Running a Shop Operations Shop Production

Secrets to Scheduling

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Secrets to Scheduling
A new approach to more consistent scheduling.

If there’s one thing I don’t have a master plan for, it’s scheduling. There are so many variables in scheduling. It’s a guessing game until you get the car in and taken apart. Scheduling used to be based off our gut. It’s kind of like being at a restaurant; you get put on the waiting list and they guess, based on the amount of customers and how long those customers have been there, that it should be about 10 minutes. If there were to use statistics, though, they’d be more accurate.

For years, we had folders for each day of the week full of paperwork of estimates, supplements. Our goal was always 10 cars in per day, so when we scheduled the customer in, we’d put these folders in these bins and once there were 10 in there, then we’d go to the next day or bin. The problem was that we didn’t really factor in what size the cars were, supplement ratio, tow-ins—the analytics behind what we really face in a day.

The other issue we had is that we had a hard time with getting our management system dialed in. It’s not a live look at our business; we can’t block out hours. It’s more like, once you set it, it is what it is. Management systems can get cluttered with stuff that is irrelevant, and frankly, I would say most shops don’t use their system well. The management system doesn’t factor in how many hours per day we’re burning. You might set that your touch time is 4.3 hours per job, but it’s not taking in the live factor of your guys kicking butt this pay period.

The one biggest thing it did for us is we’re able to have a live view and alter our schedule on what’s happening in real life. So, what we did is worked with Axalta to develop a spreadsheet, we call it our VSI (vehicle scheduled in) report, that we export out of our management system. It looks at: vehicles scheduled in, how many hours, it factors in how many of each sizes we want, etc. So, we export our schedule on a daily basis. That tells us our next opening. If someone is on vacation, that changes that day. We’re able to move it throughout the year as to what we anticipate on tow-ins or cold drops.

One of the big things that made us set it up was we were working with a DRP that dropped cars off all the time. What we were working on factoring in was accounting for those numbers without being on our schedule. We should have the same number of cars in every day and out every day. If we’re bringing in 25 cars per week, a lot of shops bring those in on Monday. We’ve found if your capacity is 25 cars, why not bring in five cars per day? You’ll get pushback from the insurance company, which I understand. The insurance company is always looking at the rental expense and they ask for a certain number of hours per day, but the way we’ve gotten around that is we’ll cover the rental over the weekend if we made the wrong call.

The more I even out every day and throughout the week, the more we’re not overpromising and under delivering. We want to call people in early, rather than calling and saying we’re backed up.

Our goal is 10 cars per day. So, here’s how we approach it: The jobs that are six- or seven-day jobs, they should be brought in on Wednesday or Thursday. That should never, ever come in on a Monday. If it’s a 10-day job, bring that in on a Tuesday or a Friday and push it out to where you’re reducing that time. Then, our goal is to have the car in production within four hours from the time that it was dropped off.

The biggest key to this is that you have to factor in how accurate you are. What are we actually doing per day? Some locations are laid out in a way that we can push cars out faster and so we can touch cars more per day. What we want to do is be as realistic as possible. If our touch time is 2.5 hours per day per car, that’s what we schedule for. An insurer can say six hours per day per car, but shops in the U.S. are averaging 2.3 hours per day. If you’re telling a customer that you’re doing six hours per day, you’re not being realistic.

This spreadsheet really is the best thing we have. It takes in the human factor. You’re taking in the information factor out of the management system, having a human look it over, let the spreadsheet do the calculation.

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