AKRON (July 18, 2005) — The money wasted operating a slovenly service department really is quantifiable.
Tire dealers and service shop operators who think it costs them too much to clean up a pigsty should examine the following cost breakdowns.
Maintaining a clean facility ultimately saves money. Plus, as I have discussed many times in previous columns, a clean, professional image has an immeasurable impact on overall service sales.
A recent tour of a parts factory rekindled my interest in measuring and quantifying things that some bosses hate to address—especially a filthy, poorly illuminated service department. After all, owners and managers often tell me, auto service is dirty work so it's natural for the workplace to reflect that condition. (Similar to the way the visiting rooms and operating rooms of health-care professionals reflect their work, right?)
The manufacturing engineer who acted as my guide on the tour was trained as a mechanical engineer but also happened to have extensive auto repair experience. His primary responsibility is saving his em-ployer time and money while maintaining or improving the quality of the product. Understandably, this is a massive challenge.
Throughout the tour, I saw small improvements this engineer had created—often with the cooperation of the workers—that cumulatively were saving the company thousands of dollars annually and improving overall quality. “Our competitors are obsessed with dollars and hours. We beat 'em by worrying about pennies and seconds,” he said.
Obviously, what this man means is that small losses add up to big ones over time. This comes from someone who doesn't hesitate to monitor a procedure or operation with a stop watch. I think there's a powerful and meaningful parallel to automotive service departments.
For example, how many service departments are fitted with high-tech, time-saving equipment, yet the techs have to circumvent trash and debris to walk from one end of the bay to the other or from bay to bay?
I decided to apply some of this engineer's thinking to a scenario I've watched countless times over the years.
Lighting is poor and the shop is dirty. A technician who is racing to beat the clock on a job drops a fastener of some kind. He thinks the fastener rolled under a workbench but he isn't sure.
This entire service operation comes to a halt while the tech literally searches on hands and knees for this fastener. The shop is so dim and dirty that he has to grab an extra work light, plug it into an electrical outlet and continue searching.
He doesn't find it, so he walks back to the dealership's parts room and begins picking through the metric hardware assortment there. (Of course, this example assumes the business even has such an assortment because many do not. In many instances, the tech has to pick through the assorted hardware in a five-pound coffee can on or under the workbench.)
Many bosses I've met consider this fiasco just a routine part of the business day. But the manufacturing engineer I mentioned earlier would record 15 or 20 minutes of lost productivity. Then he would work some extremely realistic numbers.
For example, 15 minutes equals .25 hour. Suppose the labor rate is $50 per hour. If so, the worker just wasted $12.50 worth of time (.25 hour times $50/hour).
However, as I've explained in past columns, the lost time cost the tire store twice because that's time that should have been devoted to earning money rather than wasting it. Now we're up to $25 lost. Suppose dropping and hunting for fasteners occurs three times per month. That's 36 episodes per year times $25, which totals 900 bucks per year!
Basic things such as good lighting and maintaining clean floors greatly simplifies tasks such as finding a dropped bolt or washer. However, that's just one simplified example.
If you want to improve the profitability of your tire dealership, consider the manufacturing engineer's example. Monitor employees' basic activities and procedures with pennies and seconds in mind. Those really do add up.