Speed vs Quality in Automotive Repair

Speed vs Quality in Automotive Repair

Quality is number one. Don’t sacrifice your standards.

The flat rate system most likely holds the title for controversy in automotive repair shops. Is it a good system, or is it flawed? Truth is, it’s a good system, or at least there’s plenty of logic behind it. But, unfortunately, it’s also flawed in a lot of ways.

Will we ever have a better system? Who knows, but what’s important is how we as technicians respond to it all. One of the big problems is how many young technicians are introduced into the field and where they’re getting their experience. It comes down to one of two situations.

One, you’re in a shop that has a genuine focus on quality, and the main concern is getting the job done right. The shop owners and service managers who support this ideal and encourage their technicians to take a few extra minutes in the interest of quality are the “best of the best.”

The other possibility is a situation where the entire operation is only about money. All they look at is production, production, production. This can be tough for any of us, especially young technicians who are still trying to find their way. They’re forced to hurry before they have time to develop the mechanical and organizational skills they need to work efficiently and produce quality results.

I’ve been in both situations, and as technicians, we must pay bills like everyone else, but as tempting as it is to nail the flat-rate time, I’ve never gone into it with that mindset. A perfect example is when I started a new job at a large shop. Nobody knew me, so naturally the service advisors were reluctant to give me much, and early on, I’m sure they thought, “that oil change took him 10 minutes longer than the car wash kid who just transitioned to technician. I thought he was supposed to be experienced.”

Then, there was the shop manager who insisted on touring the shop every 15 minutes. “Comin’ apart or goin’ back together?” was his favorite quip. The only thing he instilled in the shop was getting as much work done as possible. But I refused to sacrifice my quality. Did that mean I was slow? Not by any means because I worked efficiently. But, I wasn’t the fastest either. Top speed was owned by those who didn’t care about quality.

Then, the oil change hero forgot to put the filter on a car that happened to be in for its very first oil change. Fill it up, slam the hood and back it out was his M.O. He must have known the meaning of the look I gave him, because he said “what, you’ve never done that?” My answer was an immediate and unequivocal “no.”

The moral of the story is that it didn’t take long before I was one of the most requested technicians by the service advisors. Difficult problems, other techs’ comebacks; there was no more time for excuses and embarrassment. They wanted the cars fixed right, the first time. And the best part of it all, they paid me for my time. If the service advisor said, “I can pay you only this,” and I said, “if I’m going to fix it, I’m going to need the time I have in it,” they’d somehow figure out how to pay me.

Quality is number one. Don’t sacrifice your standards. Efficiency comes with time, speed comes with efficiency, and nothing costs more than a comeback, a damaged car or a damaged reputation. TS

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