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Setting your shop up for marketing and efficiency?
John Walker
John Walker

Creating and maintaining a superb shop appearance today is more important than it has ever been and particularly if you are interested in increasing your service sales and profitability. Many manufacturers and dealers recognize that a well laid out, clean and well maintained service shop will: 1) increase shop efficiency, 2) stimulate customer’s service sales and, 3) assist the dealership in maintaining and recruiting technicians.

Maintaining a proper shop appearance is often a matter of regularly attending to small things. There is more to a suitable appearance than just sweeping the floors. There are a number of items that need to be maintained. Once they are in good shape it does not take much time or effort to keep them that way, and the responsibility can be spread to several shop personnel. Some tasks require only periodic checks but other areas need more frequent attention. A major point to consider when viewing your shop is to view it through the eyes of your customers!

When general clean-up such as stall clean up after the job is finished, returning precision tools and making sure they are clean and in order should be the responsibility of the technician, we believe that in most situations it is better to hire out area clean up whenever possible. We are also a firm believer that area clean up time, tool cleaning and put away should be charged to the customer as part of the labor cost. In other words stall clean-up and replacing tools should be done before the work order is closed and a new work order is opened.

Today physical space, brick and mortar are some of the most expensive items to consider when searching an increase of the actual size of the dealer’s shop area. This is one of the reasons we recommend to many of our clients the idea of double-shifting within the shop and/or initiating a resident technician program or field service program.

Along this line, many farm, industrial, lift truck and outdoor power dealers have found a great deal of success with their scheduled in the field service programs, where they perform service for the customer right at the job site or at the customer’s home.

There are some important factors to consider when you are laying out your shop, whether you are building, adding on or even rearranging for greater efficiency. Every service shop is different, and the best layout for each shop will naturally vary. The following ideas are not intended to fit every shop exactly, but are to be used as a guide in establishing the best possible layout for your dealership’s service department. You might also contact your suppliers and service travelers for plans and/or ideas.

In designing or rearranging any shop, the designer should definitely provide for good traffic flow throughout the shop. Make it easy to move units around and in and out of the shop. 1) All entrance and exits need to be clearly marked. 2) Consider doorway height and width, with the expectation that the size of the equipment you service will grow. 3) Stall areas should be clearly defined and this will keep order as well as provide an orderly appearance to your shop. 4) Stalls should be arranged so they can be reached from aisles and/or doors easily. 5) Aisles should be large enough for easy access.

Stall size: is certainly going to vary according to the type of equipment the dealership is selling. Today’s marketing trend toward larger pieces of equipment will dictate stall size when laying out space requirements within your shop. Certainly an outdoor power equipment dealer’s requirements will be distinctly different from the needs off a dealer selling large combines or 40,000 pound lift trucks. Each equipment dealer’s requirements should be based on the space needed for servicing the size equipment they sell.

An additional three to five feet clearance should be included on all sides of the equipment to permit working space. The clearance is between units so the clear space on one stall overlaps the stalls on either side. Stalls that are next to walls, benches or stationary equipment need an extra one to two feet for adequate clearance. Where volume of service work justifies specialized areas, attempt to fit the size of the stall to the work being done.

Location of shop functions: is something which each dealership must give a great deal of consideration. We recommend doing a thorough check of OSHA and EPA regulations before establishing or locating any particular special work area within your shop. Some consideration should be given to the location of the various shop functions with regard to noise, dirt and objectionable orders.

Adding doors: Direct drive-in stalls, as found in the older gas service stations eliminates the need for an indoor aisle, and provides easy entrance and exit from the individual stalls.

In developing an efficient shop layout, whether you are rebuilding, modernizing or simply updating and improving your present shop, planning is paramount to success. Remember, the most important aspect of an efficient shop is the manner in which it is laid out. Shop layout affects the ability to provide and deliver service when the customer needs it. In addition, good shop layout creates a business like appearance. If equipment is parked in a hap-hazard manner and it is necessary to move several units to get to another, it creates confusion, and may lead the customer to think no one knows what they are doing.

There are some specific features required when developing an efficient shop layout. Each one of these features needs to be considered when drawing up your plans for rebuilding and/or remodeling. May we strongly request that in your overall planning you may want to call in an expert for laying out your requirements and particular needs.

Provide for good traffic flow: Make it easy to move units around and in and out of your shop. Entrances and exits should be clearly marked. You should have large enough doorways to accept the equipment you are selling and also anticipate the size of equipment you will be selling in the future. Stalls should be clearly defined and sometimes lines painted on the floor will help keep order as well as provide an orderly shop appearance. Stalls should be large enough to allow space for the size of the units to be serviced. Stalls should be arranged so that they can be reached from the aisles and/or doors easily. Aisles need to be large enough for easy access to the stalls. Ideally you should try to establish aisles so you can have one-way traffic, and help eliminate confusion.

We are going to recommend the absolute necessity of having a service manager’s office and this office should be located near the shop area of the dealership. A professional service manager needs to spend a minimum of an hour and a half a day or 420 hours a year in some form of planning, executing and evaluating which makes a service department office mandatory.

A tool room for special tools needs to be set up with policies for dispatch and return of all company owned tools. This policy needs enforcement to eliminate continued hunting for special tools. Along this same line look for efficient methods to pick up and handle the service department’s parts requirements. We see in many of the larger shops a position within the parts department whereby the parts are delivered and/or carried to the technician’s stall.

Lighting in any service shop is important. Proper lighting improves both shop safety and shop efficiency. Free advice in this area is available from your local power and light company. They are the experts so involve them in making lighting decisions.

In your overall layout planning, consider the location of built-in equipment and utilities such as: hoists, electrical outlets (110 & 220), air compressors, steam or pressure cleaners, hot and cold water, natural gas, exhaust vents, heating or cooling ducts, fire prevention equipment and safety equipment and facilities.

As we have pointed out to equipment dealers so many times: perception is everything, your service shop is most certainly an area of opportunity for any equipment dealer. Show a customer and particularly a prospective customer a filthy dirty, poorly lit shop and you’ll have a customer who questions your efficiency and ability to take care of his equipment after the sale. Show a professional service technician who is considering the possibility of changing jobs and coming to work for your dealership this same outdated, poorly lighted, hot in the summertime and cold in the winter shop and we’ll show you a technician who will continue to look. Do not short change yourself, your dealership, your employees and your customers by denying your service department an efficient and orderly run service shop.

John R. Walker is president of Aftermarket Services Consulting Co. Inc. E-mail to contact John.