Service information resources offer more data, faster

The right information system can be the key to unlocking profitability and success in your shop


Printed information also gives you a wide range of flexibility, because you can buy only what you need without worrying about the overhead of a computer-based system; the only tool needed is a set of reading glasses. You can buy just the information that fits the specific services you perform or you can build a virtual library to cover all the bases. Although service manuals are the main products of the printed world, hard copy information also comes in the way of technical service bulletins, labor estimating guides, wiring diagrams, and system-specific training guides.

Q: OK, so we’ve nailed our choices down to three different service information systems. Other than demonstrated features, what’s the best way to pit one against the other to see which we like best?

A: Perhaps the best way to orchestrate such a showdown is to get your techs together and run a series of information searches that are relevant to the real scenarios you face daily. If you need to, do it after hours to make sure everyone has a say in the selection. Buy pizza for your group; it’ll make it fun and more productive.

Another way to gain more insight is to pull some sample repair orders and use the scenarios on them to see how the different systems stack up against one another. Remember, too, that if you run a shop that caters to clientele with a broad mix of vehicles, make sure that you consider some of the more exotic makes in your sample scenarios.

 

Q: One of the service information system providers I spoke with mentioned something about iSHOP integration and certification. What’s it all about?

A: iSHOP is a set of computer interface standards that allow vehicle service equipment, management software and information servers to communicate seamlessly in the shop environment. iSHOP enables shop equipment from a variety of makers to share information about the customer, the vehicle and the service work performed – all without re-entering information multiple times or moving from one computer to another. With iSHOP, technicians are more productive and remain focused on the service of the vehicle because the information required is available at their fingertips.

 

Q: We already have a service information system, but are wondering if you could direct us to other Internet-based information resources that may be helpful?

A: There are several sites you should be aware of. The International Automotive Technicians Network (www.iatn.net) is the largest network of automotive repair professionals in the world: a group of 75,483 automotive professionals from 158 countries. The members of this group exchange technical knowledge with their peers around the globe, sharing 1.7 million years of experience. iATN has been proudly serving the automotive service and repair industry and the needs of professional automotive mechanics around the world for over 15 years.

Another great resource is the U.S. EPA’s Motor Vehicle Air Conditioning site (www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/609/index.html), which features information on alternative refrigerants, regulations and impending changes to Section 609 certification programs.

Also take the time to check out the site of the Equipment and Tool Institute (ETI) at www.etools.org. On the site you will find information about state emissions testing and other resources useful as a technician.

Finally, visit the site of the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) at www.nastf.org. The National Automotive Service Task Force is a not-for-profit, no-dues task force established to facilitate the identification and correction of gaps in the availability and accessibility of automotive service information, service training, diagnostic tools and equipment, and communications for the benefit of automotive service professionals. NASTF is a voluntary, cooperative effort among the automotive service industry, the equipment and tool industry, and automotive manufacturers.

 

Q: What about updates for electronic service information systems?

A: This is one area where these types of systems shine. In the old CD-based days, systems relied on update CDs with new content to update your technical library. The “freshness” of that technical library was only as good as your last update CD.

Today, with the almost universal adoption of the Internet, all that has changed. The Internet enables information publishers to put out updates on a continuous basis, by updating web content. The main thing is that the information is the latest available when you go to access it. So, as long as you subscribe to the updates by a given provider, you can be assured you have the latest information the next time you log on.

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