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Expanding The Business, Step 15: Design Layout, Build for Profit

Joe Marconi


We are in the final stages of construction. The exterior siding is almost complete along with the electrical work, plumbing, security system, heating and air conditioning. We expect the building to be complete within six to eight weeks, barring any unforeseen obstacles. Photos of the project will be available soon.


A great deal of time has been spent on the design and layout of the not only the building, but the parking lot layout and the workflow process, as well. One thing I have learned in the past 28 years is that productivity is the key to profit. How your technicians move through the day can be the difference between making money and losing your shirt.


Our old parking lot was a nightmare. We would park 25 to 40 cars in a lot designed for a maximum of 18. We would stack cars 3 to 4 deep and found ourselves on many an occasion moving 2 to 3 cars to get to the one we needed. This killed productivity and morale. We can now park 50 or more cars which greatly improves productivity and traffic flow. Also, an inviting, organized parking area means a lot to customers. They know where to park, and find it easy to navigate in and out of the lot.


Perhaps the most important is in bay design. The existing 6-bay shop will be reserved for the bigger repair and maintenance work: transmissions, engine repair, analysis, timing belts, etc. We will staff this building with 3 techs, a foreman and a service advisor. Each tech will have 2 bays. With this design, a tech can bring a car in one of his bays, diagnose the problem and have the other bay available to start on another car if he needs to wait for parts to arrive. Or, if an unexpected vehicle arrives with a problem, having an extra bay available is convenient. This eliminates having to put cars back together when waiting for parts or having to work on jacks outside the bay due to lack of room. Again, I can’t stress enough that productivity is the key to profit. Keep the techs flowing smoothly throughout the day will make you more money.


The new facility will have 4 bays and will primarily be used for more express-type service: oil change service, tire rotations, state inspections, tires, alignments, batteries, etc. One of advantages of designing a building from scratch is that you design it the way you want. Everything aspect about the new 4 bay shop is tied to productivity: The location of the office, phones, computer information system, inventory, bathroom, tire machine, balancer, floor jacks, jack stands, part delivery entrance and other equipment.


Each bay will have overhead access to an air line, droplights, electrical power and metered oil reels. Each tech will have a cart complete with chemicals, rags, oil drain plugs, oil drain gaskets and other hardware. You don’t want techs walking to the far side of the shop for an oil filter and then to the other side for a drain plug gasket and then across the bays for an air line. That wastes time and kills productivity. Everything a tech needs must be within reasonable reach.


The new facility will have three techs and one service advisor. We will install 3 Rotary Lifts: two 10,000-pound lifts and one 12,000-pound lift. The fourth bay will be the alignment bay. A flush-mounted Hunter alignment machine will find its home in this bay.


Although we will promote while-you-wait service, we will not position ourselves as a quick lube. However, contrary to what many people in our industry believe, we welcome walk-ins and actually encourage it. I do realize that smaller shops with 2 to 4 bays may find it difficult to accommodate people walking in without an appointment, but the consumer's mindset has changed the way it expects service. For small shops and larger ones, I recommend developing a system that accommodates customers on their time, not yours. People don’t always have time to make an appointment to drop their car off for service. And they certainly will not make an appointment to drop a car off for an oil change. Performing simple services like oil changes, tire rotations and state inspections will build a customer base that will eventually lead to more profitable work.


To expand your business will require an increase in your customer base and a different business model. At our shop, we no longer tell people when to bring in their car; we ask them when they would like to bring it in. Building a business is about building relationships, one customer at a time. Make it easy for the customer. Don’t get bogged down with a rigid schedule. It will take time to develop and your people may resist change.


Our entire workflow process is designed to maximize productivity in order to boost car counts. An increase in car counts gives us the opportunity to sell more work and prosper.


Find ways to prosper, it’s a lot more fun.


Stay tuned!



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