Technicians Productivity: How to Make Your Technicians More Efficient

By Mary Gerard

Each year, there are more than 73,000 job openings for technicians. With those numbers, filling your job vacancies in your shop is not going to get easier. It’s just going to get harder.

If you’re looking to get more work done at your fleet operation, the solution might not be to increase your staff, but instead to increase your productivity by making your techs more efficient.

Even if you are fully staffed, have you looked at your technicians’ productivity? How efficiently are they working?

Use these techniques to evaluate your technicians’ productivity and learn how to make them more efficient.

Check Your Technicians’ Productivity

When Jeff Jenkins was running a trucking company in Texas, he set out to determine how his technicians were using their time in the shop. He quickly found out there were no standards in place for how long it should take a tech to complete a job. That meant someone could log 1 hour for a standard oil change or 3 hours, and there was no system in place that would flag the job and let the shop manager ask questions like, “How did that take you 3 hours?”

Jeff worked with his team to determine how long every job should take the technicians to complete – from PMs to replacing a transmission, and everything in between. This gave them a baseline to measure technicians’ performances.

When Steve Saltzgiver was at Coca-Cola, he assembled a team of fleet experts including the technicians to process map a PM-A. The current PM-A was taking 6 hours and the team thought they could do better by identifying and eliminating “non-value-add” steps in the process. After considerable refinement the shop was able to pare down the 6-hour PM-A to 2-hours. Remarkedly, this process improved the PM-A by a whopping 200% improvement in productivity allowing a single technician to complete 3 PM-As instead of 1 within a 6-hour period.

Ron Turley, the founder of RTA, did a similar exercise when he was working at UPS.

He knew that it took about 12 hours to rebuild an engine on a UPS truck. Ron studied the technicians performing the work to see if he could identify inefficiencies in their work to cut time off from the job. This involved marking each time a technician had to go to the parts room, or had to go to another bay to get a tool or an air hose. He documented each of these and discovered that changing the layout of the shop and making other alterations would let the work get done twice as fast – completing an engine rebuild in 6 hours instead of 12.

These are great ideas – but you might not have the time to watch your technicians’ every move, or develop your own standard repair times.

We have solutions for you.

Use The Circle Concept

The Circle Concept is Ron Turley’s solution to make preventative maintenance inspections more efficient. The idea is:

  1. A person does everything they can reach from one spot before moving on to the next.
  2. A person doesn’t retrace their steps.

If you make a sketch of the vehicle you’re inspecting, mark the general locations of items on the inspection checklist. Then draw circles to represent areas 2 or 3 feet in diameter. The circles should slightly overlap to ensure all areas of the vehicle are covered.

Then during the inspection, the technician should move from one area (or one circle) to another, inspecting everything in that location before moving on to the next. This ensures everything is covered – yet prevents the tech from retracing his steps and wasting time by going back to any circle.

Technicians Productivity

When training the technician on inspections, Ron would teach the following:

  1. Start with the cab as you get in to drive the vehicle. You don’t need to wait for it to get into the bay.
  2. Move completely around the vehicle, inspecting wheels, sheet metal, frame, body, and attached components such as waste body, dump body, digger, derrick or crane.
  3. Get under it. Start the oil draining and lube it from front to back, inspecting as you go.
  4. Open the hood; work one side of the engine compartment, then the front, then the other side.

Incorporate Standard Repair Times (SRTs)

While Jeff and his team determined on their own how long each job should take to complete, there is an easier way to do this. There are published lists of Standard Repair Times that document how long specific jobs should take to complete.

You can find these in guides like Mitchell OnDemand, Motor, or Chilton’s.

You can also use your fleet management software solution. Your FMIS should have the ability to create SRTs based on your fleet’s repair history. It will do this by breaking your average labor hours down by VMRS code, or by Class Code.

When using SRTs, it’s important to have a plan for how to incorporate them into your training and feedback for employees. You need to understand that everyone works differently, so you can’t be as cut-and-dry to say you’re a good technician if you finished under the SRT, and a bad tech if you finished over. You need to consider what added to the work time. And if it is just that a technician is inefficient, then you can use their SRT stats to set up additional training for that employee, or create a performance plan.

Take Advantage of FMIS Capabilities

When making your fleet operation more efficient, it’s important to tap into the tools in your fleet management software solution. This can include:

  • Eliminating paper work forms by using the FMIS’ Work Order features.
  • Stop manually entering data and use the information generated by your system.
  • Get instant data and reports to know what’s going on at your fleet, right now.
  • Track parts and warranties to make ordering and warranty processes easier.
  • Get real-time parts inventory so you know what’s in stock and what needs to be ordered.
  • Set up alerts to let your staff know when vehicles are due for preventative maintenance.
  • Track labor to optimize your shop schedule.
  • Use predictive maintenance tools in telematics solutions to identify what issues need to be repaired on your vehicles.
  • Identify problem areas at your shop – in terms of spending and time – to make changes and make your operation more efficient.
  • And many more.

As the saying goes, “Work smarter, not harder.” Using these tips to make your fleet more efficient can help you overcome staffing issues and help you save money.

If you need help making your fleet more efficient, learn about our fleet consulting services, or reach out to our Sales team to learn how RTA’s solution can help your operation.

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