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Automotive Shop Management Software


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I'm new to the group and am also a new non-mechanic shop owner, although my partner has about 25 years as an import tech.

 

We put about $100k into our shop, which is no small amount. However, it's actually about $50k short of where we should be. One of the things we have not been able to acquire is shop management software like Mitchell's or RO Writer. I think it's very important . But how badly are we hurt by not having it on the front end?

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Look up a company called Dealertrax, they have some really nice affordable stuff for start up and can upgrade later on as you desire. It's what we started off with out here, and I have used the full tilt package at another shop I worked at. It's a great bang for the buck, and you own it.

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  • 4 months later...

I am currently using a really old system called Service Expert EZ that CCI/Triad put out about 12 years ago. I love the program. It doesn't have all the bells & whistles of others but they is exactly what I like about it. It is simple to use & does everything that I need. BUT, it only runs on Window 98. So at the moment I am running a virtual pc on 98 on an XP computer, but would like to get a new computer in the near future. So I have been looking into different management softwares, like Mitchell & Activant service writer. Service writer worked other than I could not go back into the invoices to see information like profit, vendor, etc. Mitchell had too much involved just do a simple invoice. I looked on the RO writer website, but I didn't see any demo information other than having a saleman coming in to show it. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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Rob,

 

We started our shop about 2.5 years ago, and had an even lower front-end budget. We pinched every penny we could on the front end and kept our debt very low. One of the ways we did this is by using Quickbooks Premier as our operating system. It has good inventory controls and is very easy to massage into automotive use. Cost was less than $300 for 1 license on Amazon and no other fees. Since we use Intuit for payroll, we have to update the software every 3 years. If I can help or answer any questions, let me know

 

I would encourage you to keep you debt low and buy what you have to have on the front end and add to it from a "wish-list" as you grow. Slow and steady wins the race. We were profitable after 5 months and continue to grow at a steady rate. Take good care of your customers. They are the best for of advertising available and the cost is low!

 

By the way, we could use some good Memphis BBQ!

 

Kelly Wilson

Kelly & Stan's Automotive

770-992-7184

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  • 6 months later...

Great discussion here !

 

with all the feedbacks from the beginning of this thread, i thought i'd be able to make an easy choice, but none of them are avalaible in french (i'd rather pick a a software discussed here, but i don't want to get into trouble with local laws, nor with picky customers).

 

so i'll have to analyse locally developped french software, but they're all on a monthly fee basis, i prefer to buy once.

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  • 7 months later...
  • 9 months later...

I would definitely suggest using a shop management system (SMS) on the front end. It’s probably the only tool in your shop that can’t be replaced, should something happen, such as a fire, which I have personal experience with. Long story short, a partner of mine owns a 17 location auto repair chain, and the main location that housed all data records for the entire franchise suffered a fire and lost everything. Within 2 hours all customer and shop data was retrieved and re-implemented. It was the defining reason as to why they’re still in business today.

 

If you lost your shop, for whatever reason, you'll still have all your customer, vehicle, service details, financial records, etc. backed-up in a safe location, which you can use to rebuild.

 

Besides that, the main purpose of an SMS is increased efficiency. Without a way to easily store all customer & vehicle data, financial reports, canned job details, and so on, your own efforts are permanently slowed down, as you’ll need to work harder to achieve what an SMS can do instantly.

 

Furthermore, there are many aftermarket software tools that can enhance your SMS greatly. From advanced lube sticker functionality, service reminders, appointment scheduling, on to wireless digital multi-point devices, and so on, the advantages are immense.

 

As for which SMS tools to go with, I’d suggest either Mitchell 1, ALLDATA, R.O. Writer, or Napa Tracs. These are the leaders in SMS and are the main systems in which aftermarket software solutions integrate with.

 

Hope this helps.

Edited by mikerisich
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Yes I currently use TABS AutoBiz, do you have any specific questions?

I didn't really have any specific questions, I just wanted a first hand impression of the software.

Also, how is the reporting on Autobiz? Can you compare the reports to the reports of any other software? Like quantity and quality of them, I mean. Is there any graphing options?

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I love it! I own the program and don't make monthly payments. I can't think of any reports that utilize graphs but I have never attempted to look. I'll check on Monday for you. I like how they have add-on modules. I don't sell a lot of tires but they do have a tire module for shops who are high volume tire dealers. Scheduler works well, my oil change sticker printer is integrated in to the program and prints a sticker based of the mileage in the work order. Labor guides integrated, parts ordering. Electronic inspection sheets are AWESOME. I can save every inspection sheet to the invoice and can use it to look at previous inspection sheets quickly and easily. Recommend services for each vehicle are saved for the future. They aren't a huge company and take suggestions and utilize them.

 

Ask for a demo and see if it works for you.

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Wow it sounds great, just like most of the other reviews I've read. From all my research, Autobiz is probably has the most and best features for any of the low-mid priced, non-leased software suites.

The scheduler working well is a huge plus, I've heard that a lot of the schedulers out there don't really work all that great.

How are the electronic inspections done? Does the tech have to do it on a computer, or can they use a tablet/smartphone? I agree that electronic inspections are VERY important.

Edited by bstewart
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If you would like a program to try for free check out smotgo.com. It's my creation, I use it to run our shop and have made it available to any shop that wants to use it. It does lack some of the features of the larger commercial packages, but it also has some powerful features that they do not. It is web based so you can access it anywhere you have an internet connection. There is no software to install and you can use it on as many devices as you want. You can email your vendors and customers right from the site. It might not serve all your needs, but it might at least be enough to get you up and running until you find something that does. You can find out more about it at smotgoinfo.com or let me know if you have any questions at [email protected]

 

Scott

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Prices start at $1440, which includes installation, and unlimited training and support 6 months , as we take you by the hand and show you the most effective ways to use the system to grow your business. Support is optional, and starts at $25 a month.

 

 

Xrac, did you try TABS autobiz software yet? if so how are you liking it and what do you see as the pro's and con's.

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We currently are using Mitchell 1 but we are looking at a few different softwares. The one that we are demoing now is called Shop Boss Pro. So far it seems like a smooth system. Does anyone have any experience with it?

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have Tabs, I have never used any other software and it does the job, However I have found some major bugs in the system with sales tax and a few other things that they have fixed. I wish I had shopped around a little more, The employee time clock leaves alot to be desired. You can clock out for the day but forget to clock out on a job then it stays clocked in all night and is all but impossible to edit. For the money it definatly gets the job done, but i get the feeling thier might be something better?

 

Travis

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  • 3 months later...

Let me tell you what's hard. Switching from one management system to another. They all say they will convert your data, but don't believe it. Do your homework (like studying this forum) and don't go cheap. We went through two "economy" systems before we went to ROWriter. Their progressive parts and labor matrices put a fine edge on our margins (51% GP last week) that help pay the premium price of the program. I'm sure other programs do this too. Transitioning from one program to another is PAINFUL, so be careful with your decision process.

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Let me tell you what's hard. Switching from one management system to another. They all say they will convert your data, but don't believe it. Do your homework (like studying this forum) and don't go cheap. We went through two "economy" systems before we went to ROWriter. Their progressive parts and labor matrices put a fine edge on our margins (51% GP last week) that help pay the premium price of the program. I'm sure other programs do this too. Transitioning from one program to another is PAINFUL, so be careful with your decision process.

What were the two economy systems?

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  • 2 weeks later...
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  • 4 months later...

New guy here.... Just happen to read this. I'm a small one man shop! So I do all of it from start to finish. LOL I couldn't afford (at the time) Alldata nor nothing like that. I did some recon on what would work best for me and help me get going. I use Automotive Expert and been real happy with it. I know it may not be the best thing going but it helped me with my needs and wants for the time being. Not sure if it meets your wants and needs but it did for me! Good luck!!!

 

http://www.laborguide.net/automotiveexpert.html

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I've used RO Writer for about 10 years and it is a great investment. I see the original cost as inexpensive but I compare it the to cost of management systems for my collision repair facility which cost twice as much and are not nearly as robust as the Repair Shop Software. We are integrated with NAPA, O'Reilly, Worldpak, AC Delco, Carroll Tire, and Alldata Online. We also use The Back Office to push information over to Quickbooks for accounting purposes. We are currently using Demand Force and Auto Vitals in addition to the SMS. I don't think there is one SMS that will do everything you want and feel that even ROwriter is a little behind in some features. We have the new RO Touch for RO writer but I see very little value in it.

If I remember correctly RO writer was about $7K with the modules we purchased and the monthly maintenance contract is $177 which includes the Epicor E-Cat Parts updates. Support has always been very good from them. Most of the add on modules are about $500-800. The back office yearly fee is $229 and is a great value. I would not want to run a shop without a system as they are time savers as well as invaluable when it comes to job costing and electronic parts ordering.

 

Personally I would spend the money for a system that can grow with you. It is expensive and very time consuming to switch systems so do your homework. I have switched systems in my body shop 4 times. The first one I wrote and then it got to the point we were so busy I had to decide if I wanted to develop software or run my shop. I had too much invested in the shop to do anything else so I purchased another system and then wrote some custom stuff to sit on top of it. One time we ran two side by side for 60 days to get a feel for it and figured out we didn't want to use it. It was very time consuming but it was better to find out like that than go full bore only to figure out we hated it later.

 

A good management system will streamline, enhance and add value to what you do.

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I m using AutoRepair Cloud. Actually, I am a small shop owner with only 3 mechanics and it's good for me. What i like most is that it is web based, i don't need to install anything on my computer or to buy any additional staff and my shop can be found in nationwide ecat. It has integration with Quickbooks to run accounting. Also, there is a mobile application for customers via I can chat with my customers, send them photos, update repair progress, etc.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Has anyone used TABS in the last few months. I have gone through their demo. Not too happy with their time clock feature, but wondering how that compares to more expensive RO Writer? I am a 3 technician shop.

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I'm pretty sure Napa tracs is Mitchell manager. I use Mitchell, its an easy system for anyone to learn. Its not the best at everything but it makes invoices like a champ,

 

Napa tracs is its own thing in no way tied to mitchell. We had mitchell for years and tried Napa tracs and dumped it during the training. Napa tracs is very detailed and not easy to move around quickly. Also, most importantly Napa tracks does NOT care nor allow any other parts ordering in their program other than their own. So, you use Advance, you cannot have it in tracs, like Carquest, cant use it in tracs.

 

hope this helps.

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We use Mitchell with the Bolt-on technology pro pac. We have been using Mitchell for 4 years and Bolt-on pro pac for 6 months. I can't say enough good things about them or the customer support both of them provide.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

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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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