Are You Prepared to Compete? — Workflow Processes
Last time, we talked about how important it is to train your technicians and service advisors, so that your shop can compete and succeed during tough times. Click here if you missed that article. It is equally important to have standard operating procedures in place for your shop, particularly when it comes to crucial workflow processes.
Our observations indicate that although some shop owners have been successful, the workflow processes being utilized in the majority of independent shops today are obsolete. There are four elementary workflow processes that need to be reviewed and improved upon: customer flow, vehicle flow, paperwork flow, and parts and supplies flows.
When customers arrive at your shop, where are they to park? Where are they to enter the premises? If you have a shuttle, when and where does it operate? How will customers return to retrieve their vehicles? While these questions may seem simple enough, without a well-thought-out customer flow process, the result can be chaos.
Pretend you are a new customer to your shop and walk through the entire process, beginning with when you first pull up. That will help you determine the most efficient and customer-convenient flow. Then put that determination into a written procedure.
Now that we’ve determined where customers are to park upon arrival, the remaining questions include: Are customers’ vehicles moved to different locations on the lot, and, if so, by whom and when? Is there a designated incoming work area on the lot? When work has been completed, where do technicians park customers’ vehicles?
One thing that may help with this process is a lot management plan. Such a plan consists of determining the answers to the above questions as they relate to customers’ vehicles, as well as determining where employees should park, where vehicles are to be stored, and where tow trucks are directed to drop vehicles. Once you have figured out answers to these questions, incorporate them into a written procedure.
This includes the repair order and supporting documentation, ordering of parts and materials paperwork, the estimation process, dispatching of the work, and work progression and work completion forms.
For shops using actual paper as opposed to a digital system, a wall rack system would make this process work. A shop should have racks in the service advisor’s work area for such categories as Waiting for Parts, Waiting for Authorization, Estimates, Sublet, and Completed. Each technician should have their own designated rack, located where it’s easily accessible for both the tech and the service advisor.
Paperwork on arriving vehicles should be dispatched immediately to the selected technician and placed in their rack. Communicating urgency or problem repair orders can be accomplished by flagging the paperwork with a color-coded tag that can be seen from a distance.
Once a technician has performed their diagnosis and inspections or noted additional work needed, the repair order and documentation should be brought back to the service advisor or placed in a designated spot before informing the service advisor. The advisor should then place it in the appropriate rack in the office, moving it as needed to the other racks. Even after customers pick up their vehicles, the flow of paperwork should continue though the accounting process and end with follow-up and filing.
The best way to improve paperwork flow is to take a repair order and walk it through all the processes, with an eye toward eliminating extra sheets of paper by utilizing both sides of the sheet, eliminating redundancy, and making the process work for everyone involved. One way to develop a reliable and convenient paperwork process is to visit several other shops and see how they do it.
Of course, all of this could also be accomplished through digital “racks” as well — streamlined through programs such as Trello, or something similar. Just make sure that whether you are using paper or a digital system, you have a written standard operating procedure outlining the entire process, and everyone at your shop is familiar with and follows every step of the process.
Parts and Supplies Flows
A spot that is convenient for both the advisors and technicians should be designated for incoming parts and supplies. In some shops, incoming parts are placed in plastic tubs and stored on racks located in the parts or shop area. These tubs can be arranged alphabetically by the customer’s last name, or numerically by repair order or key tag number. Once the parts are installed, the parts removed should be placed back in the tubs and stored on another rack until the customers have had a chance to view them, or until a few days after the vehicle has left the shop.
Other paperwork-related items such as key tags, sublet work, etc. should have a well-thought-out tracking system, too. The shop owner and staff should review them so the entire team gets an opportunity to participate and make suggestions for improvements.
We hope that today’s look at the four important workflow processes has been helpful in getting your shop to compete in both tough times and good times. We will be back next time with important tips on marketing, so that you can really help your shop succeed.
In the meantime, none of these processes will be useful if your service advisors are not on board. Does your service advisor need training? And do you have time to train them? We can help! Enroll them now in Service Advisor Skills, which begins September 22. Click here to enroll, or call us at 800-755-0988 for more information.