Speed is the lifeblood of the oil and lube industry. The shorter the interval between a car entering and exiting the service bay, the quicker the next vehicle can be attended to and the more tickets can be racked up in a day. Furthermore, the quicker a customer can get in and get out, the more likely they are to come back. With only so many hours in a day, every oil and lube shop should aim to maximize the number of vehicles they can handle in the time they have. Doing so will increase each customer’s satisfaction while substantially boosting the business’s bottom line.
One way to increase the efficiency, and therefore profits, is to ensure the shop’s tools, inventory and everything else is as organized as possible. Just as your mother told you to keep your room clean as a kid, the simple principles of having a place for everything and putting things back when you’re done can have a significant impact on profitability.
If lube techs are constantly looking for tools, oil filters and other items essential for them to do their jobs, chances are the business isn’t doing well. Any oil and lube shop that can’t maintain at least a baseline level of organization isn’t likely to stay in business for long. Most shops, though, recognize the necessity of keeping tools and inventory in their proper place. From this basic state, there are a number of improvements that can boost the efficiency and profitability of the business.
Here, some basic planning and common sense can go a long way. For lube techs working under the hood, having air filters nearby can save serious time, especially when they’re constantly showing customers their old filters. Those working in pits or under lifts need to have oil filters and wrenches readily available and impact wrenches should be at arm’s length for employees rotating tires.
Just as important as having inventory and tools close to where they’re needed is keeping them organized. Arranging tools, filters and other items in a way that makes choosing the right one quick and easy is paramount to saving time (and making more money). Typically, this means lining oil/air filters up by size. The same goes for tools like sockets and wrenches. For items that can’t be arranged by size, some other system should be in place, be it numerical, alphabetical or whatever seems to make the most sense. The point is that everything possible should be done to minimize the time spent searching for the right part or tool. Because tools (especially sockets) are easily lost, it’s also important to have at least one fully stocked backup tool set that can be “borrowed” from if need be.
Once a good workflow and organization system is achieved, look for further ways to reduce steps. Saving 10 seconds here and 30 seconds there can add up to extra cars serviced and extra tickets at the end of the day.
One man who has been around the block enough to know how a successful oil and lube operation should be run is Steve Gnerich. Gnerich is a District Manager for Jiffy Lube and has been in the industry for over 20 years. Speaking on inventory management, Gnerich said, “Keep it neat and organized. You should be able to see it at a glance and know what is missing. At a minimum do a complete inventory on all categories once per month. Make it a big deal if the numbers do not add up. When a box or carton is opened, all contents should be taken out and put on the shelf and the box flattened before taking it to the dumpster or recycle bin. No partial boxes.”
Changing the Culture
For owners and managers who find themselves wishing to increase the efficiency and organization of their businesses, the first step is to look in the mirror. As should be expected, a culture of organization has to start at the top. If the man or woman in charge insists on keeping everything in its place and sets a good example, then the other employees will begin to follow suit. Instead of trying to change anything through orders and rules, first begin to change the way the shop measures success.
One tangible way to do this is to set a goal of lowering the average time per ticket. Most point-of-sale systems have a way of keeping track of the time taken for each transaction. Make a commitment to knocking a minute off of the average. Once that’s been accomplished, try to take another 30 seconds off. You may even want to consider some sort of victory celebration for each milestone achieved, even if it’s something small like a pizza party for the shop. These shared achievements can build team spirit while dramatically improving the shop’s performance.
Maximizing efficiency requires training old hats and new hires alike in how everything should be organized. Thankfully, it’s pretty simple.
“Teach all employees to put tools and equipment back when they are done with them, and at the end of the day, delegate the job of doing a tool and equipment check to an employee that wants to move up,” Gnerich said. “Make sure everything is in its place at the end of the day for a better store open in the morning. For some, [organization] is easier than others. Many employees have not ever been taught to [be organized] at home or at prior jobs. They may have worked somewhere before where it was not important, and bad habits are hard to break. If the habits are good at your shop, then when a new employee is brought in they will come up to speed very quickly or leave if that is not what they want to do. Management must be on the same page and must be consistent in their coaching!”
One practical way to encourage employees to take ownership over the efficiency of their shop is to give each person the responsibility of keeping their own workspace organized. Hood techs keep the air filters in line, ditto with the pit crew and oil filters.
Many oil and lube businesses have had a lot of success with implementing a tool belt check in/check out system. Instead of using toolboxes or shelves to keep tools where they should be, each lube tech checks out their own tool belt in the morning and returns it at the end of the day. This practice has several benefits, including enhanced employee responsibility, fewer tools walking off and even reducing time spent reaching for tools.
Reaping the Benefits
While improved bay times and increased profits are the primary goals of a well-organized and efficiently run oil and lube shop, there are a variety of other benefits, not the least of which is the impression that you’ll make on your customers.
“Think of it from a customer’s perspective,” Gnerich said. “If customers have the choice of spending money at a clean, well organized shop or a disorganized, not so clean shop, where do you think they would prefer going all other things being the same? How about keeping good, well-qualified employees, where do you think they would prefer going to work every day? Personally, I always wanted to work in a clean, organized environment. I spent too much time at work to not enjoy it.”