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9 Keys to Improving Auto Repair Shop Proficiency

Repair shop proficiency is the area that allows for the greatest management impact in terms of controlling operating costs. Improving proficiency will not reduce overhead expenditures but will allow for greater absorption of overhead costs. Proficiency measures the utilization of technician time. It’s a ratio of the time spent performing vehicle repairs to the time available. So if during a given time period a shop had 100 hours of technician time available and 75 hours were spent fixing cars then the proficiency ratio would be 75 percent. In this example a 5 percent increase in proficiency would result in 5 more hours being billed in the same time period. So improvements in this area can have significant impact. Proficiency increases allow for more time to be spent earning thus reducing cost per repair and widening profit margins. Focusing on processes and prioritization can improve efficiencies and increase throughput. As in all other process improvements proficiency increases result in the ability to accomplish more with the same resources. The following tips will help identifying and implementing process improvements that will improve shop throughput:

  1. Automate manual processes – Anytime information is recorded on paper then entered into the computer there is duplication of effort and an increase in the amount of time it takes to complete tasks.
  2. Eliminate breaks in internal processes – Anytime a person completes a segment of a process and there is a delay before the next person knows they should pick it up time is lost.
  3. Reduce steps in processes – If any part of the business process can be done in fewer steps time will be saved.
  4. Ensure complete system support for all processes – All business activities should flow seamlessly through the shop management system. Each person in the business should know through the system when they should act on any given repair order.
  5. Prioritize work based on availability of resources – Consider the availability of shop equipment and parts when scheduling repairs. Wait times on parts and equipment can negatively impact throughput.
  6. Minimize vehicle movement – Moving vehicles from one point to another are wasted steps. Although it’s never completely possible or optimal the goal should be to move the vehicle to the bay, perform all necessary repairs then move it to the parking lot.
  7. Plan requirements in advance – Making the most of appointments can significantly impact throughput. If needed repairs are identified when appointments are made, parts can be ordered in advance and use of equipment can be scheduled.
  8. Evaluate proficiency improvement costs – Process improvements should have a net effect of cost reduction. Process streamlining can sometimes have negative side effects that result in cost increases. Potential costs should be considered when implementing changes.
  9. Allow for transition – Sometimes when implementing changes slowdowns will need to be absorbed at the outset in order to recognize long term gains. Just as stopping to put air in tires will take time but will have positive effects going forward – so it goes with process improvements.

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