Expansion projects can increase revenue for an automotive service shop, but an effective layout can have even more benefits, equipment manufacturers say.
Jim Dirksen, director of North American sales for Madison-based Rotary Lift Inc., said efficient use of vehicle lifts can increase the productivity of a shop since lifts are used in about 95 percent of all service jobs.
``A lift is a cornerstone tool to doing any and all service work on a vehicle,'' he said.
When service shops are building new bays or remodeling an outlet, Mr. Dirksen said many steps are crucial to getting the most out of the lifts.
First, he said companies should carefully look at what services they will perform in the new bays. Mr. Dirksen suggested installing lifts that fit each service. For example, if one bay will primarily handle alignments, a lift that is most suited to alignments should be installed there.
Shop owners also should take note of the process involved in each service, such as all the steps of changing a tire.
``You want to maximize all those processes,'' Mr. Dirksen said.
A main ingredient of doing that is to get feedback from technicians, who will have to live with the system that's installed.
``The key is are you going to make the technician as productive as he can be?'' he said.
In addition to feedback from employees, Mr. Dirksen said companies that are either remodeling an existing service area or building a new addition should have an architect or equipment manufacturer help with the layout.
Mark Cramer, director of commercial marketing for Hennessy Industries Inc., said the LaVergne, Tenn.-based manufacturer, like Rotary Lift, also helps shops maximize their service bays after buying lifts.
``It may seem basic, but you'd be surprised how often it doesn't happen,'' he said of the planning process.
In fact, Mr. Dirksen said lack of planning is the biggest pitfall for shops undergoing expansions.
``You look at where businesses don't do well-it's where their processes aren't laid out step by step,'' he said.
Options in the planning stages include whether to angle the lifts or using in-ground vs. surface lifts.
For example, Mr. Dirksen said typically nine in-ground lifts can be fit into the same space that could hold only eight surface lifts, though both have various other advantages and disadvantages.
Another major mistake in planning is just accommodating present needs, Mr. Dirksen said. Service shops should be careful to anticipate what they will need to handle eventual growth.
``You may not have that business today, but you're growing into that business tomorrow,'' he said.
Once an expanded service area is up and running, Mr. Dirksen said it is important to constantly maintain and update the layout. Improvements can come from technician feedback or new time-saving or safety processes. He said this also includes preventive maintenance on the lifts themselves.
``A lift is the most expensive when it doesn't work,'' Mr. Dirksen said.