Expansion on the Horizon
2017 is almost done and with the end of the year comes additional challenges to my job. The owners of Zeck Ford want a forecast for next year, especially with the expansions. So, for the month of December, I have to keep my team focused on finishing the year strong and changing our procedures to accommodate for our ongoing construction. Our construction has been divided into five phases and expected to take the next two years. Right now, we have construction started for the first two phases. We are adding service bays on to the main building for our recon department and quick lane and expanding our detail building behind us. Derek Zeck has decided to expand the fixed operations departments before remodeling the sales floor.
We are addressing the service and detail departments first because for the past two years, I have been running reports on technician efficiency and floor space utilization showing the owners that we have maximized the use of our buildings and growth will be hard because we have nowhere to go. And as they continue to sell more vehicles, we will not be able to keep our reconditioning time to three days or less, unless we stop bringing in customer pay and warranty work into the main shop. So, great, I got my expansion!
Now comes the hard part: filling the space as I get it. My new service bays are currently scheduled to open around the first of the year and the detail shop will open a few months later. So, as I sit down to figure out goals and staffing needs for next year, I have to include all of the new space. One good thing we did was we started hiring and training additional technicians for the service department, recon and the quick lane. Since we are open six days per week, we were able to put six technicians in five bays for both recon and quick lane. This will allow me to open the new service area without an immediate need for technicians. Advisors, managers and parts counter people are another question.
Since the expansion is not complete yet, I have no procedures or processes for how we will need to operate. Right now, I do know a few of the challenges we will face. First is there will be a wall between the main shop and the new shop, which makes managing the employees and delivering parts for repairs difficult. But I have not been able to determine if we will need to stock parts in the new building or hire more people to run parts to the building. I also know that my two service managers are already tasked throughout the day and adding more area for them to cover does not seem to be the answer. So now I am looking for someone to manage the quick lane, which has been a struggle. As I have stated in earlier columns, I like my managers to be able to put our employees before themselves and take ownership of their department. Most everyone we have looked at for the position wants the title of boss without the ability to lead.
Now come the uncertainty and worry about the unknown. Where will the work come from? Because we are over capacity now, does that mean I will be able to fill the expansion and keep everyone busy? How will the next several phases of our expansion and remodel affect business? I am not sure yet. So, when it comes to my projections for 2018, I will use all of the historical data as before and make an educated guess as to what kind of volume we can handle with the new space. But the truth of the matter is, we will have to wait until we get moved into the expansion. The first 30 days will let me know what the bottlenecks are and hopefully we will be able to develop processes to keep us growing.
Finally, I am writing this column on Veteran’s Day and I would like to say thank you to all of the veterans out there. And since this won’t be printed until December, I would like to wish everyone happy and peaceful holidays and a prosperous new year.