Equip Your Techs

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Auto repair can be an expensive career, especially for young technicians just getting started. Getting equipped with a proper set of tools costs thousands of dollars—an investment that can prevent technicians from acquiring what they need for efficient, quality and successful repairs, says Jim Lynch, training director for Monro Muffler Brake Inc. in Rochester, N.Y. Offering assistance to help your staff with tool purchases helps ensure they’ll purchase the tools they need for success in the shop.

Lynch discusses a tool purchasing program that Monro has implemented and how the concept could be worthwhile for any independent shop.

Technicians have a lot of trouble purchasing a proper set of tools. That’s especially true for entry-level technicians right out of school. A full-sized toolbox that will outfit a technician for several years costs $3,000 to $10,000—just for the box. I’ve seen technicians get so far upside down financially because of tool purchases, and they can’t afford to keep adding to their collection. That’s a problem because there are all sorts of new tools that become necessary due to technology changes in vehicles. Some technicians aren’t able to acquire the proper tools to perform the best repairs, and some technicians leave the industry altogether.

We implemented a basic, two-part tool purchase program to help alleviate that financial roadblock. First, we partnered with two tool vendors, Eastern Tool Warehouse and Western Tool Distributors. We allow their sales representatives to come to our shops once every two months to drop off a tool flyer and present their offerings to our facility managers in exchange for a 20 percent discount on purchases. The flyer includes more than 100 pages of available tools—everything from hand tools to scan tools.

The second component of the tool purchase program is to help defray the up-front cost for technicians. The company covers 100 percent of every technician’s tool purchases from the vendor, and technicians slowly repay the company over time. Ten percent of the cost of the purchased tools is deducted from their weekly pay until the balance is paid off. For example, a technician who purchases a $140 socket set pays $14 per week, or $28 per paycheck, until the bill is paid.

Technicians appreciate having a way to purchase tools through payroll deductions. It’s difficult for them to have large amounts of money available immediately, and this helps prevent technicians from accruing credit card debt or saving up money for a long period of time. If money is tight, technicians are much more likely to purchase the tools they need to fix cars if they don’t have to foot the entire bill up front.

All tool purchase requests are passed by the facility managers for approval. This is necessary so each facility manager knows what tools are being purchased—and that the right tools are being purchased. It also minimizes the risk that technicians will take advantage of the program. It’s extremely important for our facility managers to assess whether the employee is in good standing with the company, and how likely they are to stay with the organization for the long haul. The tool purchase request is also a contract in which technicians agree to have all remaining tool debts deducted from their final paycheck if they decide to leave the shop.

Offering financial assistance with tool purchases has benefitted our company in several ways. Most importantly, it’s driven faster, higher quality and more productive work because our staff is equipped with all the latest gadgets. It has given our technicians a stronger ability to replace and upgrade their toolboxes. And having the right tools for success has a tremendous impact on the culture of the shop. Managers have more confidence in technicians’ abilities, and technicians have higher job satisfaction and company loyalty.

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