How you can make the most out of your shop’s ROs

July 5, 2019
Standardization in the repair order process can make data collection more efficient and consistent.

Fleets today are faced with the challenge of figuring out what to do with all the data they collect. It’s certainly not the lack of data, but more so what to do with it.

Start the process by keeping it simple: look at the overall productivity picture of the shop.

A maintenance shop’s productivity is measured in hours worked. Is your shop making the most out of these hours? An evaluation of your current repair processes can help assess current performance to set a benchmark and can help improve shop efficiency.

The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) recently held a forum to provide fleet maintenance personnel insight into best practices for maintenance workflow through a seminar titled Maintenance Workflow Best Practices, which is part of the TCA Profitability Program (TPP). TPP events are designed to provide best practices for fleets in any number of departments within the fleet operation, such as maintenance, safety, finance, and more.

TCA Managing Director Jack Porter led this particular program for attendees, sharing insights from his time as a consultant for both dealers and independent fleets.

He suggested a review of the current repair order process and a method for creating and monitoring consistent standard repairs.  

Best practices for the repair order process

Productivity is measured by the number of hours paid, compared to the number of hours put into a job. To do this, compare shop hours versus repair order (RO) hours. Porter shared insights on how fleets can improve and optimize the RO order process in the shop.

Start at the front desk

The RO should be started on the system at the front desk, Porter says. He also stressed the importance of capturing a signature at the time the RO is created – either digitally or manually. If something happens to that truck and you don’t have a signature, you could face a lawsuit, Porter advises.

Use standard coding

The only way to review historical data and benchmark your operations is through standardization. Be sure that jobs are coded to standard repair times (SRTs) and with the vehicle maintenance recording standards (VMRS) established by the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC).

Nearly all attendees at the seminar recorded VMRS codes in some form, though it was up for debate how detailed each operation went. Recording only the three-digit code will provide a more high-level view. This represents the vehicle system. Many shops will record the six-digit code, which includes both the vehicle system and the component. The most detailed fleets record the full nine-digit code, which includes the vehicle system, component, and area of the component. It is important to note that you can always get less detailed, but if you’re not recording the data in the first place, you cannot get more granular. 

Include PM details

When recording information on the RO, be sure to also include preventive maintenance (PM) inspection details. This process can be expedited with electronic recording systems, versus pen and paper. One reason is, job codes can also be pre-loaded with the parts necessary for that job depending on your maintenance software system.

Appoint a service coordinator

Another important aspect to consider is communication between the driver and the maintenance department, to gather additional information about the truck’s performance and potential issues. For consistency, have one point-person – such as a service coordinator – code every job.

Another suggestion that came from this discussion was issuing internal service bulletins on chronic repairs, especially when there are similar issues showing up in the same trucks. Alert your entire team about these issues, providing a workflow and parts necessary to fix the issue. This can also help your fleet watch for trends, and what parts are needed, helping to prepare for an influx of issues with similar truck models.

Figure out the top standard repairs

As it relates to standardization, consider building your standard repair times (SRTs) internally. Porter detailed that dealers often have a number of SRTs in place to quickly record the length of time a repair will take.

Creating SRTs benefit shops in two primary ways: 

  1. SRTs give technicians an estimated amount of time for how long a job will take. Keep in mind, newer technicians will take longer. Seasoned technicians may be more efficient and take less time. Some shops also incentivize technicians for having a completed labor time under the SRTs they’ve completed.
  2. SRTs let operations know how long you’ll need that vehicle to be out of service to complete the work. 

To establish a list of SRTs, start with the top jobs completed by your technicians on a regular basis. Porter suggested the top 30 repairs to start. You can create a baseline by asking technicians how long they believe it takes to complete certain jobs. Examples include the time it takes to complete PMs, wheel seal installs, brake jobs, etc. 

Expanding on the SRTs, consider building out a standardized repair that not only includes the estimated time it should take a technician to complete the service, but also a parts list for that repair. This can help the technician no longer search for each part and plan ahead before getting into the service.

Communication and transparency with technicians are important. Be sure to get their feedback to ensure the SRTs make sense. If you change the SRTs, be sure to communicate changes with the technicians.

With any change, always consider employee buy-in. Change must come from the top down in order for the implementation of new processes to be successful.

Does your shop track top standard repairs? What tips can you offer others when it comes to improving the RO process? I welcome your insights. Feel free to share your thoughts at [email protected].  

About the Author

Erica Schueller | Media Relations Manager | Navistar

Erica Schueller is the Media Relations Manager for Navistar.

Before joining Navistar, Schueller served as Editorial Director of the Endeavor Commercial Vehicle Group. The commercial vehicle group includes the following brands: American Trucker, Bulk Transporter, Fleet Maintenance, FleetOwner, Refrigerated Transporter, and Trailer/Body Builders brands.

An award-winning journalist, Schueller has reported and written about the vehicle maintenance and repair industry her entire career. She has received accolades for her reporting and editing in the commercial and automotive vehicle fields by the Truck Writers of North America (TWNA), the International Automotive Media Competition (IAMC), the Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Awards and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Azbee Awards.

Schueller has received recognition among her publishing industry peers as a recipient of the 2014 Folio Top Women in Media Rising Stars award, acknowledging her accomplishments of digital content management and assistance with improving the print and digital products in the Vehicle Repair Group. She was also named one Women in Trucking’s 2018 Top Women in Transportation to Watch.

She is an active member of a number of industry groups, including the American Trucking Associations' (ATA) Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC),  the Auto Care Association's Young Auto Care Networking Group, GenNext, and Women in Trucking.

In December 2018, Schueller graduated at the top of her class from the Waukesha County Technical College's 10-week professional truck driving program, earning her Class A commercial driver's license (CDL).  

She has worked in the vehicle repair and maintenance industry since 2008.

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