Aged Work Orders

Aged Work Orders

Guest writer John Dowling is back this week to cover the topic of timing and timelines in your dealership in “Aged Work Orders.”

How long or how many days should it take to complete a repair on a customer’s machine? How many days does it take for your service department to close out a service work order? I have been asked the ideal number of days or average days to close a work order. The answer to that question is less than what it is now. However, many days it takes your service department to close out a work order, it’s too many! Unless you’re running a perfect service department. If that’s the case, stop reading and forward this to somebody else to read.

An aged work order is a work order over 30 days old. Depending on your location and industry, this number may go up or down, but 30 days is a good rule of thumb. Aged work orders should be a concern at every level of management within a dealership. The dealership that aged work orders are not a concern at every level of management, that dealership will struggle with cash flow, profitability, and customer satisfaction. These are all the symptoms of aged work orders.

How do we address or correct an aged work order problem? One way we should not address it is by criticizing the service manager, making many threats, shouting, screaming, and telling them to fix the problem. That rarely works. Most service and branch managers need a better understanding of the service process. They believe that service managers’ job is to fix equipment, and that’s partially true. It’s a technician’s job to fix equipment. It is the service manager’s job to manage the process of repairing the customers’ equipment—similar roles or jobs but not the same.

We must break down the service process to discover where the bottlenecks and issues are causing our prolonged work order lifecycle. A prolonged lifecycle will lead to an aged work order. How have I broken down the service process? Well, I’ve broken it down into ten steps or stages. In my book Service by the Boxes, I refer to these steps as boxes. We are looking for how many days it takes to move the work order through each step or box.

We need to know how many days it takes from the day the customer drops off his piece of equipment at your dealership to open a work order. If it takes more than 24 hours, that is too long. All work orders should be opened the same day the equipment is dropped off.

Once the work order is opened, how many days does it take to have that work order assigned to a technician and the technician to start the diagnostics process? This must occur within 24 hours to be best in class.

After the technician has diagnosed the equipment and created a parts list, how long does it take your parts department to estimate the parts? Parts estimates should be completed daily.

How many hours does it take for the service department to complete the service estimate and get the customer’s approval? This should occur within 24 hours of the parts estimate being created.

When the estimate has been approved, the required parts should be ordered on the same day. How long does it take your parts department to order approved parts? If it is days or weeks, you have a problem.

Once the parts have been received, do you have an assigned location to stage them for the technician? What is the process of informing the technician or the service manager that their ordered parts have been received? How long does it take? I hope the parts were staged the same day they were received.

This next stage of the work order process usually kills most service departments, especially those struggling with aged work orders. Once the technician receives the parts and completes the repair, how many days, if not weeks, does it take your technician to turn in a completed service report? Technicians should complete and turn in service reports the same day they complete the repair without exception.

Once the service report is turned in to the service manager or office, how long does it take them to process, i.e., close the work order? I have seen service managers hold on to completed work orders until the last week of the month before they even start processing them. Completely asinine. Completed work orders should be closed within 24 hours if not on the same day the service report is turned in. All the work has been done; we need to close the work order. That’s cash just sitting in your service office. 

After the work has been completed and the work order has been closed, how long does it take to collect payment for the repair? This may be the most crucial step in the entire process. It does not matter how efficient your technicians are, how many turns your parts department has, or even if your service manager keeps all his work orders up to date. It is all for not until you collect the money. The transaction is complete once you get paid. 

So, how many days should a work order’s life cycle be? Run a report to find the average age of your work orders. Your work order life cycle should be less than that number. Review the steps we discussed and record how long your service department takes to get from step to step or box to box. Ask why it takes so long and find ways to decrease the time. It is challenging work, but it will pay dividends in cash flow, profitability, and customer satisfaction.

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