Badger Truck Center felt like it could do a better job, so it took a page from manufacturing and added a quality improvement facilitator.
“We felt like we were not delivering the best product that we could to our customers,” says Steve Sell, service manager. “To be honest, we were receiving complaints about the quality of the work coming out of our service department.” The dealership has 57 technicians operating out of 48 service bays at four locations in southeast Wisconsin.
Sell explains that dealership managers were “spitballing” ways to solve the problem, when they came up with the idea of putting someone in charge of looking at ways to improve processes and review interdepartmental communications. At the same time, Jeff Frahm, a technician with more than 30 years experience, was thinking of retiring. Rather than lose someone with that experience and knowledge, the dealership saw a way to keep Frahm and improve its operations.
Management knew they wanted both quality and improvement in Frahm’s new title, but should he be manager, assistant, assessor? They decided on the term “facilitator” after reviewing its definition and deciding it best fit with what they wanted — someone to initiate conversations and bring new ideas to the forefront.
While the position is just in its infancy, Sell says the dealership is already seeing improvements. “It has led to a more organized shop. People are cleaning up after themselves on a regular basis.”
He acknowledges that although technicians cleaning up might sound pretty basic, he contends that people get complacent and forgot to do things like bay cleanup. Having Frahm overseeing shop processes has allowed the dealership “to be more efficient and productive and provide a better experience for our customers,” Sell says.
Another area where Frahm saw room for improvement was with specialty tools. Cheryl Klein, marketing manager, says Frahm noticed that technicians were spending time trying to locate these shared tools because they were never in one designated place. He suggested tools be placed where they would be accessible for techs when they needed them, reducing the amount of time the tech spent outside the bay.
He also suggested that for repairs the service department knew were coming into the dealership, that the parts department gather all the necessary parts in one box so they would all be ready when the tech came to the counter.
Klein says, “The changes help the technicians be more efficient, and as a result they move trucks through the bays more quickly to get the vehicles back on the road faster.”
Frahm’s role is to look for problems, not necessarily to implement the process changes. “We want to keep him where he is always observing and looking at how we are doing things, so we can improve and use the right people for the right jobs,” Klein explains. Once a problem has been identified, Frahm works with the appropriate manager to create a solution and make the necessary changes.
Improving efficiencies is something that can benefit fleets, too. You might want to consider having someone put “fresh eyes” on your processes and procedures. Klein’s advice is to welcome the position with open arms.
“Be aware that some problems that are brought to your attention are going to be hard to hear or not easy to find solutions for. But you have to take a step back and look at the entire operation and be open to the idea that you can do things better. There is always room to grow and change. Just know with change there might come some growing pains.”