Empowering The Technician
In his guest post for this week, Ross Atkinson brings us into the loop of empowering the technician in your business.
Your technicians are valuable, skilled workers and many of them use highly sophisticated equipment beyond the traditional toolbox wrenches. Many manufacturers have mandated diagnostic monitoring systems plugged directly into the engine from a laptop to check the machine for issues. There is no doubt that the technical requirements of the service technician have changed dramatically in the last 20 years! Yes, they still need to take the machine apart and put it back together, however, considering the sophistication of today’s equipment, any assistance diagnosing the problems is welcomed – most certainly a process improvement!
Now let’s talk about another opportunity to save your technician time – business system integration. This multifaceted topic begins with how your technicians record the time they work on equipment. Are they still using punch cards, writing the time manually, or even barcode scanning at a central scanning station? Or do they have access to the business system through a computer to clock in/out of repair orders? It should be obvious that having the technician clock directly into the business system saves time. No need to have a service writer spending hours the next morning keypunching every technician’s time into the respective repair orders.
Beyond the improvement in recording technician time, have you ever taken a moment to analyze your technicians’ footsteps in a day? Everyone knows how important it is to keep the technician in the work bay, otherwise, the time away negatively affects the technician’s efficiency and reduces the amount of throughput you can handle in your shop.
This analysis can help you identify why they left their bay and shed some light on where gains could possibly be recognized by eliminating the footsteps and replacing them with some form of system integration. You can do a similar analysis of the post-repair tasks and determine if it can be done by the technician at the time of repair using the same system integration being offered. Let’s look at some ideas:
- Clocking time at their bay eliminates the need to walk to a central punch clock system.
- Access to machine history eliminates the need to stand at the shop foreman’s door to ask questions about the service or rental history of the machine.
- Visibility to the dealership parts inventory to know whether parts are in stock or need to be ordered eliminates the need to walk to the requisition counter.
- Seeing the machine’s configuration including serial numbers with a direct tie into manufacturer systems to check for outstanding product improvements/recalls and parts availability. Again, eliminates the need to go and ask someone else to do the research.
- Allow the technician to update the machine hours immediately so that it doesn’t get forgotten about. As we know from my previous blog on Service Agreements, hours are such a critical component so why chance having someone else do it many days later.
- Ability to upload before and after images directly to the repair order for historical and warranty purposes. The payback on this could be huge if the customer questions the repair or you get into a warranty audit.
- Visibility to job code hours so the technician knows what the expectation is for job completion and the repair time remaining. An updated benchmark helps the technician stay focused so that the job gets done on time.
- Having a tracking system for technician breaks whether the company or the customer is paying for it. Keeping your technician honest and eliminating the “water cooler effect” is important in time management.
- Ability to key technician stories and comments for the customer or for historical purposes and eliminate the need for another dealership employee to decipher and rekey what has been written by hand.
- The ability to electronically request parts from the parts department eliminates the need to walk to the requisition counter. The parts can be delivered directly to the bay.
These are just some ideas on where gains could be obtained by empowering your technicians via business system integration. Maybe you already have some or all of these in place or maybe you can add to this list.
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