Our shop got too big too fast. Need tips on how to run a very busy shop.

Feb. 8, 2010

Q: My shop got too big too quick. I am just a mechanic, and need tips or help on how to run a very busy shop.

A: Before you start deciding if you need a larger shop or more technicians to handle the existing workload you first need to make sure of a few things.

Are the staff, number of bays, hours of operation being utilized to full capacity and efficiently? Here is how I set up my last shop I managed, which was a very busy Paclease shop. We sold more hours and had a much lesser job return percentage in a nine-bay shop than our big sister Kenworth shop across the road which had 18 bays. Take a look how we did it and hope you can use it.

1.SET UP SHOP FOR EFFICIENCY. If you do both truck and trailer repairs have designated bays for each if space allows. Shop tools should be in a well marked designated area for quick easy access for the technicians. You should also have separate shop tool areas for trucks and for trailers. A technician can eat up a lot of valuable time running around the shop looking for tools.

2. For each shift I had 1 shop foreman running the floor and two working lead hands who were available to answer your technician's questions and quickly get him/her back to work if the foreman was busy with a customer or another tech and could not help. A technician standing around needing direction can also eat up a lot of time. The shop foreman was trained to perform my job and the lead hands were trained to perform the shop foreman's job. If I was away or the foreman then these trained staff just moved up a position so operations continue to run smoothly if someone was away or busy. Tell ya...was real nice coming back to a clean desk from holidays.

3. The shop work order stayed with the shop foreman and he was the only one authorized to have any technicians punched into it. Shop work orders can really run wild and cost a lot of wasted hours that should actually have been charged to a job.

4.When a technician has completed a job he handed off the work order to the shop foreman and started cleaning and putting away his tools, cleaning the bay of cores and garbage but, never touched a broom. The shop foreman inspected the job to ensure it was completed to company standards and that ALL parts related to the job were on the work order to be billed out. You ever here the saying "you can ask 10 technicians to do the same job and when each completed...may be done so 10 different ways."

This is very evident when troubleshooting tasks are performed. A technician is utilized for his/her skills. The level of standard and job procedures should be set by the company so that no surprises arise. If the above is followed less free parts go out the door, less completed jobs come back and less hours spent cleaning dirty tools and the bays being put on the shop work order. These hours should be billed to the job. Notice I said "less"? Human beings will make mistakes. If policies and procedures are put in place to  minimize mistakes, your pulling less hair out and utilizing your shop better.

5. The shop foreman then signed off on the work order meaning he was happy with everything he saw on the job. He then went and punched the technician out of the completed job and into his next job. By then the technician's tools were ready to go again, cores, etc were put where they belong and he   is now ready for his next job and receives the new work order. It happens so often where the tech brings the finished job outside still punched into that job and the next truck won't start to bring into the shop. At this point the tech should have been punched into the work order for the no start truck as the customer should pay to get his truck started to bring into the shop for repair.

While the bay is empty waiting for the next job my "shop kid" swept out the floor and emptied garbage.

6. Your goal is to have every hour for each bay billed out during the hours you are open for business. Dead jobs waiting for parts, etc for more than a  couple of hours or more should be moved outside if possible and you can measure this one. The bay is for selling hours and parts and not for storage. I ran day shift and an afternoon shift and had a 15 minute overlap between the 2 shifts so the day tech can explain things to the afternnon tech who was taking over his job. I found anyone working past 11:00 pm became none efficient especially when outside parts required at these times were hard to get.

7. A lot of my customers were repetitious "fleet" customers so I also had 5 mobile service cube vans fully equipped working right in the customer's yards working two shifts also. I just added another 10 bays to my shop without moving to a bigger building. The service trucks also sent a lot of bigger jobs to the shop...great sales tool.

I hope the above information was some help for you and I am very happy to hear you are very busy during these tough times George.

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