Dave Winters of Swedish Automotive booked more than $2 million in 2016 with December its strongest sales month.Owner Kandie Jennings works the front counter at Tom’s Automotive.Todd Ainsworth (left) and Service Advisor Jesse Coffin, a graduate of the automotive program at South Seattle Community College, review repair orders at West Seattle Autoworks.

Tracking down business in the shop

Shop owners share advantages and preferences for shop management systems

Seattle—In today’s business environment, managing a repair facility requires having shop management systems that provide efficient internal systems and useful data so owners and managers can quickly and easily know what’s occurring within the business. 

Three successful shop owners in West Seattle reviewed what works for their shops in the day-to-day use of shop management systems, as well as how they source data and use information available to technicians, service advisors, and themselves.

Swedish Automotive, a AAA-Approved Auto Repair facility ASE Blue Seal shop with 13 employees, was founded by Dave Winters in the mid-1983. His current 12-bay shop was built in 2010 and specializes in Saab, Volvo, MINI, and Subaru models.

“We’ve been using the R.O. Writer system for four years after having the GarageKeeper software system for many years,” Winters said. “We purchased the system because several people in my business group were using it, and while we certainly seem to function well with it.”

Functions that Winters feel are vital for daily operations include a viable scheduling (or repair order) process and being able to track business operations.

“We like to book about eight cars a day, but our average RO averages $800 to $900. Our service advisors (Kacie Christensen and Todd Huso) and myself make sure we don’t overbook, but certainly don’t want too few vehicles in the shop either. With R.O. Writer, we generate paper repair orders in our office across from the shop that the technicians use to document repairs and return to the office for final processing.”

Winters likes the tracking it offers. “The tracking is beautiful because I can look at any timeframe instantly, such as total sales, average ROs, parts sales, and more. Every week I look at 10-15 graphs that provide technician productivity and sales. It’s like playing baseball and wanting to know what the score is now.”

Technical data is also a vital part of shop productivity and the techs at Swedish use a variety of systems with laptops at each station. Technician John Hellesvig said he uses AllData and WORLDPAC’s site, while Don Boyd, a 25-year veteran at the shop, likes Identifix, the Saab factory site, and AllData or the VIDA (Volvo) system. They said Mitchell 1 was best for providing the wiring diagrams.

Tom’s Automotive was founded in 1971 by Tom Smith, and Kandie Jennings is the second owner, who is a 25-year shop veteran.

The shop has used a R.O. Writer software system since 2007 and Jennings said she likes the system for three specific reasons: it creates a customer estimates fast, the sales and GP reports are excellent, and it links to QuickBooks.

With an average monthly car count of 250, Jennings said her average RO is $365, but the shop also had its best month in December with an average invoice of $485. “We knew exactly where we were in December by tracking our sales reports and our detailed labor report.”

Jennings also said that the Demandforce interface with R.O. Writer allows her to generate recommended service reminders, emails, and other marketing communications.

West Seattle Autoworks, co-owned by Todd Ainsworth and Chris Christensen, is located in the shop space that Swedish Automotive occupied until 2010. It’s a AAA-Approved Auto Repair facility with four techs who handle eight vehicles a day on average.

“We use an AllData  generally like what it offers us,” Ainsworth said, adding that the shop will likely upgrade to the AllData cloud system now being offered.

“What I like most about AllData is that it keeps track of all customer records, business reports, parts sales, and integrates with QuickBooks so we are always up to date,” Ainsworth said.

“Through Demandforce that integrates with AllData we handle online appointments, and via the Market program we can include parts photos, specials, target customers for specific types of service, and other specialized messaging, including Facebook page reviews,” he said.

“When we upgrade to the cloud system, there will be automatic program updates, plus we won’t have to be tied to a specific location,” Ainsworth said. “We could work from home or another remote location, do estimates, send emails and text links, and more.”

Technician data is sourced from Identifix and iATN. “I’ve had a business subscription to iATN since 1998 and it’s a great source of data.”

Tom’s Automotive was founded in 1971 by Tom Smith, and Kandie Jennings is the second owner, who is a 25-year shop veteran.

The shop has used a R.O. Writer software system since 2007 and Jennings said she likes the system for three specific reasons: it creates a customer estimates fast, the sales and GP reports are excellent, and it links to QuickBooks.

With an average monthly car count of 250, Jennings said her average RO is $365, but the shop also had its best month in December with an average invoice of $485. “We knew exactly where we were in December by tracking our sales reports and our detailed labor report.”

Jennings also said that the Demandforce interface with R.O. Writer allows her to generate recommended service reminders, emails, and other marketing communications.

West Seattle Autoworks, co-owned by Todd Ainsworth and Chris Christensen, is located in the shop space that Swedish Automotive occupied until 2010. It’s a AAA-Approved Auto Repair facility with four techs who handle eight vehicles a day on average.

“We use an AllData  generally like what it offers us,” Ainsworth said, adding that the shop will likely upgrade to the AllData cloud system now being offered.

“What I like most about AllData is that it keeps track of all customer records, business reports, parts sales, and integrates with QuickBooks so we are always up to date,” Ainsworth said.

“Through Demandforce that integrates with AllData we handle online appointments, and via the Market program we can include parts photos, specials, target customers for specific types of service, and other specialized messaging, including Facebook page reviews,” he said.

“When we upgrade to the cloud system, there will be automatic program updates, plus we won’t have to be tied to a specific location,” Ainsworth said. “We could work from home or another remote location, do estimates, send emails and text links, and more.”

Technician data is sourced from Identifix and iATN. “I’ve had a business subscription to iATN since 1998 and it’s a great source of data.”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.

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