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There's an App for that - - - The internet may solve the information issues, but a mechanic still has to make the repairs


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There’s an App for that     

         Technology has a way of surprising us all by surpassing itself over and over again.  One day you’re dialing a rotary phone wired to a land line, and the next we’re communicating between micro wave towers and satellites.  We now have the capability to talk to anyone anywhere on the planet with a small hand held device just as long as you’ve got a signal. But, talking isn’t enough for our modern world.  We want the ability to connect with everyone and every sort of business or hobby we can think of through our magic little smart phone for any reason and at any time we’d like.

It could be for local or world news, maybe to keep in touch with friends across the country, or how to do something you’ve never done before.  Book a hotel room, find a new job, check the weather, the possibilities are endless.  The technology in our hands is by far more technically advanced than what was used for the Apollo space missions. Think about it, we sent men to the moon with less technology than what you have in your pocket right now. Looking at it in those terms makes me realize the depth and scope of this new technology, it’s truly amazing.

         If it wasn’t for museums hardly anyone born lately would have any idea how life was before transistors. Something else to consider is that anyone born a decade ago has never known a world without a smart phone.  People born just a few decades earlier have never known a world without the internet.  Another decade more and those people have no concept as to how the world made it from day to day without a home computer. Going even further back before the home computer, a computer to those folks was this huge machine inside a climate controlled building with these big reals of magnetic tape spinning randomly around or large stacks of punch cards that zipped through a machine at lightning speeds.  Going back to the 30’s and 40’s, a small screen 2 way conversation wrist watches was only in the newspaper comic strips and something that might resemble a computer was only found on a sci-fi movie down at the Bijou.

         Now, we not only communicate, but we can source information about anything you can think of right at our finger tips. Need to know the yardage at the golf course, there’s an app.  Want to know the ingredients of a chocolate cake, yep, there’s an app for it.  Can’t figure out how to fix your car, you got it… there’s an app for that too.  Wait a minute… Did I say fix your car with an app?  I thought car repair was some sort of highly skilled trade that took years to learn the proper techniques and even longer to be proficient at it? That’s right, the very same.

         Anyone with a smart phone can be an expert in any field they would like to be an expert in, and it doesn’t take much to make a “You Tube” video on any subject, especially on how to fix your car, and with a little extra effort you too can make an App on car repair as well.  Some are developed, produced, and edited to a high standard and at a professional level.  Others, well I’m not sure any thought was put into the content, background, or the poor grammar they used.

 Years before the internet a mechanic learned their trade by being in the trade, now we’ve got what are commonly referred to as “You Tube Mechanics”.  These are the guys who couldn’t repair much of anything without consulting a You Tube video or going to their favorite App and more than likely never considered going to a trade school or opening a repair manual to find reliable information. Even though the general rule of thumb in the business these days is not to follow a traditional apprentice program but to learn as you go doesn’t mean you won’t learn something from today’s method of watching videos or viewing Apps, it’s just how much knowledge is lost or passed up by not following in the footsteps of our seasoned master mechanics and learning the trade from their well callused hands.  

         I’ve got to admit, there are a lot of great Apps out there for the mechanic to have on their smart phone.  For example, OEM1stop or NATSF where all the manufacturers’ websites are listed. You can find an App for calculating the cylinder volume on an air cooled Volkswagen, or the alignment specifications for just about every car out there, to what type of headlamp fits a certain car.  It’s endless. Whatever information you need, chances are there’s an app or some sort of site for it.  But, with all this helpful wisdom an App can’t fix the car for you.  You still need somebody to get in there and make the repairs accurately.

         It used to be (years ago) a car would come into the shop that a friend of a friend spent the weekend under the hood trying to solve their friends car woes. Then, along came the internet and the smart phone which brought a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips.  But, in the end, the car still has to limp into a repair shop for a mechanic to get it back on the road.  Take this typical internet repair that happens on any typical day at any typical repair shop in any typical town in the country.

         The car comes in on the hook and before it’s even on the ground the mechanic notices parts dangling out from the bottom of the car. The repair order only states that it stopped on the customer while driving and that he had attempted to look at the problem himself.  Upon further investigation the dangling parts and the condition of the motor showed signs of someone trying to remove the timing belt.  The plastic cover had a crack from the top to the bottom and it just so happens to be one of those covers that secured various hoses and wires away from moving parts.  It was clear that somebody had tried to take it apart without knowing all that needs to be known on how to remove it. A few words were mumbled by the mechanic that we don’t need to repeat and a call was made to the owner. (On a smart phone of course)

         The conversation started and ended with how he watched a video and downloaded an App that showed the timing marks.  The App had some great information on it, but the video lacked the complete step by step procedures. The kind of steps that a seasoned mechanic would do without thinking about. You know, checking for hidden bolts, or how you should always give a light tug before reaching for the prybar and damaging something. Things like, cleaning the surfaces before starting so that you’re less likely to miss a bolt or fastener or have a tool slip on the greasy surfaces, to name a few. But, the app didn’t mention any of that. Now the customer isn’t here just for a timing belt, but a new timing belt cover, a harmonic balancer that was mauled into a useless pile of metal because he didn’t have the correct removal tool, and to replace all the missing special timing belt cover bolts the owner let fall into his gravel driveway never to be found again. Not to mention, nothing has yet been properly diagnosed.

         Maybe what the automotive field needs is an App that shows a consumer how to dial their smart phone and contact a professional mechanic before they attempt a DIY repair at home, in a gravel driveway, with off shore-poorly made tools, and no proper safety equipment.  All the while, trying to balance their cell phone on the edge of the fender watching a You Tube video from a source with no credentials showing their expertise or experience.

         Yea, there ought-a be an App for that.

          


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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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