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What do want or need in shop management software?

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Hello everyone,


I'm a recent college grad, former Toyota technician, and current software developer. I'm working on a shop management platform for a few shops in my area, but want to build it so it is useful for many others. The shops I'm building it for have limited budgets, and are currently using accounting software like Quickbooks and/or just doing it on paper. They are all profitable, established businesses, yet still use old accounting/ repair order tracking and billing methods.


What features do you look for in software? I know there are many options available on the market, but it seems like many of them have too many features and look confusing to use.



Any insight would be hugely helpful!




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There are a lot of software packages available. Why reinvent the wheel?

Maybe he thinks he can improve it? I use Mitchell and there are times I really hate it... Bolt On Technology is a company that has done well for themselves making and selling improvements for Mitchell...

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I just do not see the opportunity for a new software program developed because someone is a programmer.  First there are hundreds of programs out there and some of them are very strong and those companies have deep pockets.  Second the shops who he is currently working with are put together on a shoe string and are mostly the ones still in the stone age (doing it all by hand or with Quick Books).  These are not the shops who are usually profitable and who are willing and able to spend money on software.  The shops who are willing to spend money are the ones who are profitable and those usually have been around a while.  They already have software packages in place.  It is a big undertaking for a shop to change.  They have to be very dissatisfied with what they have but they are also experienced enough to carefully evaluate new software.  To succeed a new software developer will have to develop a good product with some competitive edge, will have to put together a large marketing sales campaign, and will have to be able to do support and training.  This is more than one man can do and requires capital.  To be successful one will have to burn through a lot of money before you can make any money.


A huge issue for me would be that I want to be certain that I have a software provider who can give me support and who will be around.  There was a software package in a different industry that I use to use.  It was a good program that worked well for the purpose.  However, the guy who developed this program died unexpectedly and the widow just closed the company.  No support, no updates, and if you had a problem it was over.  I do not know about anyone else but I consider my customer list and repair history to be very valuable and I would not trust my stuff to a uncapitalized startup.  

Agreed. We're preparing to switch to the Motoshop SMS, quite worried about the hassles involved and the possibility of problems..


Sent from my SCH-I605 using Tapatalk 2



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He didn't ask anyone to sign up and hand over their customer database and history. He just asked what features we are looking for in management software. Geez, no need to go kill his dream right from the start...


Screw it Jake, give up now I guess. It can't be done! xrac said so! Save yourself the time and headache. Give up and just go to work for someone else, punching the clock... You're only one man anyway, how dare you dream!


Text messaging is a huge plus, a decent scheduling tool to schedule customers coming in, the ability to customize reports (end of month, new customers, recommended repairs, etc), customized and electronic multi point inspections, and the most important... customer support. When someone needs help, don't try the over the phone crap. Remote log-in and fix the problem now... not later, now!

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There are a lot of software packages available. Why reinvent the wheel?


Could not agree more, Frank. There are at over 20 different software packages available for this right now. Here's a list that I have compiled:





Auto Genius / Simply Genius






Easy RO




Master Repair

Motive Power









Shop Director




Take Charge

EDIT: Here's some more I forgot (I kept a list of the actually decent ones separate)

IGST: In Genius Shop Tools







AutoBiz Software

Edited by Anthem
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It seems no one has actually answered the question you asked. I think that is because the focus has shifted to the bigger question, why do you want to create an SMS. You wrote that the shops you want to build it for have limited budgets, so that would lead me to believe that you already have some idea that making money from a SMS is challenging.


I have been a shop owner for the last 25 years and my biggest hobby is computers, networking, software development (mostly database application), and web development. I launched a Web Based or SMS in early 2013 https://www.smotgo.com, so I may be able to answer some of your questions.


xrac and mmotley both have some pretty good points. But as I said it really gets back to why you want to do this. I'm going to assume that it is not for the money. So far I have spent about $20,000.00 mostly for marketing, and have no real expectation of profiting from it. Although I am in some talks now that may lead to some revenue.


If you just want to help these few shops into something more productive for their shops then QuickBooks, there probably is no need to reinvent the wheel as there are quite a few programs out there. Your time might be better used teaching them how to use a program. I think a lot of them are quite dated, and some pretty old technology. Most are still PC based with antiquated licensing methods and difficult installation and set up. I believe the main reason for this is that there is not much money in the SMS market so you will not see huge investments in it. The big companies like AllData, Mitchel, etc. want to sell you there info. The SMS portion is a giveaway and not a lot of resources are put into them as you can see by mmotley's comments.


There are some good reasons to reinvent the wheel. Things can always be improved, mine included. Fortunately others thought the wheel could be reinvented, otherwise we might still be riding around on wooden wheels with spokes.


My SMS is a Web App. There is no installation and no back ups to worry about. You can go to https://www.smotgo.com create an account and your first invoice in about 5 minutes. It can be accessed from any modern web browser with an internet connection. I've created and emailed invoices from the inside of a vehicle I was working on from my smart phone. I grab a laptop or tablet walk in the back, check my inventory then email my purchase orders before I leave the parts area. As I write this I am sitting on my front lawn with my new dog. I am looking at our schedule for the week and to see if any employees have scheduled time off for the week. In the mornings, I log in to see what is scheduled for the day. I can do this from my smart phone as well. My employees log in so they can see what is on the schedule. Some log in on their days off to see what kind of work we are doing that day. Each employee has a computer and can access the vehicle's history, the customer's info, as well as the inventory info.


I can send out email reminders from my smart phone as well as estimates, invoices, or links to the smotgoauto.com companion site where customers can go to see and approve estimates or view any file you have uploaded for their vehicle (dtc printout, images, tsb's, ect.) These are just some of the features off the top of my head that are not available in most SMS programs.


So, back to your original question. First, don't discount, but do limit the value of the feedback you get from shop owners. Shop owners, like most people, myself included, quite often think we want something till we get it. Then we realize it was not quite as we imagined and that new toy just sits on the shelf. The best ideas come from observation. Watch how a program is used and find ways to make it better, faster, and easier to use. I watch my service manager all the time. When I see something that frustrates him, I know that is where something can be done better.


Here is some advise I was given a little over a year ago by someone who had built an SMS. He told me that his experience showed him that most small shops just wanted to create an invoice as quickly as possible and that I should just throw away a lot of the features I had put in mine. While I don't totally agree with him, his assessment is pretty accurate and you touched on this in your last sentence. As far as all the advanced reporting, I have some fairly basic reporting with the plan to add reports as requested, and have not had any request for anything more advanced.


Most people are concerned about their data and they should be. There are certainly some advantages a large company can bring to the table. However, I think being able to move data in and out of a program should be a user's first concern. As we have found out, there is no too big to fail and no one likes it when their data is held hostage. Also, there is no company that can help you if your data is lost or corrupted for some reason.


Parts, labor, and part ordering integration is the weakest area of my SMS for a number of reasons, and is probably the most requested feature.


email me or post here if you have any more questions. [email protected]




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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Auto shop owners are always looking for ways to improve production levels. They focus their attention on their technicians and require certain expectations of performance in billable labor hours. While technicians must know what is expected of them, they have a limited amount of control over production levels. When all factors are considered, the only thing a well-trained technician has control over is his or her actual efficiency.
      As a review, technician efficiency is the amount of labor time it takes a technician to complete a job compared to the labor time being billed to the customer. Productivity is the time the technician is billing labor hours compared to the time the technician is physically at the shop. The reality is that a technician can be very efficient, but not productive if the technician has a lot of downtime waiting for parts, waiting too long between jobs, or poor workflow systems.
      But let’s go deeper into what affects production in the typical auto repair shop. As a business coach, one of the biggest reasons for low shop production is not charging the correct labor time. Labor for extensive jobs is often not being billed accurately. Rust, seized bolts, and wrong published labor times are just a few reasons for lost labor dollars.
      Another common problem is not understanding how to bill for jobs that require extensive diagnostic testing, and complicated procedures to arrive at the root cause for an onboard computer problem, electrical issue, or drivability issue. These jobs usually take time to analyze, using sophisticated tools, and by the shop’s top technician. Typically, these jobs are billed at a standard menu labor charge, instead of at a higher labor rate. This results in less billed labor hours than the actual labor time spent. The amount of lost labor hours here can cripple a shop’s overall profit.
      Many shop owners do a great job at calculating their labor rate but may not understand what their true effective labor is, which is their labor sales divided by the total labor hours sold. In many cases, I have seen a shop that has a shop labor rate of over $150.00 per hour, but the actual effective labor rate is around $100. Not good.
      Lastly, technician production can suffer when the service advisors are too busy or not motivated to build relationships with customers, which results in a low sales closing ratio. And let’s not forget that to be productive, a shop needs to have the right systems, the right tools and equipment, an extensive information system, and of course, great leadership.
      The bottom line is this; many factors need to be considered when looking to increase production levels. While it does start with the technician, it doesn’t end there. Consider all the factors above when looking for ways to improve your shop’s labor production.
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