Evaluating potential equipment purchases must be a team effort at every tire dealership and service shop.
Owners, managers and technicians should pool their knowledge and experience, set priorities and then arrange a meaningful demonstration of that equipment.
Skipping these steps may cost you more time, money and aggravation than you can imagine.
Some owners, managers and service personnel complain that they lack the time to research equipment purchases thoroughly or reasonably well. Many of them I've encountered never even saw the equipment demonstrated prior to purchasing it. For them, I repeat the old adage that when you buy in haste, you repent in leisure.
If you end up with unwieldy equipment that's difficult to use or lacks the functions you really need, there's a chance you may be able to return it or trade it toward other gear. However, that still burns up valuable time you could be devoting to something productive—like making money.
Hands down, diagnostic equipment of all kinds has become the most-challenging area to research these days. Equipment makers have responded to burgeoning vehicle technology with a staggering selection of items. There are palm-size little testers dedicated to only one or two tasks; there are roll-around consoles containing sophisticated personal computers carrying powerful diagnostic software.
Why, even wireless capability is becoming a more-popular way to connect to vehicles' on-board computers.
I sold diagnostic equipment for several years, and the level of sophistication then pales in comparison with modern gear. One thing, however, seems unchanged from 30 years ago. Many bosses fail to prioritize their business' real needs. Consequently, they waste money on uninformed purchases.
Or, they don't come close to maximizing their equipment investment because they failed to first do any homework.
I've found that weighing the following factors always help buyers make smarter, more-practical equipment purchases. Always trust your research rather than instincts and assumptions alone. All too often, your assumptions and/or instincts are simply outdated or wrong.
First, check your customer database to see which makes and models of vehicles you're servicing most often. Never trust your memory on this important assessment. Sometimes, for example, service personnel wrongly focus on "headache cars" instead of the larger aggregate of vehicles. To me, it's only natural for nightmare jobs to be more memorable than relatively routine ones.
But upon closer inspection, you may find that the nightmare jobs occurred on very low-production vehicles or highly unusual systems. Maybe this was the kind of vehicle or system that you should have farmed out to a subcontractor or just sent to a specialist.
Second, you may opt to research vehicle registrations within your market area. You may find groups of vehicles that your service shop or tire dealership is not attracting. Caucus with your technicians about these vehicles—you may or may not be able to justify equipping your shop to handle these cars and trucks.
For example, one of my pals decided to tool up for the growing European vehicle population in his market. Doing so called for a substantial investment in equipment and manpower. Committing to a market niche such as Euro car diagnosis, he told me, is an all-or-nothing proposition.
Some bosses may not want to equip for the range of diagnoses their shop performs if they only see Euro vehicles occasionally, he added.
Third, see which vehicle makes and models are growing the fastest within your market.
Maybe it will be practical to offer diagnostic services and repairs for these vehicles, too.
Check out my next column in the March 18 edition of Tire Business, where I'll continue the discussion of evaluating diagnostic equipment practices.