Tracking shop productivity and technician efficiency is intrinsically valuable to all automotive service providers.
What's more, alert bosses may reap additional dividends from these time-honored measurements. Here's why.
In my last two columns, I explained that productivity basically monitors a service manager's skill at maneuvering repair jobs into and out of the bays. Meanwhile, efficiency measures a technician's talent for repairing vehicles.
First and foremost, measuring the performance of managers boosts worker morale. In turn, improving morale improves employee loyalty.
I think readers would agree that it's difficult to put a dollar value on capable, loyal workers. Recruiting and grooming new employees always costs more time and money than retaining existing personnel.
Over the years, some owners and managers have described running an auto service facility as an exercise in controlled chaos.
No doubt, performing auto maintenance and repair involves a certain level of uncertainty. This unpredictability challenges a manager's ability to both accommodate motorists' needs and keep repair jobs on schedule.
It also taxes technicians' patience and focus during troubleshooting.
The phrase "controlled chaos" may generate a few laughs, but chaos creates needless stress, and stress breeds discontent and foments mistakes.
Experience has shown that beyond a certain point, there's no amount of money you can pay employees to offset a stressful, miserable work atmosphere.
To improve shop productivity, owners and/or managers must address issues such as wasteful shop layouts, imprudent job selection, careless job scheduling, tardy repair authorizations, late or incorrect parts deliveries, etc.
Eliminating or minimizing these problems goes a long way toward reducing stress inside any auto service department. Remember, technicians' income and sanity suffers when a boss fails to correct these issues.
What's more, it's doubly hurtful because these same techs recognize that these problems are wholly out of their control.
But wait, there's more. Measuring efficiency also is likely to bolster technician morale.
For one thing, the lion's share of techs I know welcome opportunities to earn more dough. Many owners and managers incentivize techs with a sliding pay scale based on their efficiency.
The higher the efficiency at which the tech performs, the higher the hourly labor rate he or she is paid.
Mind you, the tech must still fix the job correctly the first time, but the sliding pay scale spurs that tech to work smarter and more carefully on every task.
Overall, this approach improves speed without forfeiting quality.
For another thing, modern tools and equipment enable techs to do their work quicker and easier.
Quicker and easier should mean more income and less stress. Sometimes, though, the boss may be reluctant to invest in the cool gear techs request.
Remember that the impact of a smart equipment investment is measurable. When in doubt, take equipment on a trial basis and see if the gear makes a measurable increase in efficiency. (Eliminating or reducing comebacks boosts efficiency.)
Measuring efficiency also is a shot in the arm for education-minded technicians.
Sometimes a tech becomes discouraged because the boss won't regularly invest in training. Consequently, this capable worker moves on to another job.
However, learned techs and savvy managers both recognize that ongoing education reduces or eliminates mistakes. It speeds up diagnosis and repair. Once again, these are benefits that fuel measurable upswings in tech efficiency.
The mention of productivity and efficiency makes some people think of a stern, heartless boss cracking his whip on a hapless crew. Instead, these measurements should suggest contentment, motivation and reward.