how many hours a service writer has approved for and then how many hours that technician burns all day long.
That’s where the journey starts out by understanding what you need to have before the end of the day and then how people are progressing through today. And maybe each one of them would like to talk about how they work with their team to actually get that buy-in that we’re all working toward helping you each obtain your goals.
Tom Dorsey (08:15):
And so one of the things that kind of leads the shop, I guess into that initial journey into implementing the workflow and really starting to try to take away that paper process and make it go more digital is not enough hours in my day and too much event driven stuff happens, right? You can’t predict when the phone’s going to ring or when something’s going to explode or a text’s going to show up. Matter of fact here, I got a nice visual representation of that there, right? Oh, it’s on this side. Nope, I don’t know which way to point that way.
Running around with your hair on fire. We had a great interview with the shop up north, Tony McCoy one time, and he said that exact same thing. He said at 20k a week their hair was on fire, they couldn’t keep up and they came to AutoVitals specifically for workflow management. Now they hit 40K weeks before they even feel busy. And what a great testament to taking advantage of that tool and really knuckling down and implementing in your shop. And so Brandon, what I’d ask you is did you have a lot of situations with your hair on fire at the counter and did organizing those texts by skillset and available hours, is that helping you guys to put that fire out?
Brandon Mueller (09:42):
So the one thing that we implemented after really doing a lot of runaround with our hair on fire was empowering people that could maybe do the job better to learn. So we started off with a service advisor dispatching all the work, but because of the fact that there was such a learning curve into the inspection or understanding exactly what we were asking the technician to do that the customer was, we actually empowered one of our technicians as a shop foreman and gave them the opportunity to dispatch work and then they would come up to the advisor and would give the advisor some explanation as to why they did it, what they did it. And even went to the point where one person would diagnose and look at every single car and then other people were just doing just the work because that really turned one person into this rockstar that understood the program to its full potential and then they could teach everybody else very, very thoroughly eventually, ultimately ending up with the service advisor, being able to dispatch work, which is where we’re at now.
But I can tell you that entire process has taken over a year to where I feel like we’re actually functioning comfortably without all of the issues with, well we sent all this stuff to all these people and nobody really knows what they’re necessarily doing and they don’t understand that they got eight cars all at once or something to that effect. So really empowering just one specific person to learn it very, very thoroughly as a shop foreman, as a technician, not a service advisor is where we really found our sweet spot to learn and then we slowly begin to branch out from there.
Tom Dorsey (11:15):
Well that was pure gold right there. I mean I hope people wrote that down right? Because setting it up, I mean it’s like anything else. When you’re doing your job and you can get into a flow and a rhythm and you have something that’s highly repeatable, well you’re going to become more efficient and better at it. You’re going to make less mistakes, you’re going to get stuff done faster.
Brandon Mueller (11:34):
Well, it’s exactly like the conversation we had before. Tom and I, sorry to cut you off, but for everybody out there listening, we had a conversation before and it was talking about the importance of a fireman and how if you have a controlled burn, you can track it, you can control it, everything, and then everything branches out from there in a controlled manner without chaos and destruction versus if you have a forest fire, somebody just randomly starts a fire and it burns out of control, it’s jumping miles at a time and it’s exploding in a way that number one is not trackable. Number two is destructive instead of constructive and it just makes a complete mess of stuff. So again, joking about Colorado and California where both of us are at, we all kind of know the impact of what a forest fire can do and I can assure you that the shop is the exact same way if you let the things just run amok and not try to control it in a very organized manner. For sure.
Tom Dorsey (12:29):
Yeah, you don’t want forest fires in your front counter, that’s for sure. Annmarie. So tell us a little bit about, that’s a pretty unique situation that Bill’s got you or that you’re set up on as far as managing those two workflows. What was the biggest takeaway that you got once you add everything established and got the bugs worked out like Brandon was talking about? What was the big benefit for you?
Annmarie Aristigue (12:53):
It ran like an oil machine.
Tom Dorsey (12:55):
Annmarie Aristigue (12:57):
I mean once you really figure out, as Brandon expressed and figuring out the order and how you want the process and everything to go through, it just really starts moving forward easily. You don’t have to go out and ask your techs where they’re at with anything. If everybody just knows what is expected of them every day, how to utilize the tablets, keeping their percentages up to par, person calls up, asks where they’re at with the job. I mean it’s just a matter of pulling up that tile, figuring out exactly what they are and telling the customer exactly where we’re at and when we’re at estimated completion time is. So it really does work. It’s a program that honestly, like I said, without it we would be lost.
Tom Dorsey (13:44):
Yeah, that’s fantastic. Bill, how’s the metrics been impacted? I mean, are you seeing definite trends in being able to become more efficient at the front counter for somebody who’s thinking about it, Bill, what would you say is going to be the metrics that they’re going to be wanting to track and what can they expect as far as turning that effort into cash in their pocket once they can implement the workflow successfully?
Bill Connor (14:13):
So everything that we work on initially with the shop is about increasing ARO, but the thing that actually excites the technicians the most, especially your flag hourly technicians, increasing the amount of hours per repair order for that individual technician. So as we start measuring and we can start saying that, Hey Mr. Master Tech, you’re getting two hours per repair order on average and we’d really like you to have three and a half or four, so you’ve only got to touch three or four cars per day to make some decent money and then you can start working them forward. That’s really great. And the ability that we have to actually measure these things right down per employee without having to stand behind them and watch is really interesting. And also in this industry, and Annmarie’s got a unique situation because between the body shop and the repair shop, she has a lot of tickets that are split between multiple different technicians. Whereas I think Brandon, I think if I’m not mistaken, he may have his, other than the person doing the inspection, he may have that his technicians work the repair order from start to finish. So again, two different thought processes and maybe as we go forward that can both speak to how that works for him
Tom Dorsey (15:29):
Form. Sure. We’ll start with, so Brandon, same question to you too is once you put that year in, what’s been the big takeaway? What’s been the big benefit? What would you say to somebody who wants to get where you’re at to get them some motivation to take to go through the change? And if you could speak also directly to Bill’s question there about how that implementation’s been going for you.
Brandon Mueller (15:54):
The implementation actually went very quickly. I have a very young crew here, so we’re all very tech savvy. The hard part of the implementation is the fact that this program is so massive and it can be used in so many different ways. In fact, I think I’ve made the comment to Bill and to quite a few people, I’m pretty sure that I use it sometimes in ways you guys didn’t even intend it to be, which is amazing because I can literally custom tailor it to my business. The really hard part in that is understanding the basis of it first. And that’s what we really struggled with is just as simple as moving workflows. I mean we hopped right in directly into special markers and I mean you guys got 40 special markers and half my technicians don’t even have a clue what the special markers meant.
So that was one thing that we ran into. But the special markers are awesome and don’t hesitate to go in and make custom special markers because then you can get really creative with technicians and they can have a play in it. But buy-in is the biggest thing and that’s where pulling the technicians in and saying what would make a special marker? What can we do? And they’re all like, let’s use emojis. Well obviously we’re all 30 something, so that just makes fun. But they really appreciated the fact that they really had say in it and the buy-in really made a big difference there. So does that answer the question? I didn’t quite understand what Bill was asking.
Bill Connor (17:17):
So one of the things I find is when we want to dispatch, we want to go ahead and dispatch to the lease cost technician that has the time and the skillset to do the job. So I have a lot of shops that use the special markers configured with the canned job or service packages so they can visibly see without having to open every repair order, who to dispatch to. So it’s got an oil change and a health inspection on it might go to your general service guy, but if it’s got a check engine light on, then they know to just drag it all the way over to the far right where we’ve got that guy that can get his diagnosis done. So again, the visual without having to open a repair order actually saves time for dispatching and also makes it a lot more efficient, which is all done with the special or smart markers also.
Brandon Mueller (18:02):
Tom Dorsey (18:04):
Where would you say, so if I was a new guy, Bill, I just got started, you’re my trainer, what am I going to focus on to start getting that efficiency? I mean I get it from taking pictures and sending ’em to customers and educating instead of selling and I’m going to see some gains there. But if I really, because I think that really the payoff comes when you add, when you find more time in your process to fill with more work. And so where would I start?
Bill Connor (18:32):
So the best place to shop can start is actually by following our process that we have, which is basically building a solid foundation and going from there rather than trying to force themself to be creative and then to take their call from their digital coaches and work together as a team. Because I view myself as a partner with the shop I’m working with and it’s very important to me that we can actually make sure that happens. I also want to make sure that they treat their today’s vehicle page technician view exactly like a traffic signal. Green, yellow, red, green means you’re making money. Yellow means you’re about to not make money and red means it’s too late. You better figure out something else to do. So again, the visuals that are on that screen are key to understanding and making sure that we all are profitable or at least proactive before the hair starts burning.
Tom Dorsey (19:23):
Good. And Brandon, to you, what would you say if I’m that new guy, what would you say? Give me some things that I shouldn’t do and maybe some things that I should do to get me pointed in the right direction.
Brandon Mueller (19:40):
So definitely what you shouldn’t do is not pay attention to the pieces that AutoVitals has put in place. One thing that my service advisors really do not watch very close is the technician efficiency times and the times on top of the tech pages Bill keeps referring to. So they look at that and they see this person has 23 hours, but it’s only one vehicle and they’ll go ahead and assign more. They don’t take the time to actually see that that technician is tied up for the next three days basically. So that was definitely something that we did not utilize very well and we have a lot of trouble with and we’re still working to this day on, but the tools that AutoVitals put in place is there for a reason and they are very beneficial. And I know Bill was referencing the green, yellow, red in terms of if they’re still within the clocked hours versus build hours or turning yellow more towards the clocked hours versus exceeding clocked hours for build hours. And I can pretty much guarantee 90% of the time we’re in the red because we have not quite figured out how to utilize that yet. So that is a huge stumbling block on ours that there was one week when we really talked about it that we did very successful at that and all my guys flagged like 45, 50 hours. We were 120 something percent efficient for that week and then we stopped tracking it and we definitely fell on our faces at that point. So use the stuff that AutoVitals puts in place.
Tom Dorsey (21:06):
Thank you. And how about to you, what would you tell me I should focus on to be successful and what should I look out for?
Annmarie Aristigue (21:15):
Well, I do believe that utilizing the overall dashboard, knowing what your the reds and the greens and stuff mean as Brandon was describing, knowing those hours, one of the things I can suggest is that we challenged with was knowing what your SMS system, whatever program it is that you’re utilizing, you know what each program is, tool resource is one of them is to do the customer intake. The other one is to do everything from the workflow, from back to front with your shop and communication with your customer. And the challenge that we had that perhaps may even help Brandon that we found that helped is that if we sell a big job and we see 22 hours on a technician, my rule of thumb was is immediately go into our SMS system, which is pertaining to the schedule and immediately block that technician off so that we don’t overbook ourselves because we ran into those challenges. And ever since we started doing that, immediately that just made things flow so much more efficient.
Brandon Mueller (22:25):
Sure, thank you for that.
Tom Dorsey (22:29):
Yeah, that is fantastic. Thank you very much Annmarie. And so what would you say as far as once you were able to get that workflow management, or I should say that technician organization, I would assume that the technicians start to, they’re more motivated, they kind of have better attitudes. Are you seeing anything from that side? Are you noticing them being more productive in other areas outside of that just because it’s a better place to work?
Annmarie Aristigue (23:02):
Oh yeah. I’ve actually been able to recruit technicians because of the fact of how far advanced we are. When I get technicians in and they see that we’re this far advanced in, I mean dealerships aren’t even offering these kinds of programs. I mean it’s a wow to these folks. And so when I ask a person who’s coming in and they’re interviewing with me, I usually have it set up on my TV and I kind of show them automatically that program and they just get so excited about it, including my apprenticeship programs. I even do that a lot with the younger students that we bring in and teaching them. And because they are tech savvy, it really attracts absolutely,
Tom Dorsey (23:44):
You heard it here, here first folks, AutoVitals helps you retain good tech.
Bill Connor (23:48):
So now we have a technician acquisition and retention tool on top of other things. That’s
Tom Dorsey (23:53):
Cool. Yeah, right. No, and I was just out at Vision, the trade show, and that’s a big tech and service writer training function. And compared to five years ago, I mean these guys are excited. They’re like, well, this is the future and it’s a bygone. It’s already an assumed technology now that they’re like, well, we’re waiting for our owner to get this into the shop. We’ve been begging him versus I would never do that, or what a hassle as it was five years ago when we started out on this road. So Bill, let’s talk a little bit about, I mean, how much time we got producer with the most three minutes. Oh, okay. Well, let’s wrap it up real quick. What I want to do is just get some input Bill on how to tie the bow on it, and that’s how to use the business control panel to make sure that the work that we’re putting in and the efforts that we’re taking are actually going to be paying off for us. Can you speak a little bit to how you’re using the business control panel to monitor with Annmarie and Brandon on those goals and make sure that they’re on the right track?
Bill Connor (24:59):
And I kind of started down that journey as we began here and that is that without getting a goal for each employee in your shop and actually working toward that goal and documenting it. So my thought process is measure, manage and then motivate. And that’s exactly what the tool’s made for the business control panel. And to be able to filter down by the individual employee, maybe even print it off or hand it to ’em and say, look, this is your number. It’s okay. It’s just data. Nothing personal. This is where you’re at. I want to help you get to your goal. You say you want to do X number of hours per day, so what are the things that we can work on together to get you there? So you want to go ahead and have more hours per ro, I need a better inspection.
I need you to identify the actions so that way the service writer’s got tools to work with, and then I need you to be marking jobs done so the service writer can understand and have the next vehicle staged for you. So it’s a process, but it works and it can be duplicatable over and over again and again, measure, manage, motivate, and be able to document it right in the business control panel, what everybody agreed was going to happen and how they’re going to do it. See if they trained in the right direction. If they do, that’s great. If they step backwards and as long as they’re moving forward, let ’em progress at their own pace.
Tom Dorsey (26:22):
Yeah, no, that is fantastic. I mean, hey, plan your work and work your plan and you can do it all right there. Working with your trainer in the business control panel, our Time’s Up guys, again, really appreciate everybody’s time coming in. Annmarie from Arizona Auto and Radiator, Brandon Mueller from Mueller’s Auto Repair and Bill Connor, our Esteem Trainer with AutoVitals coming back from Tampa where they were out there at the Honest One Convention. Really appreciate all the work you’re doing for us, Bill, and even from the seat of his rental car on the way home. Tune in again next Wednesday. We got a great show for you next Wednesday. We’re going to be talking about training. We’re going to be talking about how to get the ball rolling and get the initial training and what to focus on. So you don’t want to miss it Wednesday, next Wednesday, it’s going to be 10:00 AM every Wednesday Pacific time, 1:00 PM Eastern. And until then, we’ll talk to you Wednesday and go make some money. Thank you everybody. Thanks Annmarie. Bye-Bye. Appreciate it. Thank you.

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