Shop Profile: Hartland Service

July 21, 2014

Mike Kusch has owned Hartland Service in Hartland, Wis., since 1992. He and his brother, Mark, who also works at the shop, both got started at their dad's shop in Milwaukee; that shop, Kusch's Auto, was started by their grandfather in the 1940s.

Recently, Mike began a late shift that runs to 10 p.m. four nights per week.

"It's our way of dealing with the economy, by exposing ourselves more hours to more people," Mike said. The later hours offer his techs more flexibility in hours (both flat-rate and hourly), and there's been a 20-percent increase in sales, he said. The later hours have been a tremedous benefit to his fleet customers, who can drop off vehicles after their work day is done and pick them up at the start of the next day with no downtime to their business.

Mike said that organization in every shop is a struggle, from acquiring tools and making space, to coming up with a plan that all the techs will adhere to in keeping the shop organized.

Improving efficiency at the shop starts at the parts counter where Mark dispatches jobs and maintains the parts department for the shop. "He has access to all the parts stores, does all the ordering online," Mike said. "We seldom make a phone call; it's just click-click-click-order, click-click-click-order."

"It's a big time savings and makes it faster to prepare the work orders and estimates," Mark said.

To save techs time in various fluid services, the shop has two fluid stations with a selection of faucets that provide coolant, oil, ATF, washer fluid and more, all pumped from an impressive pumping station between the shop and attached automatic car wash (which all customer vehicles go through before return). The room also features the reserve tanks of waste oil for the shop's waste oil heater, and reserve-osmosis filtered mineral-free water (initially for the car wash, but is also used for improved coolant flushing service, vs. tap water).

The shop is especially efficient at cleaning time, with the resident Factory Cat floor cleaning machine. The Zamboni-style cleaner also saves toolbox bottoms, as water and solvent don't get sprayed and splashed around work areas to scrub the floors. "It's been a lifesaver," Mike said.

The shop has three heavy-duty lift bays which are near the tire/wheel serivce area. The 12-bay shop also has a quick lube area for quicker turnaround jobs. Many of the specialty tools, like gear pullers and body shop tools, are in a storage room at the front of the shop. The always-important diagnostic tools are spread throughout the shop as tech laptops, as well as scan tools that are concentrated in a couple spots. Most important, perhaps, are the OE scan tools in the "crash cart."

Crash cart

Mike is, rightfully, proud of his crash cart that houses all the major brand OE-level scan tools (and a 5-gas analyzer). These aren't the only scan tools in the shop, but they are ready to go anywhere they're needed right away aboard their Blue Point tool cart. GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota and more are all included on this key piece of equipment.

"Scan tools are great," Mike said, but it's essential for him to have OE-level diagnostic equipment as well.

In addition, storage in the middle of the shop holds key diagnostic equipment from Bosch, Master Tech, Vetronix, Midtronics, Redline and more. Mike also keeps the Tire Industry Association TPMS Relearn Chart handy for resetting all TPMS codes. "It's 'The Bible,' " he emphasized. "The shop can't be without this."

Nearby to the tire/wheel service equipment is a lineup of fluid service machines for brake, A/C, coolant, transmission and other services.

A separate building houses the detailing operations, and a tubes and hoses division where they can fabricate tubes, hoses and pipe-bending for any application. Brake lines, exhaust, A/C lines and more are created in-house.

Next for Mike will be building a speed shop on-site, where he said his passion lies.

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