May 05, 2022

Parts, Techs, and Tools: The State of Heavy-Duty Repair Webinar Recap

Parts, Techs, and Tools: The State of Heavy-Duty Repair Webinar Recap

Hey there, friends! Have you read the 2022 edition of the State of Heavy-Duty Repair yet? If not, you might want to snag your free download and look it over, because our latest webinar is all about the data we discovered.

Okay, maybe not all the data. Fullbay Co-Founder & Executive Chairman Jacob Findlay and Fullbay COO Chris O’Brien sat down to chat about three specific parts of the report that have proved very, very interesting to…well, a lot of people in the industry:

  • How commercial repair shops and the diesel industry are faring as a whole
  • Inventory management during the parts shortage
  • Hiring and managing techs through the tech shortage

Throughout the webinar, the guys discuss some of the interesting data points the report uncovered, as well as provided some additional interpretation and context. Again, if you haven’t picked up the report yet, grab it now! Then watch the webinar replay to learn even more.

The commercial repair world in 2021

So, how did diesel repair shops do in 2021? Did they meet their revenue goals?

(If you don’t have a revenue plan, Jacob asks that you check out our free spreadsheet to help you create one! It’s easy, helpful, and ultimately can help you boost your revenue.)

  • 38% of the webinar attendees said it was an excellent year
  • 36% said it was a good year
  • 27% they were under revenue by a little bit

This tracks with what the report revealed about revenue trends; 2021 showed a year-over-year total revenue growth of 18.47% over 2020.

The entire segment is very interesting, but let’s talk a little about charging for DOTs and diagnostics vs. not charging for them. We firmly believe it’s a service you should charge for. But not everyone is.

The data tells us that 22.4% of shops charge $0-$50 for a DOT inspection, while 21.7% charge $0 for diag. Is that just money out the door? Maybe, maybe not; Chris suggests shops may be using free or cheap inspections as loss leaders—they’re meant to produce work for shops.

But Don Doty said it once and we’ll say it again: Performing DOTs should not be a courtesy item!

Parts is parts

The parts shortage is impacting everyone differently. Your usual vendor might have 50 of a part one day, then be completely cleaned out for months within 24 hours. “I need something basic, like a set of lifters,” Chris says. “You can get a cam, but you can’t get the lifters.”

So, we already have a parts shortage. Add to that some older vehicles staying on the road (and perhaps needing more extensive repairs) due to manufacturing slowdowns and you have another potential drain on older, perhaps harder to source parts.

The discussion naturally turned to keeping parts in stock. “Do we have to stock up on all parts and explode our inventory?” wonders Jacob, referencing the knee-jerk reaction of some shops to buy as much as they can when given the opportunity—just in case. But that’s not really a sustainable practice for most shops. “If we do that, I have all this cash on the shelves…and we know inventory is very much a depreciating asset.”

That’s right, folks. The stuff you keep on your shelves just in case, by and large, depreciates an average of 20% per year.

(Do you hear that? Is that soft weeping from the corner?)

No need for tears! Jacob and Chris discussed some solutions and workarounds, including the importance of healthy relationships with your vendors. They also hit on subjects like:

  • Knowing your customer (a plug for steady PM work!): If you can’t predict what trucks will be in your bay, you can’t predict what parts you’ll need.
  • Who you can ask/trust to do inventory counts if you don’t have the techs to spare.
  • Trends we see in parts markups and margins.
  • The plight of the good parts guy, and how that person can almost never take a vacation (until Fullbay came along).

The technician situation

At last the webinar shifted to everyone’s favorite topic: technicians, and how freakin’ hard it is to find them.

First, the guys ran a poll: Was it easier or harder to hire techs in 2021?

Here is how attendees responded:

  • 4% found it much easier to hire in ’21 than in ’20 (“We should probably just turn the time over to them,” Jacob quips).
  • 36% found it “about the same.”
  • 60% found it much harder.

We’ve written a lot about the tech shortage, and not surprisingly, the report followed up on how shops have done with their hiring efforts.

We have seen shops continue to team up with operations like American Diesel Training Centers and Find A Wrench to get new techs in the doors. “They do good work, and you gotta be proactive,” Chris says. “But sometimes, the people just aren’t available in your market or region.”

Next in the conversational docket was making sure the techs shops did hire were as efficient as they could be. Here’s an interesting stat we picked up from the SOHDR: Some 17% of survey respondents said their techs were inactive for 11+ hours per week. We’re not describing techs who are shirking their work, by the way; they may be waiting for parts, waiting to be assigned a job, waiting for authorization, and so on.

Man…that is just money draining away.

(Wondering how much more your shop would earn if your techs weren’t waiting for jobs? Fullbay has yet another free tool for you to input your shop stats and see what kind of difference you’d see if you could utilize your techs one additional hour per week. No extra hiring needed—just one more hour of work instead of, say, idling. Try the tool out here!)

The webinar was ultimately fascinating, and we hope you’ll watch the whole thing here. You might also let us know what you think on social media, and tell us how 2022 is treating you so far. Until we meet again—keep on truckin’!

Suz Baldwin