There are two things all managers must do in order to run a successful business: clearly convey goals and track the progress of those goals. If these two tasks are completed effectively and frequently, the impact on the bottom line can be extremely positive. However, managers who neglect to do these things can find themselves struggling to keep the business afloat. For marine dealerships, tracking efficiency is probably the most important in the service department. Top shops understand the importance of weekly, and sometimes even daily, tracking. Yet, there are some shops that still do not track at all. Those who don't track efficiency often believe strongly that it is something they absolutely cannot track.

    This article is for you non-trackers. It is your year to turn it around. If you can balance a checkbook, you can track your shop's efficiency. If you can balance more than one checkbook, you can track the efficiency of your individual techs. It really is that simple, and it really is that important.

   Many managers have a go-to excuse as to why it's impossible to track shop efficiency. Keep in mind that often times these excuses can point out flaws or weaknesses in a business process that should be addressed. Even if your shop runs flawlessly, you should be able to come up with some basic guidelines for gauging efficiency. Let's have a quick look at three common excuses:

We don't have the right computer equipment and software.

   You don't need a state-of-the-art computer or software system. Tracking efficiency is a simple process. While computers can help you streamline the way you get your numbers, they are not necessary for efficient tracking.

We do not use a proper clock-punch.

    You don't need proper punch time on jobs to track the basics of efficiency. It helps if you want to drill down, but you don't need it.

Our tickets are not closed out.

   It is very common for work orders to span days, weeks and even a pay period. Though helpful, it is not necessary to close all current tickets to track efficiency.

So what do you need to track efficiency? First, you need the answers to two basic questions:

-How many hours did you pay your techs to be at work?

-How much money did you collect in labor charges?

    It's as simple as that- money going out vs. money coming in- just like a checkbook.

   Phillip Osborne of Naples Boat Mart has this to say about tracking efficiency, " For managers who don't track it currently, you should at least begin by doing a very generic evaluation of where your whole shop operates for efficiency. Hours billed and hours worked are all you need- pretty easy. Many will be shocked by how inefficient their operations are!" Phillip is right. Looking at the entire shop is a perfect place to begin. Once you and your team know where you stand, you can start making progress and dig even deeper in your analysis. Shops that track efficiency can't imagine not tracking it. As Lucy Miller from Cannons Marine said, " You can't improve what you don't measure."

    Still not convinced that it's worth the hassle? Jim Sabia from Top Notch Marine says " I believe this, if you don't know where you are going, any road will do! If a tech is paid by the hour and knows he/she is not being tracked, you can expect around 40-to-60 percent efficiency- closer to 40 percent in my experience. Through tracking, we average over 100 percent...actually 113.8 to be exact!

   Finding the fortitude to take the first steps often comes in realizing that shops of all sizes are tracking efficiency with success. Some shops simply use a dry erase board to keep track of hours billed vs. hours worked for each tech. Another shop simply tabulates the total hours for the shop as a whole and puts the numbers worked and the numbers billed in chalk on the shop floor daily. It's important to point out in both of these examples that the numbers might not be 100 percent accurate, and that's okay. Once the tickets are closed out, you can adjust your billed labor number. The more you and your team do this together, the closer your guesses will be to reality. This also helps to improve your estimates over time.

   New trackers are often amazed by how much shop efficiency will improve by simply paying attention to it. Even if you don't tie any monetary incentive to it, efficiency will go up if you begin consistently tracking and sharing the information. How many techs do you have? Can you spare one minute a day per tech to increase your profitability? Often that is all that it takes. A simple daily check-in with your guys to find out 'where are you on this?' will tell you so much. It will also let them know you are paying attention. No one wants to turn in low numbers or show that they are not pulling their weight. Use this to your advantage.

   Another benefit of doing the daily one-minute check-in is the valuable information you'll start to collect as to why you may not be as profitable as you would like. This exercise can help them to open up on what is taking up the majority of their time. Although it may sound like complaining, this kind of information is important to know and could lead to process improvement.

   Ultimately, time control is the foundation of service profitability. Time is your inventory, and you need to do everything you can to make time as tangible as your parts inventory. Once you see how much of an impact tracking efficiency has on the bottom line, you'll be motivated to track it even more effectively, and perhaps even tie an incentive to it.

   A word of caution: you won't want to tie a monetary incentive to shop efficiency until you have tracked it for a while. You might be surprised with how many hours your techs spend working on things management has asked them to do that don't contribute to profitability. What is included in your tech's job descriptions? Helping sales move boats or unload new inventory? Building or vehicle maintenance? Pulling or looking up parts? Waiting on dispatch? Locating units, helping diagnose other tech's jobs, calling customers, cleaning boats or putting covers on? The list can be extensive, and anything that keeps your techs from turning wrenches impacts your shop's efficiency.

   The information that comes from efficiency tracking is absolutely critical for a profitable marine business. And the great news is that it's readily available on a daily basis in your shop. Start today and with very little effort, you can begin to track efficiency and make important decisions that could have a major impact on your bottom line this year.

No More Excuses: Track Efficiency

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