In my last column I described how one well-informed owner spurs equipment usage at his business. This time I'll discuss other ways managers can impact equipment usage and, ultimately, service department profitability. Shop gear is more likely to generate profits when owners and managers understand its operation and advantages. They should also learn its limitations so they don't oversell its capabilities.
Remember, idle equipment amounts to a poor initial investment and lost long-term profits. That's because properly used, properly marketed service equipment is more than a break-even proposition-it's a profit maker!
Believe in it, sell it
Managerial people need not become full-fledged technicians. But a basic knowledge of shop gear increases their comfort level with and confidence in the equipment, telegraphing their sincerity and conviction to the service staff. Because they believe modern equipment benefits the store, its techs, and the consumer, they constantly encourage its use.
Well-equipped shops often charge higher prices than poorly equipped ones. Yet owners forget that managers who understand equipment's benefits can justify higher prices to consumers comfortably and convincingly.
One of the toughest things to overcome in any service department is managers who just don't believe in equipment. These fellows are interested in volume and high production. Their real perception is that rolling equipment into a bay and connecting it to a vehicle slows a technician down, thus lowering his output. That, they may claim, reduces the chances of breaking last year's service sales numbers and the manager earning another fat bonus.
After a few inhibition-lowering brews at the company picnic, these guys may admit that they consider equipment a nuisance instead of an integral part of professional service. Usually, they don't bare their souls-they just scowl at the techs who are trying to do the job right.
As long as the service sales numbers look good, the owner likely won't challenge these fellows, either. Of course, he may forget that it's becoming very difficult to generate good numbers without using fast, efficient equipment for key service tasks.
Having said this, the experience of Wynn's Oil Co., Azusa, Calif., is enlightening and very encouraging. Industry veterans know Wynn's is an old, respected name in cooling system service gear.
For years, the most common flushing hookup involved splicing a tee connection into one of the vehicle's heater hoses. But as front-drive vehicles with cramped underhood conditions overtook the marketplace, making this tee connection became increasing awkward and time-consuming.
Terry G. Struckmeyer, Wynn's national accounts sales manager, said the company made its latest flushing machine more user-friendly by eliminating the dreaded tee connection. Now, the technician connects the flusher in series with a readily accessible upper radiator hose. This approach has helped reduce operating time by almost two-thirds!
The big news is Wynn's has made an effort to improve service personnel as much as its equipment. Its distributors have trained more than 4,000 service employees for a major tire maker on cooling system service principles and how to use the new flusher/recycler.
Everyone from tire-breakers to store managers was included. Anyone who failed a cooling system exam afterward was retrained and retested, Mr. Struckmeyer said. Those who passed received ``Certified Cooling System Service Specialist'' certificates.
Feedback on the program was very positive, he said. Store managers were pleased that all service workers were on the same page regarding cooling system service.
What's more, they liked knowing as much about the equipment as the techs using it. Lazy techs can't complain that the equipment is too hard to use because they know the managers received the same training and testing, he said.
Wynn's effort may not be unique, but it is commendable and newsworthy. It strongly encourages equipment usage, raises the professionalism of all service persons and helps get all the players pulling in the same direction-improvements our industry sorely needs!