John Hitch | Fleet Maintenance
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How to build a shop to suit your technicians

May 16, 2024
Keeping your technicians in mind when building and moving to a new shop is critical, both in considering the elements that will help them be more efficient and how to organize the move.

This is Part Two of a two-part story. Click here to read Part One.

There can be many reasons for wanting to remodel or move to another shop. Not only can this allow managers and owners to redesign for maximum efficiency, but they can improve their technician retention strategies by making an environment that's more appealing to work in.

In Part One of this story, we discussed some of the hurdles of selecting a new location and designing a new shop. In Part Two, here's how to tailor your new space into one that your technicians are excited to work in every day, and how to coordinate the big move once construction is complete.

Purpose-built for workers

The goal of a facility refresh is to improve efficiency, as well as technician recruiting and retention.

“It’s all about work environment nowadays,” said Dan Carrano, VP of maintenance at A. Duie Pyle, an LTL carrier with 29 service centers throughout the Northeast, 23 of which have maintenance facilities. “Your shop has to be a place technicians want to go when they wake up in the morning.”

A. Duie Pyle has seen every version of the good, bad, and ugly over its 100 years in business. Now it has taken the best of the best to establish a gold standard that’s being applied to its maintenance facilities. Carrano refers to it as “Pyle-izing” shops.

There is quite a bit of Pyle-izing going on these days. Pyle acquired five Yellow properties in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York late last year. “Any time you take over properties from a company that has filed bankruptcy, you know they have likely been neglected,” Carrano said.

Pyle’s facility maintenance department is in charge of getting the shell of a facility up to standard. Shops are professionally cleaned, repainted, and relit with LED lighting. HVAC systems are evaluated and updated as needed. Then Carrano and his maintenance team start to get involved.

“We put new air movement and oil systems in,” Carrano said. “We put in double-wall oil tanks, because we never trust existing tanks. Then we put in new tooling (i.e. lifts, jacks, alignment equipment, diagnostic tools, etc.). With those Yellow facilities we’ve acquired, we decided against bidding on the tooling because we like to go with standardized tooling across all our shops.”

Read more: Family-owned shop in Texas big on service, rich in history

Carrano has also developed some preferences to help improve the work environment. “We want a workplace that is clean and inviting,” Carrano said. “We don’t want our technicians to feel like they’re working in a cave.”

Coordinating a facility move

Something that can’t be overlooked when moving into a new facility is the logistical coordination of the move. It was quite the undertaking when Iron Buffalo switched Denver facilities over a weekend. The biggest key to pulling it off was establishing a point person.

“We had our general manager take over some of our service manager’s responsibilities so our service manager could completely focus on the coordination of our move,” said Austin White, co-owner of  Iron Buffalo Truck & Trailer Repair. A second employee was assigned to function as the point person’s assistant. “Then we hired a third person to work with them,” White said. “We also hired four temporary employees through a labor agency.”

The point person planned what would happen each day of the move. The “moving team” was then responsible for loading trucks with equipment, parts, uniforms, and supplies to get it over to the new building. A specific time was arranged to transfer the technicians’ personal toolboxes, and each technician was responsible for loading and unloading (with assistance) their own toolbox.

A lot of prep work took place in the weeks leading up to the move. The shop interior got a brighter paint job. New office furniture purchased from an auction house was put in place. New shelving was installed and labeled. A week before the move, White had one of his technicians set up the lube system.

When the time came to actually move, White planned for a downtick in shop production and prepared his fleet customers accordingly. He said everyone was very understanding and, in most cases, very supportive. One customer even lent White four of their trailers.

After that brief production disruption, Iron Buffalo’s Denver team has been feeling the positive effects of the new facility and additional workspace. Now, the team in Kalispell is getting ready to start feeling those same positive effects in their new facility. It’s a considerably smaller shop, but it’s also a considerably smaller market. Regardless, the goals and expectations are the same.

“If you take good care of your technicians and help them become more efficient, they’ll take care of you,” White said. 

About the Author

Gregg Wartgow

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