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Tool Purchases: Who Should be Responsible?

Autosphere » Mechanical » Tool Purchases: Who Should be Responsible?
Devin Purcell is a Red Seal Automotive Technician with over 20 years of experience and a professor at Fanshawe College, London, Ont., in the School of Transportation Technology and Apprenticeship. You can reach him at [email protected] or find more of his opinions at hautoknowit.com. Photo Devin Purcell

Understanding the mechanics of buying tools

For most people, the purchase of a vehicle is the second biggest purchase (a house being the first) that they will make in their lifetime. For any technician who has been in the industry for long, we know that tools far outweigh the purchase of any car. Investing in tools is important as it directly affects our abilities as technicians to fix vehicles correctly and most importantly efficiently. 

When it comes to investment, some tools are worth significantly more than others. Take a scan tool for example—this single tool can cost over $10,000—and that isn’t even considering the price for annual subscription updates. The back-and-forth argument over who buys these types of tools has been raging for years—certainly long before I entered the trade and likely will for many years to come. 

Seeing the opportunity 

So, who is responsible for buying what tools? While we could argue about this for hours on end, shop owners really need to take a step back and see the opportunity that is sitting in front of them, employee retention. 

There are tools that all technicians and apprentices should still be buying. These standard tools like wrenches, prybars, hammers, etc. are what all technicians have purchased for years. I have not met a technician that would argue with the fact that these tools are their responsibility to purchase. 

However, when we shift to large or specialized tool purchases, that’s where the arguments begin. Some shop owners might argue that purchasing a scan tool is no different than purchasing a wrench, ask a technician and they would argue until they are blue in the face that a shop needs to own this tool to be able to offer diagnostic services. 

This is not a battle that I am looking to solve for the shop owner or the technician. So what opportunities are available?

This can be a perfect chance for a service manager or shop owner to show a technician that they appreciate them. If approached correctly it will also allow the technician to be more productive for your shop as well. 

New concept

Many are exploring this new concept of supplying tools—throughout the industry, many shops are supplying new apprentices with a brand-new toolbox and set of tools on their first day of employment. If the apprentice continues with the shop and becomes a certified technician, they will get to keep the tools and toolbox on their own. An excellent benefit for the apprentice but also an amazing retention bonus at the same time. 

While this type of benefit is great for new technicians coming into the industry, there are solutions that we can provide for existing technicians as well. Providing a tool allowance is a standard method of helping technicians with the cost of tools. On a monthly basis, the technician is provided with $50-$100 or needs to submit their tool receipts in order to get their tool allowance. While this is a great benefit, sometimes the value for the technician can be easily forgotten, even though they can sometimes receive over $1,000 per year. 

There are different ways of approaching this type of employment benefit that will assist in your shop’s productivity at the same time. Is there a tool, or a set of tools that technicians commonly need to service the vehicles that your shop commonly sees? For a tire shop, maybe this would be a TPMS tool that can service and reset all those dreaded low tire pressure lights. If your shop specializes in servicing Volkswagens, a good set of Snap-On triple square sockets might be in order. 

More effective

While this type of incentive is not as easy to administer as something as simple as a line on their paycheque, it can be more effective. Think back to Christmas, I am sure you loved opening presents and seeing what was inside. 

Imagine being able to hand out a package to your employees with a brand-new set of tools instead of them having to begrudgingly march out to the tool truck to make yet another purchase. 

Some will argue that when you buy a technician a large tool, the investment will walk out the door when they quit or retire. While this is often true, think about the increased productivity that you will experience by having a technician equipped with the tools that they need. 

Combine this with the feeling that they are appreciated, and you will have a team of technicians who are ready to outperform and repair anything that you might throw in front of them.

 

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