Training Tidbit – for the Service Department

Service has changed. Have you? Are you staying current? YOU must maintain your skills and knowledge. That is accomplished through reading and attending learning opportunities. We have management seminars in Dallas in a few weeks. Don’t miss out. The following might provoke some more thinking on your part.

I recently viewed a show on YouTube from BMW showing a technician replacing a radiator core. Nothing very fancy, right? Well, this technician walks up to his tool box and puts on a pair of glasses. Makes adjustments and pushes on them to start. He is standing in front of the car and an image is transposed over the engine compartment and shows in color the items to be worked on and then tells him vocally what to do. When he has completed a step he says “next step.” What a wonderful use of technology. As our world becomes more of a remove and- install of components and things, the technical skills needed from mechanics is reduced; at least for some categories of the work.

One of my many complaints about the operations of a service department that many of you have read over the years is that we have a peanut butter mentality to the work. We charge the same price no matter the skills of the technician, nor the tooling required, nor the degree of difficulty of the work— did we spread it equally, like peanut butter. We don’t schedule labor but we do give completion dates to customers for much of the work. How do we do that when we have variable skills required for the work and variable skills available from the technicians? Peanut butter. This is why we rarely meet completion dates and have lost so much of the available labor market.

We now have new technological tools and new uses of longstanding technology. Who will buy this technology and have it available for use?

We now have new technological tools and new uses of longstanding technology. Who will buy this technology and have it available for use? Hopefully it will be the authorized dealers and distributors.

In another direction, we also have technology roaring to our assistance but it isn’t loud enough yet, as I don’t see many dealers rushing to implement it. It seems that the rental industry has leapt ahead of the authorized distributors in how they treat their technicians. How so?

Well, the technician can stay in the bay and look up on a computer terminal and determine their parts requirement. Okay, some of you are saying that you already do that. Now, let’s start from the make, model and serial number of the machine they are working on and automatically go to a library of schematics and select the appropriate one that will allow them to select the parts they need. Do you do that, too? Oh, and they do that with a touchscreen. You do that, too? Well, then the parts list, which is in a “shopping cart,” is processed as an order in their computer system and prints a pick ticket in the warehouse, their store, so that the parts group can pick the part and deliver it to the technician in their bay. Do you do all that too? I didn’t think so.

It is long past time that we start putting technology to better use. These two illustrations are examples of where and how we can improve labor efficiency on the job. My estimate is that this will increase in labor efficiency by 30 to 60 minutes each day for each technician. Yes, that is right. The time that a technician spends each day walking back and forth to the parts department wastes that much time every day. If you think I am wrong, go watch the floor for a while. In the field it is worse because the technician has to drive to get the parts. And all that time the technician is on the clock.

I think we better get serious, and what better time than now?

The management of a service operation is aimed at two specific major elements: labor efficiency and quality. If we can keep the technicians in the bay where the work is done we can improve their labor efficiency. If we can deliver current accurate schematics from which they can order the necessary parts we will improve the quality.

Are you ready for that? This is not a question of if you will use technology effectively; it is a question of when. This is coming to us and we don’t have any control over it. In this market and these conditions I believe the sooner that we implement these technologies the better. The choice is yours.

Technology Tidbits 1.0

The current crop of Dealer Management Systems (DMS) mostly provides process management tools rather than business improvement tools. This appears to be the continuation of the evolution of systems from the service bureau days when computers were overly expensive and out of reach for most dealers.

The system would put the image of the “old” paper forms on the screen and the dealer personnel would fill in the blanks. This was an incredible cash machine for the companies providing these services.

Today we seem to finesse the issues with “portals;” an interesting approach to say the least.

When the customer knows the part numbers they want and are calling in for parts they have two basic questions on their mind; Have you got it? How much is it? Yet typically the DMS starts with the question – “who are you?” Have you got your customer number of give me your name is where we have to start into the parts process and it is the same for the other departmental order and inquiry processes. Not a particularly good way to start a customer service process is it?

With the ease of program development today and the needs of the dealership; with the “size” of the current crop of DMS offerings in machine usage and process time; with the customer opportunities of doing their own ordering increasing I think it is time a “radical” rethink takes place at both the service providers and at the dealer/manufacturer level. What is it we need and want from technology? Do we want to continue to do what we have always done or do we want to step out into the sunshine.

The time is now.


We comment on a series of subjects related to the capital goods industry supply chain; from parts to service to management and to my take on filosophy. I am introducing a new one this week – Technology.

I will attempt to address various areas of the use of technology in the capital goods supply chains whether from the dealer or the customer perspective. I am sure this will be controversial at times and I invite your participation in the discussion. The more the merrier. It is never important that we all agree on a subject or a topic but it is critically important that we hear and understand other positions.

Management is about communication. It is about three major pillars – understanding, accepting and committing. I hope you will participate in the discussion.

The time is now.