At Marc's Garage in Cambridge, Wis., the emphasis is on technician productivity from the shop's layout and flow to the actual shop environment being a comfortable place to work year-round. Owner Marc Davis built the shop in 2003 to his own design.
He started with an office area that streamlines communications to the techs and keeps Marc, as service advisor, on top of what's waiting, in and ready. The walls are adorned with pegs of hanging clipboards in easy, organized view.
"If you can’t visually see something it’s so easy for it to get forgotten," Marc said of the office layout. "I know for each guy what their work is that they’re supposed be doing and what their next ticket is."
In the shop area, he included central air conditioning for the humid Wisconsin summers and radiant floor heating, supplied from a Clean Burn waste-oil boiler, for the bitterly cold winters. While heat is a necessity in Wisconsin for winter, not all shops have central air in the bays. Marc said keeping his techs comfortable while working is essential to keep them focused on their work and not any personal discomfort.
"I just want to get the quality of work done right," because we all know what happens to a business that doesn't have quality work going out the door, he said.
Marc also set up the shop so that each tech has two lifts in his work area to reduce wait times. The bays are serviced mainly by one big door that allows space to get most vehicles around the shop and into any stall for work. As an added bonus to this setup, " in the winter time you can pull cars inside and ... the next morning and you have 10-20 cars that are all nice and clean and dry." Working on clean, warm cars first thing gets the shop off to a quick start after a snowy night.
Among the tools in the shop that keeps things running smooth is the floor scrubber, which is mainly a quality improvement for customer benefit. Marc hired some local teens to sweep and scrub the shop floors a few times each week, because "the cleaner you keep the floor, the less debris gets on the floorboard of your customers' cars," Marc said.
Parked near the scrubber is the shop golf cart, another of Marc's top tools for efficiency. On his shop's reduced traffic cul-de-sac, the parts store is a few doors down; they can just jump in the cart to go get parts quickly. It's also used to move dead vehicles within the shop and around the lot.
And next to the golf cart is the shop's Cuda parts washer. Marc said it's essential to saving time and energy when cleaning parts; his techs agreed and said that there's no better way to realize how crucial it is to their efficiency than to have it be unavailable for any length of time. "You can just take stuff and throw it in there, set the timer and walk away; when you go back, you’re good to go."
Marc figures, though, that the most important tools at his shop, both in the office and in the bays, are the computers. He supplies a computer station at each tech's toolbox where, first and foremost, they can always communicate with him directly in the office without having to "constantly leave the bay."
And, access to information is key, and the shop subscribes to "basically everything that’s available to us ... to make sure all the tools are at our disposal," Marc said, noting the daily help they get from Alldata, Mitchell 1, IdentiFix and iATN.