Question: What are you going to do to improve the turnaround time on customers’ equipment this season?
Two things. We encourage our regular customers to bring their equipment in before March 15; they respond well to this. Second, we no longer work on “low-end” 2-cycle stuff! It’s like beating your head against the wall. Now we have more time to work on the good stuff, and we feel a little better at the end of the day!
— Dean Davis
My policy is to do easy jobs as soon as possible, which means that tougher jobs may be done out of chronological order. This way, more customers are served sooner.
In order to hasten turnaround on big jobs, diagnose problems as soon as jobs appear in the shop. Order parts as soon as possible. When parts arrive, tie them to the machine. This way, parts will be ready to go when the mechanic looks for them.
One other technique that helps me: Fix tune-up-type jobs in the morning, so you can reward yourself with several successes before lunch. Repair longer jobs in the afternoon before your good mood dwindles away.
— Flute Snyder
What are we going to do to improve the turnaround time on customers’ equipment this season?
This year, we are going to:
1. Give priority to our best customers.
2. Schedule service appointments more efficiently.
3. Encourage customers to drop off and pick up their own equipment.
4. Utilize suppliers that expedite delivery of spare parts, as opposed to OEMs that may take three or four days.
5. Extend shop hours beyond normal business hours.
— Roger Zerkle, owner
Flat Rock, Ill.
We are doing a couple of new things and reinstituting some old things that we have forgotten.
– We WILL get a full itemized listing of what the customer is having trouble with.
– We WILL get a pre-approved amount agreed to with customer (OK up to $200, but call if anything heroic is needed).
– We WILL have head mechanic look over incoming equipment each day to verify customers’ requests are reasonable and accurate.
– We WILL have the head mechanic look over incoming equipment each day and report to parts dept. on items he knows we don’t normally stock.
– We WILL improve our fast-moving parts stock flow.
– We WILL improve our checking on backordered parts.
– We WILL improve our supply lines and change suppliers if back orders are frequent.
– We WILL improve our technician scheduling to have less time bringing in units that parts or customer approval are not complete.
– We WILL improve our marking of units in for service to save time when tech is looking for unit to be worked on.
These are just a few of the things we are or WILL be putting into place. With all the talk about the economy, the customer view of how and where he is spending his money is more important now than ever. It is imperative that he gets the service he thinks he deserves, or he will go looking and may not come back.
— Mike Halloran, president
HALLORAN Power Equipment, Palatine, Ill.
MOWERWORKS, Barrington, Ill.
1. Our shop ran approximately 91-percent productive last year, for the hours worked by technicians. At first glance, 91 percent looks great, but there is definitely room for improvement (from a manager’s perspective). At 91 percent, you can figure you’re losing 5.4 minutes an hour, per technician. In an eight-hour day, that equates to 43.2 minutes per technician. We normally have three full-time technicians, so we’re losing roughly 129.6 minutes per day, or 2 hours and 10 minutes per day, in efficiencies. At that rate, in a week’s time, there is almost 11 hours unaccounted for. I think for a shop to improve turnaround times, the first thing you have to do is improve your efficiency. In our case, we have approximately 11 hours per week that we potentially could have been working on equipment.
2. The second thing you have to do, and sometimes it’s not easy, is improve your parts sourcing. In some cases, you can order the same parts from several different suppliers. Run some fill-rate efficiencies internally (every supplier will tell you they are the best), and see who your best option is. Sometimes, there’s not much of a difference; other times, there’s no doubt a better option.
3. And last, but not least, if there is a problem sourcing parts or another problem occurs with the equipment; and, you’ve done everything in your power to get it taken care of (you’re at someone else’s mercy with parts supply, etc.), it’s critical to call the customer, and explain the situation. Most of the time, they will understand that you have done everything you can to efficiently get their piece of equipment back to them.
— Jason Hicks, parts & service manager
West Chester Lawn & Garden
Liberty Township, Ohio
This is a subject we are good at. I have a very large inventory, so when a machine comes in, it goes back out quickly. Preseason, it’s first come, first serve. In season, we do the repairs on our customers’ trailers to get them out ASAP. When you have a truck with two or three guys in it, downtime can cost them their profit. It helps that we cater to commercial customers and we are a one-brand dealer. Being a one-brand dealer means only one line of parts and strong knowledge on the equipment we repair.
— Matthew Borden, owner
Ed & Matt Equipment
First of all, for those dealers who brag about being two or more weeks behind, poor customer service is nothing to brag about. On top of what I sell, I take in big box equipment, and we still keep our backlogs to about a week with a very small shop. We don’t take in junk; I evaluate the soundness of most mowers when the customer arrives. We try to get non-stocked parts ordered the day the equipment arrives. I use entry-level employees for tune-ups overseen by my mechanic or myself. We set up work areas outside of our shop area. One of my extra work areas is an 8×12 pre-fab shed with a lift table, oil vac and blade grinder. I have a few oil vacs and lift tables to speed up work. Tune-up parts are kept in the shop. Mowers to be repaired are kept near the shop. When work starts to stack up, we reserve Fridays just for tune-ups.
I am considering a tune-up assembly line. I always look for short cuts and try to save a few steps where possible.
— Rob Leiser
In regards to your question, here is what our dealership does.
To increase turnaround time, several years ago, we started servicing just the brands we sell. Now this may seem ridiculous to some dealers, but by doing this, we have been able to service our customers faster, making them happier and more likely to buy here again. This is also used as a value-added service when buying from us; we don’t get four to six weeks behind like many dealerships. When we do start to fall behind a bit, our crew will stay one or two nights per week after hours until about 10 p.m. to get caught up. When you have four or five people turning wrenches four hours a night, you can get a lot of work done.
— Tony Gargano
Gano’s Power Equipment
We have a policy to try to diagnose cause of failure the day the equipment comes in. This allows us to order parts if we don’t have them in stock, and it gives us an idea of how much time to schedule for the repairs.
— Kenneth Seamon, owner
Professional Automotive and Lawnmower Service
We first try to pre-diagnose the unit, taking an extra few minutes when writing up the unit to see what parts will be needed and if the parts need to be special ordered. We also do a lot of our deliveries after store hours. It extends our store hours, plus we can schedule return loads. I, personally, try to help out in the shop. If I see a tech struggling on a unit, I’ll see if I can help solve the problem, or we will all get together; sometimes, all it takes is a different view to keep things moving.
— John P. Moon, owner
Moon’s Farm-Yard Center
May not have to do anything this year, depending on the economy (although we seem not to be in the big “R” as the USA).
Other than that, we are in the position that we are turning down business that we don’t want (e.g. unit too old, cheap brand, or too cheap of a customer) and lately not our brand (although it might be a quality brand), as trying to look after our customers and brands first. Last summer, stopped all non-our-brand lawn mowers in repair — too busy to help Wal-Mart and Sears, etc. buyers — a move that made it easier for us and better for our customers.
— Ron Robinson, manager
Chain Saw Clinic
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Our shop works on most brands of equipment. As the turnaround time increases, we start rejecting some brands that we do not sell. We try to place a priority on equipment sold here and on commercial customers — mainly just keeping a closer eye on the shop and stomping those “fires” quickly. This usually keeps our customers as happy as possible when their “grass is growing!”
— Bill Valliant
We are cross-training personnel so as to have additional techs available before we have a backlog of unstarted jobs. Many parts suppliers have increased dollar amounts on orders for free freight and discounts; therefore, we intend to add a small freight charge for parts we can not meet the minimum order on rather than have a piece of equipment down waiting for a stock order to come in.
— Chuck Stull, GM
Trail Saw and Mower Service
Our system in place is pretty effective and productive. With that said, the only thing I could do was to hire an additional tech for this year. This should speed up the turnaround time.
— David Vassey
Vassey Lawn & Garden