We now have a nice tool available to all premium and platinum members under the tools menu, where you can view labor rates entered by our members on an easy to use map, similar to our member map. This is designed to give you an idea of where you are vs the market in your area. As you zoom in, the circle averages open up to more specific areas.
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I currently employ a mechanic and friend who has been with me for about 20 years. He was formerly a transmission rebuilder, but we have switched to mostly reman units and have no need for a rebuilder. His pay has remained the same despite his value declining. I am currently paying him roughly $100,000 a year. The problem i'm having is that his skill set is not near that pay level anymore. He does light diagnostic and basic managerial work, but I am not confident enough for him to run the shop for more than an hour. With the current state of the industry our numbers have gone down a bit over the last two years. While still being profitable, I can't help but think about the extra income that would be available by terminating this employee, I just dont know how to do it. Any advice on how to do this? I like him as a person and have known him a very long time, but I feel his is paid about twice as much as he is worth. Any help wouldbe greatly appreciated.
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By Joe Marconi
According to Zip Recruiter, tech pay on average is about $41,000 per year. Is this an issue? I know many of you pay more than average, but do you think that we need to increase tech pay in order to attract more people to the auto repair industry. One other thing to consider, the shop and shop owner needs to be profitable and make the money first in order to pay anyone a decent wage.
By Ron Ipach
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Could Auto Repair Flat Rate Be Dead?
TECHNICIAN shortage today is real. Last study that I saw said, for every eight shops that’s looking for a technician, there’s only one tech available so I know many of you watching this are experiencing that same thing. And I’ll also say one thing that I found: most technicians, when I mention flat rate, their cheeks kind of pucker up. They hate it. Why? There’s risk. They’ve been burned before. So often in the technicians starved market, what’s a shop owner left to do but put technicians on hourly or even maybe salary? And what that leads to is, really what I’m going to call an “uninspired performance.” Why? They get comfortable, they’re able to pay their bills without exerting a ton of effort.
So what’s a shop owner to do? The answer I’ve uncovered recently in my shop is to have a Win Number. For every single employee. See one of the truths I discovered in my 30 plus years of being a shop owner is that often we don’t get the most out of our employees because we never really sat down and told them what we expect. I know that’s been one of my mistakes.
So one of the things that I’ve done recently is I’ve given each employee a weekly Win Number, and that’s why it’s so important. For example, I recently sat down with each of my technicians and shared with them their Win Number. What do I mean by win number? What I expect out of them in parts and labor production for each employee. The numbers are based on my desired technician cost as a percentage of sales. It’s worked so well with my technicians that I now sent it out and established that win number with both my CSR and my service advisor.
I’ve got to tell you the results have been incredible. Not only are my sales and profits up through the roof lately, it’s led to believe it or not, happier employees. Why? They drive home at the end of the day or at the end of the week knowing that they hit their goals. Knowing that they’ve contributed to a successful week for the shop and that certainly led to a happier shop owner!
So, let me leave you with a question. Does each and every one of your employees on your team clearly know what you expect of them?
If your answer is not a resounding YES, it’s time to put a pencil to paper and figure out each team employee or each team members weekly and daily Win.
By Joe Marconi
Got your attention? Good! Before I start, let’s get something out of the way. Does technician aptitude or attitude affect the productivity of your shop? Absolutely. But this is the exception, not the rule. If your overall production levels are low, that is the sole responsibility of management. Let’s look at a few reasons for low production levels.
The first area I want to address is billing. Many hours of labor go unbilled due to not understanding how to charge. This area is most prevalent with testing and inspecting. If your technicians are handed a work order, with no direction and not a clear process of what to do, or when to stop and ask for labor testing fees, there will be a ton of wasted labor hours, never to be recovered again.
Next is training. Service advisor and technical training is a key component to high production levels. But let’s not forget in-house training. All policies and procedures must be reviewed often and refined if needed. Your team must follow a process. With no road map, labor dollars are lost. By the way, if you don’t have procedures in place, you need to make this top priority. Every successful organization has a detailed set of workflow guidelines.
Let’s look at shop layout. How organized is your shop? Are shop tools and equipment readily accessible? Or do techs tend to wander around looking for the shop scanner or TPMS reset tool. Are stock items such as wiper blades and oil filters fully stocked and cataloged properly? Do technicians have separate access to technical information? Or are techs waiting to use the same computer station? Again, all these things kill labor production, which kills labor dollars.
Next up is scheduling. There should be a structured approach to scheduling where the day is balanced with enough opportunity to make profitable sales. Have a process where vehicle history is reviewed before the customer arrives. Any previous service recommendations or notes is any opportunity to make a sale. But the key ingredient is in preparation. A customer that’s scheduled for an oil change may have forgotten that he or she received a recommendation for tires. Informing the customer at the time of scheduling and preparing for the work ahead of time, greatly improves productivity and overall efficiency.
Another problem area is with service advisors and their workload. The service advisor, in many situations, handles the front counter, the phone, scheduling, helps with dispatch, part procurement and sales. All these tasks are critical to the daily operations. However, nothing happens in the shop until a sale is made. You need to look at your service staff. Are estimates getting processed quickly and upsells getting back to the technicians in a timely manner? If not, this is another area where production suffers. Carefully analyze your staff and run the numbers. More estimates processed means more sales and higher profits. Adding a service advisor or an assistant may be the missing link in a shop’s production problem.
Knowing your numbers is another key component to attaining high production levels. I will refrain from giving you benchmark numbers, since all businesses models are different. With that said, you need to determine your breakeven and establish your labor goal for the week. Then knowing your labor goal, you need to calculate how many labor hours you need per technician. Then, you need to communicate this number to each technician. Having clear expectations and knowing the goals of one’s position is essential for hitting production goals.
With regard to the technician’s responsibility, let’s remember one important fact; the technician has control over his or her efficiency. That’s it. If you dispatch a four-hour ticket to a tech, the ability of the tech to meet or beat that time depends on the technician’s skill, experience and training.
There are a lot of other factors that influence production, such as the right pay plan and hiring the right people. But perhaps the most important influence is leadership. The shop owner or manager must study and look at the entire operations of the shop. Productivity goals must be established and then a system of monitoring production must be put into place. This includes sales goals, as well. Service advisors and technicians must get continuous feedback on their progress. Improvements in sales and in production, no matter how small, must be celebrated.
The bottom line is this: If you’re not happy with your production level, you need to look at every aspect of your company that influences production. Improvements in key areas put technicians in a position to win. When they win, so do you.
This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on March 1st, 2019
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By Joe Marconi
Shop production is a hot topic these days. High production results in higher sales and profits. But there seems to be so many obstacles to overcome to achieve high production levels.
I was discussing production with a few shop owners, and one shop owner mentioned that he recently hired a shop foreman; an “A” tech in his early 50’s. The foreman uses his knowledge and skills to organize the work flow. For younger techs, it’s even more important that they know how to work and keep productive.
What are your thoughts? Does anyone else have a foreman or similar position? And how does this role affect production?