A forum member writes:
“When a technician fills out the paperwork with a list of repairs and maintenance that a given vehicle needs, who looks up the labor for the estimates? When I worked at the dealerships in the early ‘90s, the technicians looked up the time for the job. I have been in the aftermarket for over 20 years. I do not recall any shop having techs look up times. We use Mitchell Management for flat rate times now. If the service adviser (SA) has not ever been a tech (like me) I would not know that a specific job should pay more or less F/R time for that job.”
Tom Ham replies:
“The first time a job is performed, normally the SA looks it up. We encourage the techs to do so, but old habits are hard to break. Once done, if the time is way off, the labor is adjusted when the job is saved. Almost all jobs are saved, vehicle specific. Next time there is no time lookup—the tech or SA just grabs the saved job.”
A forum member responds:
“The most qualified individuals to turn in labor times are the techs. If the SA does not agree with the time turned in, the tech and SA discuss it and reach an agreement or understanding of why the time has been bid as it has. The SAs do spot check, and management takes action if a tech is being unreasonable. This has not happened in recent memory.
“Rarely does it reach management's level to negotiate. The very few times there has been an issue of too many conflicts or too much time turned in by one tech, it is easily resolved by telling that tech that for 30 days the SA will sell only straight book time if it happens again. It works 100 percent of the time.”
Another forum member responds:
“As an owner and shop foreman, I look up labor times. I've been a tech for 48 years and an owner for 20. I still spend part of the day in the shop. If it's a job I am not familiar with, the tech is consulted. If no one is familiar, we use a real-time labor guide. If real-time proved to be out to lunch, the tech is paid a negotiated time and a note is put on file for next time the model vehicle comes in. We save all jobs on computer, which helps us quickly do up quotes.”
Another forum member writes:
“Only the technician has actually looked at the car and knows what is involved. We are not working on new cars, so many times we need to be aware of things that have occurred or been done to the vehicle, which will require more time.
“I recommend to my QuickTrac users that the technicians do the estimating of time. We have found that the bottom line usually increases about 10 percent when that happens. The technician will always want to be sure they get enough time for the job, especially if they are on some type of incentive pay based on production.
“For new technicians, we ask them to print out the labor times and attach them to the estimate for the first week. That way the SA, who is usually the bottleneck in the shop, does not need to waste time doing that. We don't require they use the ‘book time' but if it is different we want to know why.
“We tell our techs that if we come and question them about a time—which we do on occasion—it is because we need to be sold so that we can sell the customer. If the SA is sold, they will sell it to the customer.”
The questions and responses are posted on the Automotive Management Network website, which is operated by Deb and Tom Ham, owners of Auto Centric (formerly Ham's Automotive) in Grand Rapids, Mich. The comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.