Holding employees accountable for tools and equipment is vital for two reasons.
First, contrary to some notions, it is a reasonable expectation at any automotive service facility. Second, it makes dollars and sense.
Repeatedly, I have visited and/or worked at auto service facilities where shop tools were scattered or broken.
Perhaps pieces of the shop's puller kits were misplaced or ruined. Or specialized alignment-adjusting tools were missing from the tool board or storage crib.
In other instances, shop equipment was abused and damaged so badly that it was inoperative.
The reaction of some bosses to these conditions was downright disheartening.
They treated these losses as collateral damage in a busy service department. They would cite a general lack of pride and a weak work ethic among today's workers.
In particular, these owners and managers scorned the younger generation of employees.
I share some readers' concerns about many younger workers — but I emphasize many — as opposed to all — younger folks.
After all, when I was a teenager in the 1960s, bosses said the same things about me and my co-workers. In fact, some of us treated shop gear as if it were our own because we appreciated its value.
However, I believe that some owners and managers ultimately share the blame for tool and equipment (T&E) losses.
Personal observation has convinced me that some bosses lack the skill and/or training to manage the crew of a one-man picnic.
They show no aptitude for leadership or motivation; they seem unaware that the boss always sets the tone for the entire business — from service salespeople at the front counter to the tire buster in the back of the building.
I have reported on this industry since 1976, crisscrossing the country observing and working in auto service facilities.
My experience has been that some current bosses "cut their teeth" in helter-skelter, nearly chaotic work situations.
They weren't really taught or groomed to lead people or understand productivity and efficiency.
Instead, they learned by watching equally unschooled bosses bull-whip managers and technicians toward their goals.
The result was owners and managers who used to — and still do — relentlessly push employees to rack up service sales. Any consequences are labeled incidental to reaching goals.
My travels also have shown me that some hapless people tolerate this work atmosphere. They seem happy just to have a job.
Meanwhile, T&E losses are among the many negative consequences of this approach. Workers are not given the time or the motivation to account for T&E.
There are no guidelines for maintaining gear and returning it to the proper storage place.
Not surprisingly, then, nobody seems to care how cables, meters, alignment heads and such are handled.
Sadly, these aggressive bosses take stock of T&E problems if and when they are inclined to do so.
After observing or working in their facilities, it appears that no one oversees T&E inventory or maintenance.
Whenever a tech discovers that shop gear is missing or damaged, he or she is stymied and has no choice but to improvise without it.
Improvisation may mean "iffy" procedures with tools that weren't designed for the task. It may mean skipping important steps and measurements during a job.
Any tire dealer or service shop tech should treat T&E like gold. After all, it helps create a reasonably pleasant work experience — especially enabling techs to work smarter instead of harder.
Good T&E is vital to fixing the vehicle correctly the first time. In turn, fixed right the first time improves job security by building a loyal customer base.
An effective leader grooms employees to respect the business' property and that includes all T & E.
Please, catch up with me in the next issue of Tire Business. I'll talk about setting a tone of responsibility and discuss proven, practical ways to address potential T&E issues.
I'll look for you then.