13 Jul 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

Let me count the ways

How was your summer then? After last year’s adventures, we stayed closer to home this year. In fact, we will be going abroad in the Autumn past the equator, somewhere further south where the drinks are colder and I don’t know the names of the local factors. To balance this out, we opted to give some of the guys more flexibility for summer this year, and push on through to September.

Over the last few months here though I’ve been getting to grips with our workload, trying to work out where we can open up some efficiencies, make things go faster and squeeze more income out of the routine work, so we can offer those customers with the more complicated jobs some options when they need it.

You’d think I’d be better at this than I am. All these years running this place, surely, I know how to wring every quid from each bay. You would be right, but I kept thinking about the MOT side of things. Since 2020 the test side of things has gone haywire. We had the MOT exemption, so no tests and everyone was just going to get a MOT “later”, at a time when there was not much of anything at all happening. Scary period for us all.

Then, the law of unintended consequences kicked in and suddenly all the MOTs were happening in the late autumn and winter, and then back to nothing for the summer. This has started to ease up, but right through this I somehow managed to keep the MOT bay busy, but not backed up too much. I used every tool at my disposal, ranging from making the most of the digital tools at my disposal, down to the personal touch where I work with long-standing customers to get their cars in and out at a time that worked for us, by doing pick-ups and drop-offs where I often would not offer these before. With a combination of tech-smart and streetsmart we kept it all rolling.

The upshot of this was that the rest of the garage started to seem a little “slow” by comparison, so I decided to look at where our pinch-points were. Ah, let me count the ways… by which I mean there were quite a few problems. A lot of it came down to how we were assessing jobs before they came in. Despite all the kit we have to help us with the front-ofhouse, sometimes we were putting what turned out to be more complex jobs in with the more prosaic stuff. The harder work often went quite well, but we were not seeing it as being something that would slow us down, but it did. We have addressed this now, and everything is back on track.

One thing that does seem to be a runaway train at the moment though is the MOT test. With the recent government consultation, covered extensively here in Aftermarket although not on this page, suggesting the powers-that-be are still pushing for that 4-1-1 or 4-2-2 timeframe for the test, things could get messy. Last time this came up the industry worked together to point out all the potential downsides, yet again, let me count the ways …

Every time this comes up, we need to slap it down, hard, like the slapbass on an 80s hit. Did someone say Level 42?