The Right Environment
The list of things that can — and often do — go wrong in today’s service shops is exhaustive.
From improper torque, to failing to add lube, neglecting to check related parts or installing components the wrong way, the list goes on and on.
No one sets out to deliberately mishandle a repair. Technicians take pride in their abilities to diagnose and repair medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
But mistakes do happen as you can see in the stories in this month’s cover feature, Terrifying Tales From The Shop.
The biggest lessons I garnered from the stories you shared are that many, if not most, of the errors that occur in the shop can be prevented.
A lot of the errors seem to be the result of lack of communication, rushing to complete a job, an outside distraction or failure to use available repair information and tools. These all can be fixed fairly easily.
Lack of communication most often occurs as a repair is handed off from one technician to the next at shift change. To make sure the technician who is taking over the repair knows exactly how far the repair has progressed, allow time for the two technicians to review what work has been completed and what remains to be done.
Then have the technician who is taking over the repair do a quick visual review paying special attention to little things like loose bolts and attaching hardware.
While the goal of all shops is to get the vehicle repaired as quickly as possible, speed should not take precedence over accuracy.
You can reduce shop errors by instituting a few simple policies and procedures.
Examine the behavior of your shop foreman. Is he putting undo pressure on technicians to get through repairs as rapidly as possible, which could lead to shortcuts that could come back to haunt you? Rather than focusing on speed, you should strive for efficiency — repairs that are done quickly but also properly.
Anything that causes a technician to take his attention away from the repair for even a minute can lead to a misstep. The Technology & Maintenance Council’s Service Provider’s Committee is working on this issue with a task force that is looking at ways to keep technicians in the bay.
Some ideas to consider are parts runners who can deliver parts to the technician or an automated parts ordering system that would allow the tech to place parts orders using a laptop located in the bay.
Perhaps the most disturbing reason for the errors is technicians who do not think they need to use technical information, drawings and schematics. Some technicians even feel they cannot ask a question if there is something they do not understand.
As the shop owner, you need to make sure you invest in diagnostic tools and that you ensure all of your technicians are trained on the proper way to use that equipment.
More importantly, you need to set the tone for the shop so that technicians will not be afraid to use all the tools at their disposal to execute a proper repair. Do not allow a technician who has a repair manual at his side to be ridiculed.
Technicians who are aware of what they don’t know and who rely on established repair procedures are more likely to get things right than is a tech who is flying by the seat of his pants and feels that reliance on manuals and tech bulletins is a sign of weakness.
By instituting these changes in your shop you can keep the demons at bay.