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Establishing standard repair times to speed up repairs

April 22, 2024
Identifying your shop’s standard repair time allows you to set a benchmark with the help of data and lean practices.

This is Part One of a two-part story.

Standard repair times serve as benchmarks for fleets and shop operators, helping them optimize operations and minimize downtime. More importantly, using SRTs prevents operators from leaving money on the table. Now shops are turning to technology, tools, and standard operating procedures to track technicians’ performance and maximize efficiency.

“Standard repair times allow the shop to determine the efficiency of the technicians and ensure they’re achieving what they can bill,” said Chris O’Brien, chief operating officer for Fullbay. “When you do things over and over, you get very efficient at it. If the going rate is to bill 1.5 hours and they’re always billing a half hour, they aren’t making enough money to stay in business.”

Establishing SRTs for techs

Unlike the automotive world, heavy-duty trucks do not have SRTs at the vehicle level, but many OEM component manufacturers offer SRTs at the component level, said DJ Painter, Technician as a Service lead for Noregon.

“For shops that track their own SRTs, we recommend comparing these against the OE’s published times and seeing if you discover any discrepancies,” he said.

O’Brien suggested that shops review the American Trucking AssociationsTechnology & Maintenance Council recommended practices, which can inform SRTs. Shops can also use a labor guide as their benchmark. Fullbay’s software also provides mechanic labor time guides from MOTOR.

“You identify how your shop performs and make sure you’re always getting your benchmark or maybe less,” he said.

Determining standard repair times can seem daunting, said Bob Hausler, VP of transport, North America, for AMCS Group. Shops need to do some critical thinking to get the best results.

“You probably won’t get every single repair process standardized, so begin by identifying the most repetitious and frequently performed work, and that is likely PMs.”

AMCS Fleet Maintenance, formerly Dossier, allows users to compare their actual times to the suggested times from OEMs, a third party, or their company standard.

“The metric you might find really useful is your own average time. We capture and calculate that without any extra effort on your part,” Hausler said, adding that the system learns as it goes. “The more you use the system, the more accurate that average gets. You can then refine that information into your own company-standard SRTs.”

Chris Barnhardt, VP of operations for Southeast Fleet Services, uses Fullbay to track how much time a tech spends on a job. “One service order could have one task or 20, so it tracks each job—both invoiced time and tech time,” he said. “Experienced techs who are productive will beat the ‘book time’ most of the time.”

Experienced techs who are slower or training new techs may be upside on their time.

Read more: How processes and guidelines improve repair quality

“Less-experienced techs will normally start off upside down and eventually beat the charged labor time or book time,” Barnhardt said. “It’s our job to keep the techs informed on how they are performing and manage them and their jobs from the data created in the Fullbay system.”

Southeast Fleet Services draws on the MOTOR labor guide, but Barnhardt said there are no guides for tanker repair and inspection times, so the company created its own. Managers held a weekend trip and reviewed nearly everything that could be done on a tanker trailer. “We probably had 250-plus years of tank experience giving input on how long specific jobs should take, and we built our own labor guide for tank repairs,” Barnhardt said.

Southeast Fleet Services is building out customized labor times for other types of vehicles as well. “When a job comes up that we’re doing over and over, I send out an email to all our managers asking for their input on a fair labor time. After discussions, we add it to our fixed labor time jobs,” Barnhardt said.

Historical data is a valuable resource when drafting SRTs.

“Use it to establish baselines for common repairs, considering factors like vehicle age, mileage, and repair complexity,” said Kayleigh O’Malley, product marketing manager, reporting and analytics for Fleetio. “With Fleetio’s Work Order Calendar view, you can view the actual start dates of a service and their completion date to see how long repairs are taking.”

Efficiency, not data overload

One of the challenges for shops and fleets can be taking advantage of all the information available to them. Amit Jain, co-founder and chief operating officer of Roadz, said nearly half of fleets use more than ten different fleet management solutions.

“Jumping between multiple dashboards and trying to make sense of siloed data is a huge burden for fleet managers, and it doesn’t bring the expected results,” he explained.

Roadz has launched its Unified Fleet Workspace, which can create an integrated view of data so fleet managers don’t have to navigate across multiple third-party applications with separate data structures and portals. Jain explained that having information in one place allows managers to make smarter, holistic decisions based on real-time information.

Jon Bernstein, VP of product management for Motus, said that integrating information from mileage tracking apps can help provide increased visibility and a deeper level of analysis. “When combined with the expertise of program managers in scheduling maintenance tasks and understanding vehicle histories, these insights empower proactive measures,” he said, adding that drawing on additional information can minimize downtime and extend the operational lifespan of vehicles.

Hausler said maintenance software should present real-time information via dashboards and KPIs. “This gives you insights and trends that allow you to make informed business decisions.”

There are several telling KPIs. “Track KPIs like first-time fix rate to measure repair effectiveness and reduce repeat visits,” O’Malley said. “Mean time to repair helps identify areas for improvement, while technician utilization rate ensures optimal workload distribution and minimizes idle time.”

Painter said other critical KPIs related to repair times include billed time vs. clocked time, job times vs. estimated times, bay utilization, work mix, and first-time fix rate. Management should also track technician productivity. “Analyzing this KPI helps to improve many other critical KPIs, such as downtime and dwell time,” he said.

For Hausler, the most important KPI is the percentage of repairs done within a certain tolerance of the SRT. “Many people focus on work order times that exceed the target time to identify techs that may need some additional training or coaching. However, it’s equally important to look at times under target,” he said, noting that managers want to ensure technicians aren’t skipping steps.

To read more about the tools and software available to speed up repair times in the shop, see Part Two of this story.

About the Author

Mindy Long

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