AIA Canada reported that in 2015, the average billed time per technician in the independent automotive sector was 4.4 hours of an eight hour day.
This means we’re only selling 55 percent of the time we have available to us. Where does the rest of the time go? Many shop owners and technicians are confused by this number. Because they’re working hard all day and feel busy, they assume they’re doing well.
They also wonder why they work so hard and don’t have much to show for it. Well, we don’t have to wonder any more. After 12 years of training and coaching automotive shops, I have accumulated data about where all the rest of the time goes.
If we’re billing for 4.4 hours, that means we’re missing 3.6 hours. But if we were to follow best industry practices, we’re missing 4.6 hours! The industry benchmark for productivity is 90 percent, meaning we need technicians working on vehicles 7.2 hours of an 8-hour day. The remaining 0.8 is used for coffee, bathroom and smoke breaks. The benchmark for efficiency is 125 percent, meaning we need to bill for nine hours in that 7.2 hours of physical work.
Where are these 4.6 hours going? Roughly 1.2 hours are lost by not billing properly for the work we do. This comes from using the labour guides without adjusting for rust, age and vehicle condition. Technicians are all about solving problems and fixing cars. They won’t let a broken bolt or stripped nut get in their way. They’ll keep on going till the problem is fixed.
The trouble is all that time was not billed. Also, there are a lot of shop owners who are very fast technicians, and when they see one of their employees take a little longer on a job, they cut it back. They don’t know that the right price is for average, not for fast. We should keep the gains of speed and knowledge.
One hour is lost communicating about the repair process. A technician brings his or her findings and verbally tells the service advisor. If the advisor was distracted by a phone call, it means going back to the shop for clarification. It goes back and forth all day—what jobs were sold, when parts are arriving, it was the wrong part.
More time lost
One hour is lost waiting for the advisor or waiting for parts. This is usually caused by not having enough advisor staff. The average shop has one advisor for every three technicians. The proper ratio is one advisor for every two technicians. It’s not that the advisors are bad at what they do—they just can’t keep up.
The remaining 1.4 hours are lost by not charging properly for diagnosis and not advising customers of the need for maintenance and performing it. It’s very common when a technician sees a leak of some sort, spends time finding out what it is, but without authorization from the advisor or customer. I know technicians are curious and great problem solvers. But we need to channel that strength and get paid for it.
We can begin to take advantage of these opportunities in small steps. Even if you improved by 10 percent in each area, that’s 0.75 more sold hours per technician per day.