Tracking Your Techs’ Time

Sept. 7, 2021
How a master tracker protects his techs’ time.

SHOP STATS: Genesis Automotive and RV Repair Location: Tacoma, Wash.  Operator: Brian and Lisa Holthe  Staff Size: 14 (6 technicians, 1 shop foreman, 1 service manager, 2 service advisors, 2 shop stewards, 1 general manager, 1 financial manager) Shop Size: 10,000+ sq. ft  Number of Lifts/Bays: 14  Average Car Count: 80-100  ARO: $1,879  Annual Revenue: $1.55 million

In an age where consumers are demanding quick returns and fast response times, shops across the country are tasked with maximizing efficiency. One of the best ways to monitor how efficient your shop is running is to track your technicians’ time.

How much time are they spending on each repair? Is there too much downtime between jobs? These things can be monitored without a system, but without a formal way to track them, your records aren’t likely to be accurate. In an industry where every minute matters, accuracy is paramount. 

Ratchet+Wrench spoke with Brian Holthe, owner of Genesis Auto & RV in Tacoma, Wash., who has been tracking his technicians for decades to find out how his shop's system works. 

The Backstory

Holthe's first experience with technician tracking came back in the 1980s, when he was a technician himself working for a Volvo dealership. A form of tracking was implemented for him and Holthe quickly realized the benefits that it provided both the technicians and the shop managers and owners who were looking to gather productivity and efficiency information. He became more productive and more cognizant of the work he was doing, leading to bigger paychecks, and the shop was able to monitor Holthe’s progress. 

When Holthe branched out in 1993 and started his own shop, technician tracking was one of the many strategies that he brought with him. 

The Problem

Tracking technician time sounds great, in theory. Having efficiency and productivity numbers at your fingertips is great knowledge to have, Holthe says. It can help inform training, where promotions might be necessary and where technicians aren’t living up to expectations. But how does it happen in practice? How should the tracking be structured and what should be monitored? How do you ensure buy-in from the technicians? That’s the challenge Holthe faced when he implemented a system at his own shop. 

The Solution

Holthe tracks four main areas: available time, actual time, sold time and “E” time. Available time is the time a technician is at work and available to complete income-producing work. It usually amounts to eight hours per day. Actual time is the time a technician actually takes to complete a task or procedure. Sold time is the amount of time the customer is paying for the job and "E" time is a technician's non-income-producing time.

From there, Holthe tracks efficiency and production to make sure his team is meeting expectations. To find productivity, Holthe takes the technician's actual time and divides it by the available time. Efficiency is the total number of hours it takes them to complete a job versus the number of labor hours sold.  

For example, an “A” tech at his shop is expected to achieve 130 percent efficiency and 90 percent productivity. A “B” tech is expected to achieve 110 percent efficiency and 90 percent productivity. 

One of the biggest metrics Holthe looks at is “E” time. In Holthe’s shop, “E” time could be anything from cleaning to pulling vehicles into the shop to idle time. Idle time is one that Holthe looks at often, which is when the technician isn’t finding something to do. Most technicians, especially if they are on performance-based pay, will have none. But if a technician does have idle time, that shows Holthe they aren’t doing all that they could be. 

While “E” time doesn’t get technicians paid the same as a repair job would, Holthe still pays them for it. He says he has 10 “E” rates that vary based on the specific task. 

“If they’ve run out of work and they’re cleaning during a slow day, it’s fair that they should be paid for something. That’s one e-rate,” he says. 

Each technician gets handed a tech worksheet at the beginning of the day. They use that sheet throughout the day to document the jobs they are working on and the time it takes it to be completed. Anytime they need to go on “E” time or begin working on a repair, it first needs to get approved by the shop manager, who is in charge of the whole system. 

From there, the only other piece that needs to be in place for the system to work is technician buy-in. It’s one of the big areas Holthe focuses on, helping technicians realize the system is beneficial to them, not one that is overbearing on their work. 

“Our technicians are on a form of performance-based pay,” he says. “So they are only getting paid for flagging hours. The system benefits them because it allows them to be more efficient and in turn, make more money.”

It was a realization Holthe made as a young technician and is one he teaches in his shop. The system is your friend, not your foe. 

The Aftermath

With a few clicks, Holthe can pull up data on all of his technicians, individually and as a collective unit. Halfway through 2021, Holthe’s technicians ran 86.3 percent productivity and 106 percent efficiency. 

The data allows him to see trends in his employees’ work and can spot inefficiencies that may be hard to catch by just looking around the shop. It identifies if a technician is doing really well and should get a promotion or a raise and can also point out weaknesses the entire staff has that could be addressed through training. Holthe has used the system ever since he began his shop.

The Takeaway

Implementing a system creates accountability from the technicians and motivates them to constantly find new work.  Without it, shops have to rely on word-of-mouth from technicians and what they see the technicians doing day-to-day. Manually tracking and making sure they are doing their job creates loads of inefficiency for the owner and isn’t sustainable long-term, Holthe says. 

“Any good shop owner needs it to stay informed,” he says. “I have all the information I could ever need.”

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