Time is money.
We’ve all heard that saying. It’s true in most industries, but particularly in the commercial repair world. That’s why the Fullbay crew is so fascinated (some might say obsessed) with efficiency. We define efficiency as the number of hours a tech works compared to the number of hours a shop bills out. Overall, you want to bill out as many or more hours than your techs are working—that’s how you turn a profit.
But how can you help your techs be more efficient?
We set out to answer that question. Yes, using Fullbay can help you run a tighter, more efficient shop—but we want to help all repair shops maximize their efficiency, even if they aren’t powered by our app. So we’ve put together these steps.
They consist of physical actions you can take, tools you can invest in, and strategies you can use with your employees. You can try them one at a time, test out a few here and there, or go wild and put them all to work at once.
10 steps to 100% efficiency
1. Keep your shop clean & organized
This should go without saying, but…well…we have to say it anyway. Providing a clean, organized workspace for your techs is the absolute baseline for a good working environment. “Mop and sweep at least weekly,” if not daily, advises Chris O’Brien, COO of Fullbay and former Enterprise Project Manager for Shamrock Foods (which means he oversaw all transportation departments and warehouse inventory control!).
2. Give your techs what they need
On top of general tidiness, making sure your shop’s tools are where they should be is equally important. The more your techs are running around searching for this tool or that jack, the less time they’re spending in the bay doing, you know, actual work.
Let’s clarify: “You lose about 15-25 minutes of billable time each time a tech leaves the bay,” says Jacob Findlay, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Fullbay. We want to stress that this isn’t about bathroom or coffee breaks. This is about your tech needing a part or a tool and going to find it…and then getting waylaid helping the service manager with something, or digging through a bin at the back of the parts room.
The solution to this will depend on what kind of capital you can spend. Chris likes to see shops invest in the tools their technicians will need to use, rather than requiring techs to bring their own. Keep these tools in or within easy access of the bay that will use them. The same story goes for parts; get the parts you’ll need to the bay before a repair starts, or have someone like a parts runner or parts manager bring those parts to the techs.
However you end up rolling with it, it’s best if techs don’t have to go digging around in the back room.
3. Embrace flexibility.
Yes, compensation and fair wages are important, but start looking at what else the techs of today value, like time. The current tech shortage means it’s something of an employee’s market right now, so it’s more important than ever to provide a good working environment—and in many industries, a growing part of that kind of environment is shift flexibility.
Yes, this is a harder ask for a small operation. And you may not be able to implement it to everyone’s satisfaction. But a willingness to schedule shifts around preferred working hours or family/personal needs is part of creating a motivated workforce.
People who are motivated to work tend to be more efficient. Just sayin’.
4. Dedicate bays to certain types of repairs.
Again, this may be an easier ask for larger shops that have more space. We discussed triage bays a while back, but if you have enough bays and enough work to merit it, consider using one bay for brakes, another for inspections, and so on. If you’ve got a truck rolling in that needs a DOT, you know exactly where to put that truck.
5. Turn to checklists for diagnostics.
A lot goes into diagnosing big vehicles these days. Your techs are no doubt brilliant at their jobs, but it’s hard to keep track of every single step in these big, complex machines.
So have them use checklists when performing diagnostics. Your techs can make sure they hit everything (and they’ll have proof of it, because they checked off each step), and you’ll be sending a far safer vehicle out onto the road.
Yes, you can use Fullbay for this. (Oooh! Shameless plug!)
6. Keep your techs working.
There’s nothing quite like strolling into work, eager to get started…only to stand around waiting for an assignment. That’s the reality in too many repair shops. We’ll plug Fullbay here again, because our software makes it easy to assign jobs to techs—you can even assign jobs before their shifts start!
7. Align owner interests with tech interests.
A motivated, involved employee is going to work harder and be more efficient because they feel like they’re part of something. So level with your techs: tell them how things are going, if the shop is hitting its goals, or if numbers are starting to slip.
When you’re all on the same page, you all have something to pull towards. You’re all contributing. That can lead to a palpable subconscious shift in how everyone approaches their work.
8. Turn to labor guides.
If you’re losing time putting together rough estimates (only to upset a customer when something turns out to be more expensive than you thought), then it may be time to look at a labor guide. Not only does a labor guide (like MOTOR’s, for example) take the emotion out of putting together estimates and invoices, it’s also just a solid, industry-backed guideline for how long a repair should take and what you should charge for it.
9. Track your customers’ PMs.
Every tech in your shop has a finite amount of time.
How? There’s two reasons. The first is that PM work allows you to schedule out multiple jobs, or at least have a full day of work scheduled—so your techs aren’t standing around waiting for a breakdown.
The second reason is that every part on a truck fails at some point. By replacing parts on a schedule, you’re keeping the vehicle in good operating condition. Well-maintained vehicles generally take less time to stay maintained—and on top of that, you’re preventing a catastrophic failure or ultra-expensive, time-consuming repair down the line.
10 . Get pickier about your customers.
This won’t be possible for everyone, but if it’s worth a look. If any truck can roll into your shop, that creates a pretty wide variety of parts you need to keep on hand or be able to source (yikes—during a shortage, no less).
Let’s tie this into the prior step. If you are tracking PMs for a certain set of customers, you have more control: you know the equipment they use (that you work on!) and you can predict types of work you’ll do, the parts you’ll need, and so on. That makes you way more efficient.
“The higher-quality customer you can get,” Jacob concludes, “the better.”
Remember, efficiency is a work in progress!
We’ll leave you with some food for thought: while 100% efficiency is awesome to shoot for, it may only be the beginning.
Yes, folks, the Fullbay crew sees 100% efficiency as a good baseline. Wild, right? Some of our customers have seen more than 100% efficiency—wowza. Now that’s a profitable shop!
So, give these tactics and tools a try and let us know how it goes. As always, we’re rooting for you!