Not so long ago, service information used to be something that technicians usually referred to when they needed a reference for specifications. You know, the usual torque specifications, tightening sequence or exploded diagram that were normally looked up with a job already under way. Then, technology began to grow. Next, it exploded when computer controls took on every facet of vehicle operation. Before you knew it, few things in the service bay seemed familiar anymore due to all the changes.
This explosion triggered a tsunami in information publishing, and things have never been the same. At one point, knowledgeable techs prided themselves on how much they knew, just in case they needed it. Well, the just-in-case era is over. There is simply too much technical information for anyone to remember.
Welcome to a new era, the just-in-time era: In this new era, techs use a different methodology when using information. Nowadays, they take a proactive role and use service information before a job even begins. It seems like it should have always been this way. When you consider that roughly half of a technician’s time is spent searching for information, there simply had to be a better way.
In this issue’s Tool Q&A column, we’ll address some of the questions related to service information. There’ve been a lot of changes and there are a lot more on the way.
Q: Overall, what should I consider when shopping for a service information system?
A: The first thing to consider is whether a given system provides all necessary information for the range of vehicles that you service. Another thing to consider is the origin and structure of the information. In other words, is the information straight from an OE manufacturer, or has it undergone editing by, or actually originated from, technical editors to ensure the information is more real-world?
It’s also worthy to consider whether the system you’re considering integrates with your shop management system so information can be shared between systems. This is helpful for passing customer profiles and repair information between various shop systems. Finally, make sure the system is scalable to your needs, meaning that it can grow with your business as it expands.
Q: We’d like to access electronic service information with devices other than desktop computers,including tablets and smartphones. Is there anything on tap for these devices?
A: Yes, some systems can already be accessed with these types of devices and more are on the way. Mobile devices are evolving quickly and you can rest assured that companies will offer service information “apps” and sites formatted with mobile-friendly designs.
Q: How does a “hotline-based” information system differ from standard information systems?
A: Hotline-based information systems use a pool of technical experts to contribute service information that goes above and beyond OE-based publications. These information systems include relevant and valuable real-world information that may prove critical long before a manufacturer gets around to publishing it. Plus, if you get in a technical jam, you simply can’t beat the help provided by the experts there who can save your day. Bottom line: hotline-based systems focus on improving your shop’s productivity.
Q: Since it seems like everything’s headed towards a digital world, does this mean printed manuals will no longer be offered?
A: No way. Hard copy service manuals have been the mainstay of service information sources since the dawn of the automotive era. Although electronic forms of service information continue to grow, printed sources still remain popular because of their low-tech simplicity. And, since some shops don’t need access to information for all makes and models, printed manuals aren’t going to go away overnight.
Founded in 1947, the Equipment and Tool Institute is a trade association of automotive tool and equipment manufacturers and technical information providers. ETI’s mission is to advance the vehicle...