Lateral support, Simple Support, Teams, Super Groups and Dispatch. Service Department technician production systems must be designed based on the quality and capabilities of technicians, consideration about the nuances of the franchise in question and quality and quantity of the service advisors employed. Each production system has a specific application depending on variables on the ground at the Dealership. The most popular applications I see in real life are either straight dispatch (computer or computer assisted with a dispatcher) and some iteration of lateral support. Let’s talk about lateral support as a potential system in some detail.
Typically in medium to large Service Departments with 10 or more technicians. Each group of Advisor(s) and Techs acts as it’s own ecosystem, for all intents and purposes, whereas all TECHNICIAN skill levels are represented in each group. Each Tech is generally paid by their own FRH’s produced with a group leader who may receive a bump or production incentive for administrative functions to make the group flow properly if certain levels of production are reached. As a rule, I suggest for about 20 R.O.s per day, per group 2.0 to 2.5 hrs per R.O. and +100% efficiency per group per day – 5 techs per advisor with a skill mix across all levels of work (lube tech through master for each group in order to average your labor cost per hour down) (helps control labor gross at +73%). If all skill levels CANNOT be represented in the group, I tend to steer away from this scenario unless there is an adequate ‘sublet’ opportunity in the shop to expedite jobs with skills that can’t be accommodated in the group organically.
The Service Manager must be an active participant in his environment – driving the shop toward profitability ticket by ticket – She/he is on the drive early and stays late and comes in early to review R.O.s and compiles the daily metrics. I recommend a daily tech and advisor group warm up meeting by group that the management attends randomly for supervision. Without Management discipline the process is hopeless. The Service Manager must be involved to ensure timing, quality and consistency of process and make necessary tweaks and overhauls as needed.
Advisors are responsible for the daily CSI and profitability metrics of their group.
- Make reservations (in environments w/o BDC)
- Write service and build rapport with Customers
- Present Needed Services at Write Up based on mileage and history
- Oversee MPI Process (Timing, Quality and Uniformity) within the group
- Present Prioritized Customer Presentations to sell additional legitimately needed work
- Dispatch and follow proper job flow for their group.
- Ensure Techs is exceeding their production goals and busy at all times
- Make customer status and follow-up calls
- Cashier in some cases
- Perform an interactive customer delivery
- Solicit and receive adequate number and score of CSI Surveys and/or reviews
Tech Metrics are tracked daily, weekly and monthly
- Set individual production goals based on skill and history
- Techs are responsible for up-selling 25% of their FRH’s.
- Techs maintain 90% plus MPI completion
- Techs maintain top level FIRFT (Fix it Right the First Time) score
Make sure there is adequate shop loading BY CAPACITY based on skill available. Without a good shop loading and scheduling system, running an efficient and productive shop is like playing the lottery.
There are a lot of other considerations to make the system run smoothly and avoid common pitfalls. Here are a few that come to mind.
- Create groups of technicians categorized by skill
- Consider personnel changes and shuffling that will occur when groups are launched
- Get input and buy-in from and then train Advisor and Technician responsibilities – Establish Job flow to visualize process with all employees
- Reboot DMS set ups to establish realistic promise times
- Setup DMS to produce accurate capacity metrics
- Recalibrate dispatch system priority codes to reflect changes
- Launch parts pre-picking process (Strongly suggest two-way radios for ALL Fixed Ops personnel)
- Consolidate computer labor operation codes and distribute to all employees – preferably by weblink
- Implement metrics tracking procedures for all employees and management
- Review Advisor and technician pay plan to verify they align with management objectives
- Provide sustained training from within and externally
With careful planning and open eyes to the potential obstacles, lateral support can be a very efficient production system. It all starts with a proper analysis of your operation to ensure this system is the right fit for your specific set of variables.