Taking on Mechanical Work from Collision
Matt Kittredge, the fixed operations director for Coastal Dealerships in Greater Boston, is a firm believer in the phrase, “Speed of the captain, speed of the ship.” In other words, a crew takes its cues from its leader.
A while back, Kittredge learned the dealership group he oversaw could quickly become a rudderless ship if he didn’t get his three service departments and two collision centers to work together cohesively. Like at many dealerships, Coastal often has extra mechanical work sent to its service departments from the collision segment—a fact that can occasionally leave technicians overwhelmed if the extra work isn’t distributed carefully.
Of course, extra work can create financial opportunities, too, so it makes sense for a service department to foster a symbiotic relationship with body shops.
“When a job comes over from the collision center,” says Kittredge, a former service director, “it still has to be a priority. … During peak times of day, it’s easy—when that customer’s not standing in front of you—to put that on the backburner. But you can’t let that temptation overtake you, because you’ll end up losing that work completely.”
Kittredge, whose service departments frequently get extra mechanical work sent to them from their facility’s collision center, finds most such work to be fairly cut and dry, without requirements like customer authorization. In fact, Kittredge says those extra jobs are “great work to have.” Below, he expounds on how a service department can best handle extra work sent from the collision segment.
Before your service department can handle extra work, it has to be properly equipped and fully staffed.
“All it takes is one guy calling in sick while another guy’s on vacation, and now, all of a sudden, you’re in a real tough predicament,” he says. “So, your staffing levels have to be at capacity, all the time.”
Kittredge knows he’s properly staffed to handle potential extra mechanical work when each technician is between 100–120 percent efficiency. If he has technicians that are above 120 percent efficiency, that’s an indication that he’s understaffed. He keeps close tabs on those efficiency numbers each week.
Push for profitability.
Kittredge takes great care to keep extra jobs like brakes or alignments out of the hands of his A-techs because tying up his most experienced workers with such menial tasks simply doesn’t add up. At Coastal Dealerships, extra mechanical work sent over from the collision segment is often assigned to C-level technicians.
“It’s very rare that I take a [high-level] technician off a job to start something completely different; I think it’s counterproductive,” Kittredge explains. “And usually I know a couple days in advance that something big and complex is coming in—the collision center’s going to give me a heads up on that, and I can plan on it.”
When the service departments do extra mechanical work for the collision centers, he will give them a wholesale labor rate by discounting his labor rate to $90 from roughly $125. Although the insurance company does not pay a mechanical rate, they will typically give a supplement to the collision center.
“It’s not going to be very profitable for me if I’m paying A-technicians to do front-end work and discounting the labor rate,” Kittredge says.
In Kittredge’s past life as a service director, if he was dealt extra work late in the day from the collision segment, he made certain to set the vehicle up for repair as much as possible in advance by leaving the work order in the vehicle in the technician’s bay the night before and ensuring that repair parts were left on either the vehicle’s front or back seat.
A few years back, Kittredge also began utilizing an express lane in his service departments, dedicating two teams (with two employees each) to address many unscheduled service jobs. As a result, his facility’s typical turnaround time on extra mechanical jobs is less than one day, he says.
“With the express operation that I have,” he says, “that has taken all of the oil changes, quick work, batteries, bulbs, oil changes, and rotates away from flat-rate technicians—so they’re just focusing on larger jobs. … That helps get all the work, including the collision center work, through the shop in a more efficient manner.”
In order to address extra mechanical work in a manner that leaves all parties content, the Coastal Dealership staff makes sure to maintain an open line of communication. If Kittredge’s service staff begins examining a vehicle sent over from the collision segment and notices further repair needs, they make sure to provide a prompt explanation and keep everyone in the loop.
Yes, Kittredge demands clear communication from the employees he oversees―with minimal complaints from his service departments about being saddled with extra, unforeseen work. He knows that his service departments need to work in unison with the collision segment to form a relationship that benefits both sides. Kittredge hammers that point home in weekly meetings.
“It’s a constant reminder that we’re all one giant team,” he says, “working toward the same goal.”