Owners and managers would agree that correcting causes of wasted time is an important goal. Sadly, some bosses can't reach that goal because they don't seem to recognize waste when they see it. Regular readers know that my work takes me back and forth across the country. My in-shop research gives me a ringside seat to the issues I discuss. I just did the math; January marks my 38th year reporting on the automotive repair industry. After all that time, I'm continually amazed at the inability of some bosses to spot waste. Trite as it may sound, you can't address or correct things you don't recognize. Let me cite just two examples of wasted time that I routinely see owners and managers overlooking. The first is lateness; the other is comebacks and “do-overs.” Some managers I know have had a difficult time recruiting good help. (Yes, technician recruitment is a topic unto itself—certainly one for another column.) Consequently, they try extra hard to retain these workers. This includes tolerating certain behavior because it's perceived as easier than hunting for replacements. Interestingly enough, some bosses endure technician tardiness because they value the tech's knowledge and output, I'm told. For instance, let's say the service department's supposed to be operational by 8 a.m. If so, some otherwise capable techs can't seem to get their bays battle-ready until 8:15 to 8:20 every morning. Yes, there are ways to discipline chronically late workers. But here, we'll focus on identifying wasted time and recognizing that it adds up. I've explained in previous columns that if your service department's open 48 hours per week, ideally you should account for 48 hours of weekly labor per technician. If you don't reach the “ideal,” at least you know where the department stands—and quantify if there's room for improvement. Now imagine that a tech routinely fails to get his bay up to speed until 20 minutes after the service department opens. That's one-third hour or 0.33 hour per day. What's more, suppose the tech works five days per week, 50 weeks per year. Multiply 0.33 hour per day times 250 days per year. That tech's wasting 82.5 hours per year. Please, assign your own dollar value to 82.5 hours. Yes, what seems like just a few minutes here, a few minutes there adds up—especially when more than one tech's wasting time. Second, consider the time spent doing repair jobs a second time. Yes, this involves the “C” word: Comebacks. Misdiagnosis probably causes the lion's share of comebacks. Granted, poor-quality parts create some of them, too. Regardless of the root cause, many managers seem to think that comebacks are an unavoidable fact of life in auto repair. Tellingly, many bosses I meet don't even measure how often comebacks occur or investigate the root cause(s) of them. Imagine that a tech misdiagnoses a car and needlessly replaces a starter. Let's use a round number and say that the starter replacement took an hour. Imagine that when the job comes back, it takes another tech an hour to identify the real problem. Understandably, the customer's unhappy and won't pay a second time to fix the symptom. At first glance, this service department lost an hour of paid labor. However, the sharpest bosses I know insist that this service department actually lost two hours of time. You see, it lost the free hour of labor spent fixing the real problem. But that free hour translates into an hour that should have generated income—paid labor. One hour plus one hour is two hours wasted. So, wasted time isn't always evident to those minding the store. But it does occur, it is measurable and it does add up. It can take education, persistence and leadership by the owner or shop manager to identify it and correct it. Doing so means a more-successful, more-profitable workplace for all involved.
Identifying wasted time makes $$$, sense
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