A portrait of an angry driver sitting in his car.Have you ever been frustrated when booking in your car in for a service or repair?

Have you been put on hold, transferred multiple times or waited for a return call? Maybe you had to wait in a queue to check in? Worse still, your car wasn’t ready at the time it was promised?

That’s just the customer facing side of the business. Technicians are faced with an ever increasing array of vehicles fitted with more and more complex technology.

Stores and reception staff are also under pressure to accurately provide parts and information within ever decreasing deadlines.

Where do we start?

Although our garage is part of the service industry, the functions they perform can be described as a process. They may not be manufacturing but they are still using manpower, materials and machines (inputs) to make changes in line with customer requirements. We, the customer, judge their output in terms of quality, cost and delivery time.

Once we understand this, we can capture each process and improve it. I use simple process flowcharts like this one.



Many of the identified “problems” can be eliminated at very little cost by applying the foundation improvement techniques; 5S, 7 Wastes, Visual Management and Standardised Work.

Once the simple, low cost solutions have been implemented, garages can look at how best to utilise the opportunities offered by cloud based technology.

Simple, low cost solutions

Take a look at the before (left) and after (right) shots of a repair workshop.

Garage before and after

While the before shot may look quite tidy, the improved layout and visual locations created using the 5S technique, resulted in a 50% saving in technician time searching for equipment.

Improvements were also made in the time taken by each vehicle to go through the shop and a reduction in damage to parts removed during repair.

Using the same techniques in the car parks and spares stores resulted in improved customer experience, time to retrieve parts form stores and part availability.

Reception and customer enquiry experiences were also improved in time and accuracy by eliminating waste from the processes and creating standardised work procedures.

So for the investment of some time, paint, hooks and labelling machines, you can improve competitiveness and profitability at the same time as enhancing customer satisfaction in terms of quality and delivery.

Workshops of the future

I recently attended the Automechanika show and saw many examples of how we can use cloud based technology to further eliminate wastes in our garage services.

The example that stood out most was the vision presented by Autodata.

Autodata currently provide up-to-date technical information for over 29,000 models using a cloud based system. Can you imagine even having the hard copy manuals for that, let alone retrieving the one for the job? Even if you did, they would appear in different formats and be quickly out of date.

The beauty of their system is that other providers can develop applications to share the same platform. This will mean that the wastes incurred by accessing separate systems for bookings, queries, ordering parts and invoicing can also be eliminated.

This system will also link with your connected car. Once your car has communicated its needs, the system will automatically arrange the details and order the parts. Then the booking slot, cost and directions will appear on your smartphone. All you have to do is press “YES”.

I’m looking forward to this day, and who knows, perhaps my car will then drive itself in as well!

For more help applying lean techniques in non-manufacturing situations contact the IF team.