Model focuses on training and tools

In-house parts inventory and nameplate specialization is Model business plan

Berkeley, Calif.—Model Garage Owner Don Worth said with five techs and six bays if you don’t have the parts you can end up spending a lot of time moving cars around. To that point, Model Garage has an in-house parts department with common filters, hoses, and belts. Having basic service parts on hand helps limit wasting time playing on-the-lift, off-the-lift games, Worth said.

“Ideally I’d have two lifts for every tech but we just don’t have the room,” he said. “Nothing is worse than tying up a rack or putting a car back together because you’re waiting for parts. Having high-use parts on hand helps get jobs in and out.”

Model Garage specializes in Volvo, Toyota, Scion and Lexus. He said specialization helps the shop have the right inventory and service tools, and it provides better service through focused training. “We work constantly to keep up to date. Each tech has one or more specialties — Volvo, the Toyota family or smog repair.” He added that the techs have access to Identifix, Mitchell, and iATN, while two service writers and office manager use Winworks for ROs and business management.

Specialization also helps limit the amount of diagnostic tools and support information necessary. “We have the VIDA factory laptop tool (diagnostics, info, and software downloads) for 1999 and newer Volvos and the VST for earlier models,” Worth said. For Toyota, Model relies on the factory TechStream, backed by the Toyota Information System (TIS) and the Toyota hand-held scan tool for earlier models.

Volvo parts come from McKevitt Volvo in San Leandro and Lawrence Volvo in Walnut Creek. “McKevitt Parts Manager David Mahs has always been very helpful,” he said. “It’s so important to have someone pick up the phone, even if it’s to put you on hold. We never let a call go to the answering machine. Being there for your call is right up there with parts availability and reliable delivery.”

Worth’s vendor preferences are based on delivery, available inventory, and ease of use. “WORLDPAC, SSF, and IMC online ordering systems work really well,” he said. “WORLDPAC is our main supplier, they have a great system. Lookup is easy and there is a photo for part verification, and they give you an accurate idea of when the part will arrive and offer multiple daily deliveries.”

He said the biggest change is in vehicle information systems. On newer models it’s about diagnostic time it’s no longer the physical labor. “The new systems are interesting, fun, and challenging. They have so much information to access. Older cars are simpler mechanically, but you don’t have the ability to access data.”

His licensed smog-repair-only technician, Samol Pho, uses a lab scope to help with diagnostics. “Lab scopes are another tool in a techs box. More and more lab scopes are used to identify problems and confirm solutions,” he said.

When it comes to keeping technicians’ training up to date, he said most of it is done online. “We’d love to have more training opportunities like what WORLDPAC does at their convention, but travel is the limiting factor. Maylan Newton, of ESI, has been very helpful. He’s given me the business support and education to turn this mechanic into a shop owner.”

Additions to the business over the last four years include hiring two service writers, Robert Perkins and Bruce Stafford, as well as Office Manager Zena Shack. “It’s been a tremendous help. I have a great staff including my lead Toyota tech, Gail Grassi, who’s worked here 23 years, and my lead Volvo tech, Jimmy Lee, who has been here 20 years.”

With the help of ESI, Model has learned to track percentage profit on parts, productivity, and new customer sources, it also has incentives for both office staff and techs. “We’re a team and try to work that way as much as possible,” Worth said. “Like our customers, we’re a diverse, interesting group and we have fun. I play my sax to announce break time and we have photos of customers wearing our T-shirts from all over the world covering the walls.”

He said joining ASCCA has been a benefit, including its chapter meetings and especially the Team Talk forum. “We must have support in Sacramento. Having ASCCA supporting us in the halls as well as informing us about pending legislation that may affect our industry is so important.”

In the coming years, training is what will make or break you, Worth said. “Today’s cars are fun and challenging, but lab scopes, fuel trim, CAN networks systems are complex. With anything new, whether it’s tools or trainings, you have to justify the extra effort and investment. There are areas of training that we need and tools we could use more often if we had easier access to training.”

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.