Once that you have your techs properly trained, working together toward the same goals, and aligned with your shop’s processes and procedures, you can move to the next level. Let’s take a look at what it takes to improve your techs’ productivity, and how to keep them happy as you work toward the achievement of this goal.
Productivity: it’s a lot more than just efficiency
While many people use the terms “efficiency” and “productivity” interchangeably, they are really two different things. As a shop owner, you want to reach high levels of both. Here’s the difference between them:
Efficiency: Efficiency is the measure of how long it takes a tech to finish a given job, compared to the number of hours of labor allowed for it (and billed to the customer). If a tech takes four hours to do a four-hour job, that tech has achieved a 100% efficiency rating. If the tech gets it done in two hours, he or she has achieved 200% efficiency. The higher the number of billable hours that a tech produces in a standard workday, the higher the efficiency of that tech.
Productivity: Productivity is the measure of how much of a given tech’s workday is spent doing work that the shop can charge customers for. The ultimate goal for maximum productivity during the workday is 100%, which means that the tech spent eight hours doing billable work during an eight-hour day (practically speaking, 100% is not usually possible).
Causes of poor productivity
Anything that keeps your techs from doing a full day’s work is negatively impacting your productivity. There can. be many causes of poor productivity in your shop, including:
- Not enough cars scheduled during the day to keep your techs busy
- Dispatch systems that allow gaps between jobs, wasting techs’ time
- Delays in parts availability that make techs wait
- Parts needed but not ordered
- Unclear repair orders that require time-wasting clarification
- Jobs assigned to techs that don’t have the skills to competently complete them
- Insufficient training for techs, requiring assistance from other, more knowledgeable techs
- Delays in receiving authorizations from customers before work can be done
- Not allowing enough time for proper diagnostic processes, leading to either incorrect conclusions or overlooking additional work that’s needed
Increasing productivity in your shop
Very often, you can greatly improve your shop’s productivity by taking a closer look at the processes you use to get the work done, and then tweaking them to eliminate every possible time-wasting or mistake-causing action. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Use current technology for efficient communication and workflow
- Have state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment
- Provide proper lighting and ventilation
- Eliminate clutter and organize your shop’s equipment so it is easy to find and use
- Keep your shop clean
- Schedule the right number of cars each day that will keep techs busy
- Get pre-approvals on repairs where possible to keep work flowing without interruption
- Assign each job to a tech of the appropriate skill level
- Eliminate gaps between jobs – techs should always know what their next job is
- Be sure to document everything about each repair job to keep things flowing smoothly
- Provide techs with parts checklists for larger jobs to make ordering foolproof
- Stock a good supply of parts for routine jobs to eliminate delays
- Use parts vendors with the most complete inventory and the fastest delivery times
- Check parts in to make sure they are correct and in good condition, then deliver them to the tech who needs them
- Use your technology to track techs’ productivity (shoot for 90%), let each one know where they stand, and coach them on ways to improve
- Maintain your shop’s equipment properly
- Replace worn-out or obsolete equipment with new, more efficient versions
- Provide techs with bonuses for reaching increased productivity levels
- Maintain a comfortable working environment in your shop – not too hot, not too cold
- Provide cold drinks to keep techs alert and hydrated
- Set up breaks during the workday to give techs a chance to relax and regroup
- Show your techs that you appreciate the good work that they do
- Ask your techs for feedback – they are well aware of many of these issues
Happy techs are profitable techs
Happiness is easy to see, but difficult to define. In an auto repair shop, the happiness of your techs is a very good thing. It means that you are doing many things right, including running a very profitable shop! If you aren’t there yet, let’s review some of the aspects that can turn average techs into happy ones.
What makes your techs happy?
Assuming that you have hired a staff of techs who are proficient and interested in doing a good job, there are several aspects of being a tech that can make the job enjoyable and generate happiness:
- Being paid adequately for the work they are doing, and with good benefits
- Being recognized for achieving the goals you have set out for them
- Fitting in comfortably with the other staff members
- Being challenged to improve their skills and their performance levels
- Understanding that the benefits of what they do go beyond repairing vehicles – techs are providing a service that allows people to achieve their goals in life because their cars and trucks are running reliably
- Having work-life balance and time to spend with their loved ones
What makes your techs unhappy?
It’s no secret that there are plenty of unhappy techs out there in auto repair land. These unhappy techs go to work every day with a negative outlook, and the quality of their work can’t help but reflect that reality. And what makes them so unhappy?
- Low pay and poor benefits
- Toxic work culture
- Stuck in a dead-end job
- Lack of positive feedback and recognition from management
- Absence of training opportunities to upgrade their skills
- Long working hours that don’t translate into more pay
- Massive tool debt
- Costs of certification
- Physical injuries received on the job
What can you do to create and keep happy techs?
There are many strategies you can put into place that will improve your shop’s morale in general, and your techs’ happiness level on an individual basis. The more of these that you can bring into your shop, the better your techs will respond. They will work harder, work smarter, and pull together for your shop’s benefit – and its profitability!
Make sure that your techs understand the value of their pay and benefits: Your pay plan should provide adequate basic financial security, along with incentives to be as productive as possible. Remember to pay your techs what they are worth, or they won’t be with you very long. Benefits should include decent health insurance, workers comp, and a reasonable amount of paid time off that increases over time. Institute a “use it or lose it” policy to induce them to use all of their vacation time each year. You will benefit from the stress-relieving benefits it brings – to them and to your shop!
Set performance goals for each tech and recognize them for reaching or exceeding those goals: Recognize individual achievements, but don’t set your techs against each other in a ruthless competition. Make sure that the goals you set are achievable, or resentment and frustration will result.
Provide your techs with opportunities to make more money: Inspect every vehicle to identify other needed repairs or preventive maintenance that is due. Give your techs bonuses for identifying (and selling if appropriate) this additional needed work. Also reward high efficiency with bonuses, because you are making more money, too!
Invest in training opportunities to improve your techs’ skills: Keeping their abilities up to date keeps your shop on the cutting edge, and fully able to work on today’s more complex vehicles. Your techs of all skill levels will appreciate your investment in them.
Build a positive culture in your shop: Plan recreational activities outside work hours that show you care. Include techs’ family members in some of these events. This will help to build relationships that will enhance cooperation and efficiency back at the shop. Buy lunch for your staff once every week or two to show you appreciate them. Recognize work anniversaries for all techs, every year. Provide flex time with staggered hours that will also let you extend your shop hours to better serve your customers. Above all, always do what you say you are going to do, to maintain your credibility as the team leader.
Motivate your lower-level techs by occasionally giving them some more advanced and interesting work to do: Give them an opportunity to stretch, with a higher-skilled tech nearby in case they need help. This will keep them involved and looking forward to moving up through future training opportunities.
Mentor new techs to transition them into your shop’s culture: Pair your new techs with experienced techs who are willing and able to be strong mentors.
Ask employees what they need to make them happier: Many requests will be for little things that you can provide without any financial or operational downsides.
Productive and happy techs mean more success for your shop
When you have reached the point where your techs are both productive and happy, your shop should be in a very good place. This means that you are maximizing the amount of work that your techs can do, and also that they are feeling great about doing it. This is the sweet spot – now you just have to keep it going and reap all the benefits!