Talking Shop with Dan Johnson of Larry H. Miller Dealerships
Larry H. Miller Dealerships, the 10th largest dealer group in the country according to Automotive News, has been on an aggressive growth path since 2008, acquiring new dealerships while relocating, updating and expanding existing stores. The group now includes 53 full-service locations (60 total rooftops) across seven western states. As vice president of fixed operations, it falls to Dan Johnson to ensure that all those service departments are properly equipped to keep technicians safe and productive. We sat down with Dan to find out how he does it.
When Larry H. Miller Dealerships buys a new store, how do you decide which equipment to keep or replace?
Part of our purchase agreement for dealerships is that we buy them “as-is.” So, my team and I go in and assess the shop space and all the equipment to determine what can stay, what to repair and what we need. Anything that can affect safety gets repaired or replaced right away. We also make sure we have the right tools and equipment to maximize technician efficiency.
Do you have a standard equipment template for all the service departments?
We do, and our model has shifted due to the success of our prepaid maintenance program and express service business. Over the last 10 years, we’ve moved all our key customer-retention basic maintenance services — fluid exchanges, tires, brakes, batteries — to our express bays. As a result, 60 to 65 percent of our total service business now goes through the express lanes. We may serve up to 25 cars per day in an express bay compared to five to 10 vehicles in a standard bay. To help maximize efficiency, we install Rotary Lift SmartLift in-ground lifts equipped with Shockwave technology in all our express service bays because they’re the fastest lifts. In the main shop, we go with Rotary Lift two-post surface lifts.
What drives the decision to relocate, expand or update a store?
Everything we do is with the customer in mind, with the goal being to provide the safest, most efficient service experience for the customer. Of course, manufacturer image and facility requirements factor in as well. Any time we get a shop in the 60 to 65 percent utilization range, we look at a physical expansion.
How do you know when to replace a lift?
Our technicians inspect their lifts every day, and our shops are required to have every lift inspected annually by a Rotary Authorized Installer. If an inspection reveals any issues with a lift, we evaluate whether to repair or replace it based on the age of the lift, its expected useful life and the anticipated costs of repair. It has been our experience that we can expect a 12- to 15-year service life from Rotary Lift two-post lifts if they’re properly maintained.
How do you choose equipment and equipment suppliers?
We look at product quality, reputation and service. Then we leverage our buying power to ensure we’re getting the right equipment at a good price with a single point of contact and support in all our markets. For major equipment, we have established strong partnerships with leading manufacturers. For example, we’ve relied on Rotary Lift and its distributor McGee Company for almost 40 years. Bob Poindexter at McGee Company is my single point of contact for our lift needs across all locations. He coordinates all lift ordering, delivery, installation, training, inspection and maintenance.
Can you shed more light on the power of a good equipment partnership?
I asked Rotary for help making it easier for our shop managers to look out into the service department and see if all the lifts in the air are properly resting on their mechanical locks. Rotary quickly addressed my concerns by inventing LockLight, a lift accessory that lights up when the lift is on its locks. Now the shop manager can see at a glance if the lifts are on their locks. It’s a great example of a true business partner addressing our needs with safety and compliance as a priority. Now we’re ordering LockLight on all our new lifts. The managers absolutely love it.
Learn more about Larry H. Miller Group’s experience with Shockwave at www.rotarylift.com/Shockwave.aspx