We've all seen the average age of vehicles on the road go up over the last 9 years. In reality the age of vehicles has been climbing steadily since 1995. Service departments have never been more important for new and used car dealerships because of this. As a result, maximizing technician productivity and shop efficiency have become more critical to overall profitability than ever before. Whether planning a new facility or remodeling an existing one, there are four important steps you can take to maximize productivity and make a real impact on the bottom line.
1. Expert Facility Design -- Because service department design and layout will impact productivity and profitability for the life of the building, it is crucial that the architect/facility planner be selected with care. Look for someone who specializes in vehicle dealerships, particularly service departments. A facility planning company that regularly works with the OE manufacturers you represent will be more familiar with that manufacturer’s dealership appearance programs and equipment requirements, as well as future vehicles that may impact bay size and necessary lifting capacity.
2. Proper Equipment Selection -- The best equipment will enable your technicians to work comfortably and efficiently, while at the same time maximizing available space and ensuring smooth workflow. Most dealers today maximize the number of bays in new facilities by choosing inground lifts. Modern, environmentally friendly inground lifts can be installed in 11-foot-wide bays, while two-post surface lifts need bays that are 12 feet wide. As a result, 12 inground lifts can be installed in the same amount of space as 11 surface lifts — with that additional service bay representing an annual revenue boost of more than $200,000. Inground lifts also offer the best access to all vehicle service areas and can be configured for most preventative maintenance and repair tasks. They are considered the most productive lift design overall. If you’re unsure about the technology used, ask the manufacturer or your local equipment representative to refer you to another facility in your area with the lifts installed so you can check them out for yourself and talk to colleagues about how they perform.
3. Technician Training -- Even the best equipment won’t help a shop’s productivity if the technicians don’t know how to use it properly. And there’s more than productivity at stake – improper use of shop equipment can be downright dangerous. As tools and equipment continue to increase in complexity, even veteran technicians can benefit from a refresher course on newer equipment, although they might not admit it! Your local authorized equipment distributor can be a training resource to provide face-to-face instruction on how to use the specific equipment you’ve installed. Many lift distributors utilize resources from the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI), including the Lifting It Right safety kit. This kit includes a short DVD presentation and the Lifting It Right manual which cover general safety practices and considerations when operating vehicle lifts. The all new Lifting It Right: 2014 Online Edition can be accessed at http://www.autolift.org/store.php#liftingitright.
4. Regular Lift Inspection & Maintenance -- Almost every service your technicians perform starts with putting a vehicle on a lift. If a lift is out of service, productivity (and profitability) plunges instantly. Keep your lifts as productive as possible through a program of regular lift inspection and maintenance. Technicians should give each lift a once-over before using it every day. Additionally, a qualified lift inspector should inspect every vehicle lift annually—a requirement that is found in the ANSI national standard for vehicle lift operation, maintenance and inspection, as well as many state codes. A professional lift inspection from a factory-authorized technician will identify any maintenance issues before they can grow into major problems. This keeps employees safe, reduces downtime, minimizes lift repair costs and helps prevent OSHA citations and fines. Your lift manufacturer can recommend a qualified lift inspector in your area.
To keep your lifts operating properly, read and follow the guidelines in each lift’s owner’s manual. Maintenance requirements vary for different brands and styles of lift. The owner’s manual will cover a lift’s particular needs. All lifts should be kept well-lubricated, in accordance with manufacturer guidelines. When replacement parts are needed, be sure to insist on genuine OE replacement parts to ensure proper fit and function. Using aftermarket parts on an ALI-certified (gold label) lift may invalidate the lift’s third-party safety certification.