Jim Houser uses AllsystemsMax at Hawthorne Auto Clinic.R.O. Writer’s Smart eCat integrates with parts suppliers and has some 4.5 million cataloged parts in the system.Cloud based Shop-Ware creates a detailed and workable repair order for shops.

Northwest shops offer perspectives on various shop management systems

Software is integral to everyday shop operations

    In today’s automotive business environment, having shop management systems that provide efficient and productive internal systems is imperative to the financial success of repair facilities. Data from tracking labor to overall sales to parts procurement, as well as electronic customer communication and more, is as vital as opening the doors for business each day.

     Four Northwest shops offered their perspectives on what works for their businesses regarding shop management systems.

      Jim Houser, co-owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic, in Portland, a shop with five technicians plus an intern, two service advisers, and an average monthly car count of 370 vehicles, said his business uses AllsystemsMax Auto Repair Shop Management Software.

     “We’ve used Allsystems since 1988 (Max since 2001) because they are in nearby Eugene and easy to reach if we have a problem, or have an idea for a new feature,” Houser said.

     Key features include an easy scheduling and job creation with Tech Planner (a Google-like integrated calendar), plus a free Android mobile app for VIN scanning, job intake, and picture-saving a vehicle location; VIN decoding; optional integrated two-way texting; and online parts ordering from WORLDPAC.

     In addition, Houser said there is a simple inventory control system, a simplified accounting system for account receivables and payables, plus a CRM that increases customer traffic with service reminders. “Allsystems links to our DemandForce account for customer retention functionality, plus it has many customer communication features built-in.”

     Houser also noted that Allsystems has recently added Nexpart to their online parts ordering.

     “When it comes to a point of sales system, there is no perfect product,” said Bryan Kelley, owner of the busy Valley Automotive Repair & Electric in Covington, Wash. “I have found that every product has strengths and weaknesses, but for my business I chose R.O. Writer. I use it because of the strength in its reports.”

     Kelley said the ability to create instant customer campaigns has been critical for the shop to reach projected car count numbers each month. “Sales data within R.O Writer can be broken down and easily made into spreadsheets, which helps us provide for goal setting and easy tracking of those goals.”

     Issues for Kelley include the point of sale system not being an immediate sales tool, and tracking labor. “R.O. Writer falls somewhat short in timely estimate and invoice building. It can be cumbersome to build large estimates and invoices, though the system does have a good parts vendor integration and excellent inventory tracking,” he said.

     In regards to tracking labor, Kelley wants to sell every hour available on every day. “It became a big issue when we moved from a three-bay shop to a full-scale 10-bay service center we are in now. We were using triple time cards as a crutch for labor tracking, but with added staff and car count this became too onerous, so we found a solution in a program called AutoApps. This program allows you to assign workload to each technician and track hours completed, hours remaining, and potentially sold hours.”

     Kelley also said his shop is using an online inspection program that links to AutoApps. “It has been highly successful in creating more sales because pictures sell needed work on vehicles.”

     Deer Park Diesel & Automotive in Clayton, Wash., north of Spokane, is a recent convert to Shop-Ware, said service adviser Joel Setzer. Shop-Ware was designed by Carolyn Coquillette, owner of Lucious Garage in San Francisco, with development assistance from Chip Keen, a longtime Northwest shop owner who designed Garage Operator software and is a former senior product manager at Identifix.

     Setzer said with seven total employees, including four technicians and two service advisers, Deer Park needed a management system that was intuitive, cloud-based, had a sophisticated user interface, proper design for work orders, and integrated clocking system. “With Shop-Ware we have been able to provide our customers with a more robust experience. The invitations and ability for customers to approve recommendations has streamlined our ability to complete repairs in a more timely manner,” he said.

     “It’s cloud based so all of our techs can use the Shop-Ware system out in the shop on their iPads,” Setzer said.

     Harvey’s Auto Service in Redmond, Wash., has been around since 1945, said Shop Manager Chris Anderson. Today, the shop provides full-service mechanical service and repair, as well as providing collision repair, tire sales and service, plus it has a detailing division.

     “The shop was using Mitchell 1 when I joined Harvey’s in 2002 and we have been using the Manager SE software for some time,” Anderson said. “The system is easy to use and we like the scheduling and estimating the system offers. When you create a quote, all the data comes up and it’s complete.”

     Anderson said the shop also appreciates the customer communication aspects of Manager SE that even created a professional holiday greeting for its customers in December. “With the social CRM, customers can go online and review files if desired and make an appointment based on needed service.”

     “The tracking with the system is very good, involving follow through with the quote, the tech’s work sheet, and labor times, plus we get updated sales reports nightly, as well as financial reports the owner uses regularly. We can generally get repair data back to 1974 vehicles, plus the system is very compatible with parts distributors; it interacts very well,” he said.

     “The Manager SE shop management program helps car and truck repair shops streamline workflow from estimate to invoice,” said Jill Schafer, Mitchell 1 marketing. “With a variety of electronic parts catalogs for aftermarket and OEM parts, including tires, an interactive work-in-progress dashboard and over 180 integrate reports, the system provides a 360-degree view of the entire operation.”



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.