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Proactive Time-To-Line Makes Everyone’s Job Easier

The auto dealership reconditioning operation is, historically, a short-term reactive environment. Whether a phase of the work in progress is a tech performing repairs or a vendor detailing wheels — or any of the many recon tasks between — each is siloed from his or her teammates. They are focused on the vehicle in front of them.

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The auto dealership reconditioning operation is, historically, a short-term reactive environment. Whether a phase of the work in progress is a tech performing repairs or a vendor detailing wheels — or any of the many recon tasks between — each is siloed from his or her teammates. They are focused on the vehicle in front of them.

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This “work-right-in-front-of-me” perspective makes everyone myopic, and this narrowed viewpoint hinders expediency, resulting in recon eternally playing the “my work is done” catch-up game.

Here is the problem with basic reconditioning workflow: by having to play catch-up constantly, the recon team — including the managers of the used car department and the dealership in general — cheats itself and the entire time-to-line (T2L) process.

The industry didn’t understand the cost of these time and process delays prior to 2010, before recon workflow automation became available. In those days, no one thought to ask — much less knew — how to capture the elapsed time accurately from one step to the next. So, punching out one job after the other was the expected norm. 

Today, however, everyone has the potential — and power — on his or her smartphone, desktop or workstation to run reconditioning automation that enables accurate, near real-time measurement and control of the recon process. Now everyone involved can know when the start time begins for a particular vehicle entering the recon process. They can keep track of each relevant step in the workflow as it is completed until the car is signed off as “retail ready.”

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With mechanical work, more emphasis tends to be placed on the start and stop of this phase because each car is on the rack when work is done — that’s a measurable period. For cosmetics or detail, however, that close-driven emphasis is often absent. One reason for this is that vendors often do this work, either at the dealership or at their own facilities. 

To operate recon most efficiently, the best way to think of the process is as a continuous chain with someone responsible for each link. This virtual chain starts with mechanical inspection and ends with the front line-ready status, and this chain is always in motion. Without an effective, near-real-time way to communicate changes up and down along the chain, confusion — and thus friction — enter the workflow. Miscommunication is sand in the gears of an efficient recon machine; it not only slows the process in the short term but also will eventually do real damage to all the parts.

No matter where you are in the recon process, the hands-on T2L speed is — or should be — hours and not days.

This proactive T2L process makes everyone’s job easier and — when individuals doing the work can verify the progress of not only their particular step in the overall workflow but each task making up their work — this accountability boosts work satisfaction and T2L speed.

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Measure to Manage

T2L needs to be measured before it can be managed, meaning wherever the detailer is — in station or away from desk — he or she needs a mechanism to “push” vehicles forward when done and make those notations in the software. Otherwise, a common practice is to do that end-of-the-day clean up and notation to play the “my work is done” catch-up game. The individuals doing so are probably fudging their output to their benefit by making their average “time per car” metric work out right for them.

I recently met with a 50-store group working to improve their T2L by several days for eight of its stores in one division. This division uses vendors for all cosmetic recon. Their catch-up behavior was evident because some cars seemed to take 12 days to work through recon while others were taking zero days to complete. 

To fix this issue, the vendor, and those employed by the vendor, should notify the dealership’s recon workflow software when their phase of sublet works starts and is completed. This happens as a requirement for that vendor to be credited and paid for that work.

Here is the fundamental problem: to manage — and improve — T2L, you need to know the correct elapsed time for the completion of each step along the chain. Without this information, and accountability, you’re managing in the dark — and your recon output will suffer.

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Click here to view more solutions from Dennis McGinn and Rapid Recon.

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