By Joe Marconi
Not every shop pays flat rate; for many reasons. So, many techs are on hourly pay. There is nothing wrong with hourly pay, as long as you have an incentive program in place that promotes high production levels to avoid complacency. For hourly paid employees I strongly urge you to have a pay plan that rewards production levels on a sliding scale.
As a business coach, I have seen too many times shops with low production levels and high tech payroll due to overtime pay. Overtime pay must not be used to get the jobs done with no regard to labor production. Limit overtime and create a strategy that increases production and rewards techs with production bonuses. By the way, there are many ways to incentivize techs, it's not all about money.
Overtime without high levels of production will eat into profits and if not controlled, with kill your business.
If your shop is an hourly paid shop, what incentives do you have in place to maintain production levels?
By Elite Worldwide Inc.
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The tight labor market can be a boon for blue-collar workers: They are more likely to find good-paying jobs and experience rapid wage growth. More employers are trying to tackle the aversion to manual labor jobs by offering workers higher salaries, tuition reimbursement and apprenticeship programs. Technology is also transforming blue-collar workplaces, making more advanced skills in demand. Across the country there are more drivers on the road, and many of them hanging on to their vehicles longer than ever. That means workers like Michael Gerhart are in demand.
Gerhart, a master auto technician at Pep Boys, has been fixing cars for nearly three decades, keeping on top of his skills as technology advances and learning how to do his job in a new way. Today, his focus is on engine diagnostic work, including things like the driveability of vehicles and emissions testing for the state of New Jersey. He works on different vehicles throughout the day, flexing his knowledge base on makes and models of all kinds.
“Cars have changed a lot, even in the past 10 years as far as the diagnostic end of things, and training has become more advanced as far as what’s required to fix the current vehicles,” Gerhart said. “It definitely doesn’t get boring and it’s always changing.”
Some 46,000 automotive service technicians and mechanics will be needed to fill roles through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at a time when the skills gap and worker shortage is particularly acute for blue-collar jobs. As economic growth is expected to continue in 2019, so too is a labor shortage both blue-collar and low-paying services occupations, a recent study from The Conference Board found. Baby boomers are aging out of the workforce at the same time the pool of available labor has become more educated, and thus less interested in blue-collar jobs.
Automotive mechanics and technicians like Michael Gerhart are in high demand as a blue-collar worker shortage is expected to continue this year. Kate Rogers | CNBC “In the U.S., more than most other advanced economies, the American dream is to go to a four-year college and not have a manual job. For a while it was a not a problem because there was no shortage. Now, there is a big shortage, and people with a bachelor’s degree are just not interested in those jobs. There is a stigma connected to manual labor that is very hard to break,” said Gad Levanon, chief economist at The Conference Board. The report says the shortage will be most visible in transportation, production, health-care support, food services, cleaning and maintenance occupations.
To help bridge this gap of available workers, Icahn Automotive, with brands like AAMCO and Pep Boys, recently launched its “Race to 2026” program, to invest in and support future automotive technicians and students who might have an interest in the trade. The program will offer scholarships, tuition reimbursement and apprenticeship programs, along with job placement and continuing education opportunities in partnering with schools like Lincoln Tech and Universal Technical Institute.
Part of the message is that this isn’t the blue-collar work of years past.
“I think there’s a stigma around, you know, the type of work and it’s still this old, kind of get-your-hands-dirty, greasy job. But as you look around, there’s been dramatic change in the way that a shop looks. And today’s shop is really more of a house of technology where students today should be thinking about that role as really a STEM career,” said Brian Kaner, Icahn Automotive Service and Real Estate president.
While the median salary for auto service technicians and mechanics was around $40,000 a year in 2017, those with experience and more advanced certifications can potentially earn six-figure salaries during their career. The Conference Board study points out that continued tightness in the labor market, while frustrating for employers, can actually be a boon for workers: They are more likely to find good-paying jobs and experience rapid wage growth. For technicians like Gerhart, it can also foster a passion.
“It’s been great doing this — I raised a family on this. It’s a challenging field to get into, but at the end of the day, I think it’s worth it. As long as you can keep up with the technology that’s out there and you’re given a chance to use it, it can be a very rewarding career,” he said.
Zombie Cars “Brains, Brains, we need Brains!” Zombie cars? What’s a zombie car? Way back, when we used points and condensers and later the basic electronic ignition systems, cars didn’t need brains (ECM – Electronic Control Module), but that all changed in the mid 70’s on some imports and pretty much on everything else by the time the 80’s came around. Some of these brains were only cursory, and didn’t actually control the car, but merely watched for emission issues, while others played a major role in the actual ignition spark or fuel delivery systems. Most of the engines in those early years, still used the same basic type of distributor setups (with a few exceptions) as their earlier counterparts that used the old tried and true points and condenser type of ignition systems. During those cross-over years it was rather easy to slap a different distributor in it, or change the existing points distributor over to electronic ignition (which worked quite well by the way). These days...it’s not that easy. These computer systems have become so entangled into the engine functions and nearly every other system that it’s impossible to bypass the fuel or ignition systems as we did years ago. However, there are still a lot of people out there that have hung onto some of the cars from that era. Most likely they've been kept parked alongside the garage as a future project or hung onto for some sentimental reason. Some (very few) are in great shape, others… well, they look like zombies already. What makes them zombies? The brain… the brain… they need brains! Just this past week I had several of these faded paint monstrosities lined up in the parking lot. (They never come alone… always in a pack.) For starters an old dilapidated 1986 Dodge pickup with a slant six. This old rusted, tilting to one side relic had been at another shop for a tune-up, but as the story was told to me by the owner, the other shop tried to start it when a fuel line ruptured and caught the old truck on fire. Luckily, they managed to get it out, but the damage was already done. The main harness from the firewall to the distributor, coil, charging system, blower motor, oil sending unit, temp. sender, and the starter wiring were completely melted into an unrecognizable mass of plastic and copper. It was my job to bring this dilapidated hulk back to life. However, the original spark control computer had melted as well, and was unusable. Worse yet, the brain was discontinued eons ago with no replacement parts anywhere to be found. This zombie needs a brain, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get one. At this point the only solution was to do away with the electronic brain and try to refit the old slant six with a much simpler ignition system from a decade earlier if at all possible. A lobotomy if you will. (Dr. Frankenstein would be envious.) Then there was this 2002 Mustang that moaned and groaned while dragging one foot into the shop. It needed a new BCM (Body Control Module). Call the dealer, call the parts warehouse, call everybody! Anybody! Is there a brain for this car? Nope, discontinued. Seems this particular BCM was a rather rare brain out there in zombie land, and at the time, nobody was setup to rebuild them. It seemed this car was destined to wander the city streets with the rest of the zombie mobiles. At the same time this was going on, in comes a 1982 Ford Bronco with the original Variable Venture carburetor still on it. Ok, not a brain, but just as bad. It qualifies as a zombie for sure. Trying to find a suitable replacement these days is a challenge. Ten or twenty years ago this would have been no problem to find a carb. kit (if you dared) or the Holley conversion kit for it, but not today. This trend of bringing back the dead looks like it’s only going to turn into the next zombie apocalypses. As these electronic systems get more and more complex the likely hood of your family truckster turning into a zombie is just a matter of time as each new model comes out. In some ways, I believe the manufacturers have thought this out long before there was a potential of these cars becoming zombies. In my youth it was nothing for me and a few friends to grab an old car out of a junk yard and raise it from the dead. Ya just had to throw a few shots of gas down the carburetor, add a few wires and a fresh battery and fire it up. The rust would fly, the engine would clatter, the smoke would billow out from under the hood, as the exhaust roared out of every crack in the manifold. Those days are long gone now. They may have engineered a longer lasting engine, better paint, and for the part, the interior can hold up to the ravages of time, however, the electronics, are their weakness. Although, these zombie mobiles seem to be coming out of hiding more often than ever before. Reviving some of these early electronic zombies may happen, but on the other hand, it may be a futile effort. The truth of the matter is… these resurrections are not as easy to do as it was so many years ago. There are countless problems that have to be overcome to bring some of these rusted heaps back among the living, especially if you’re in an area that requires emission testing. Just trying to bypass some of those early electronic brains when a replacement part can’t be found can be a real challenge. The good news is that there are a lot of guys out there tearing these brains apart and rebuilding them. But even then, there are some zombie cars that will never make it and eventually die from the lack of a brain, while others wander aimlessly from shop to shop still searching for their elusive electronic gray matter. Even after you manage to find a brain for these living dead vehicles it’s likely something else is going to go wrong. After all, being cast aside for so long, all the hoses, belts, and gaskets have dried up. Something will more likely fall off just like you would expect from any other zombie wandering around. And, you know, just as soon as the latest zombie joins the living something will undoubtedly come tumbling to the shop floor. Whether it’s coolant, oil, a belt, or perhaps no#2 connecting rod, something is not going to stay in place. Just like in every zombie movie I’ve ever watched,.one of them will always have an arm or leg falling off. It sure seems that these zombie cars follow right along with that same affliction. It’s safe to say, these relics of the early electronic era of the automotive world are in some respects the car equivalent of a zombie: half dead, half alive…and in search of a brain they may never find. So don’t be surprised if you’re at the next traffic light when an old faded-rusty-dented car with a shattered windshield, screeching brakes, with plumes of dense low hanging smoke creeping along with it, don't be alarmed, it’s just another car beginning its transformation into a "ZOMBIE CAR".
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By Ron Ipach
Let me ask you a few questions about your year to this point…
Has 2018 been the killer breakout year that you hoped for? Are you still tired of not having enough quality car count in your shop every day? Are you wondering why you’re working so hard, yet not making the money you should be making? Is the endless ‘feast or famine’ of this business driving you nuts? Are you frustrated with running around your shop all day putting out fires – instead of getting any ‘real’ work done? Are you ready to get a proven plan handed to you on a silver platter that will help you attract an endless supply of customers, crank up your profits, and get your shop running in tip-top shape – while working fewer hours than you’ve ever worked before? If so, you’ll want to do everything humanly possible to clear your schedule and join us at the upcoming High Performance Workshop (August 18th & 19th)
- UPDATE: EVENT HAS PASSED. CLICK HERE TO WATCH AN EXCLUSIVE SALES TRAINING
You’ll be exposed to the TRUTH about what it takes to be successful in today’s environment from an actual million dollar shop owner.
This workshop is a 2-Day LIVE intensive training where we take you by the hand and walk you through every step of what it takes to run a KICK-BUTT, smooth running, and HIGHLY PROFITABLE repair shop!
Click here to learn more and register today!