Prudent bosses coach their technicians to work swiftly but safely. Erring on the side of safety helps earn techs' respect—and trust. As I discussed in my last column, respect and trust are things that help boost camaraderie, loyalty and dedication in a tire dealership or automotive service shop. What's more, erring on the side of safety builds long-term profitability by keeping top techs as injury-free as realistically possible. Of course, injured technicians may miss work. Or they simply aren't as productive as usual because they're the walking wounded, working in pain. Either situation reduces the service department's profitability. Meanwhile, healthy techs turn out more productive hours more often in the course of a year simply because they are healthy. Plus, injury-free techs tend to be a much happier, more dedicated group than the walking wounded are. I've encountered owners and managers who know only one approach to automotive maintenance and repair: Damn the dangers, full speed ahead! Yes, they expect techs to attack each vehicle's problems at top speed and with reckless abandon. The faster they turn a job, the quicker they can get another vehicle into the bay. Ultimately, however, the fast-and-fearless approach may backfire for reasons bosses didn't expect. First, promoting a frantic pace always leads to injuries—particularly when they least expect it. In fact, the most successful, most respected service managers I know agree that pushing speed—which includes condoning techs' potentially dangerous shortcuts—leads to mistakes and comebacks, not to mention avoidable injuries. Remember, you don't build long-term health and a solid reputation on mistakes and comebacks. Second, ignoring or tacitly endorsing techs' risky shortcuts could create avoidable legal hassles. I don't want to sound like the curbstone lawyer here, but suppose a serious accident and/or injury occurs in your service department. Do you want to put yourself in the position of explaining why your crew routinely bypassed or ignored industry-accepted safety procedures out there? Do you want a philosophy of reckless speed laid bare in any kind of legal proceeding? Third, consciously promoting or tacitly approving top-speed repairs at any cost may create a vicious cycle you didn't anticipate. To borrow a phrase from a great Mel Brooks comedy, "ludicrous speed" usually attracts fervent parts-changers as opposed to thinking, procedure-focused technicians. A service department full of rabid parts-changers is not the path to long-term success—very much the opposite. Consider the cost of parts and labor today and consider the complexity of the vehicles. The fastest way to solve many automotive problems today is assigning a thoughtful, methodical technician to the job. Then give him or her adequate time to follow procedure and charge accordingly. Long after the fact, the customer remembers that the car was fixed correctly the first time. Finally, you can only push capable and sensible techs so far, so often. What's more, there are only so many precautions techs can take to avoid being burned, scalded or gashed on a job. Many techs have moved to other jobs because management never cared about the risks. Rather, they wanted to brag that the business fixed the car while the customer waited. Many service managers and shop foremen I know won't schedule certain tasks on certain vehicles unless the engine's stone cold. If this requires the customer to leave the car overnight, so be it. Yes, this may be a relatively small inconvenience for the customer. But ultimately, it usually ensures a higher-quality repair because the shop isn't forcing a tech to maneuver around searing-hot parts and boiling-hot fluids.
Forcing techs to risk injury is disrespectful
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