Rapid improvement – to a (Model) T
For the last few months, Snap-on has been running a prize draw, with the main prize being an original Model T Ford that has been reconstructed as a Snap-on Salesman car as seen in the 1920s. The winners were announced at an event at the company’s diagnostics base in King’s Lynn in July.
The car had been shipped from the USA, so it was appropriate that the aforementioned event was itself an American import, albeit a more modern example. Having been inspired during a recent trip to America, Managing Director of Snap-on Diagnostics UK Mark Ost decided to run a British version of the Rapid Continuous Improvement (RCI) Day.
With marquees set up outside the branded building, departments from Snap-on Diagnostics and Garage Equipment were showcasing what they have been doing over the last year. Each of the departments spent time putting together their offering, with the presentations on the day given a movie or TV theme. Each department voted for who they thought was the best offering, with management also picking a winner.
Making our way around the colourful stands, we stopped to talk to Harry Barrett, European Product Manager for Diagnostic Software and Hardware. He said: “Our focus today is to show the progress we have made since 2009 when we started to put our handheld products into Europe under the PDL Sun brand. We also want to show that we don’t stand still and we’re always looking to the value proposition, which is more than just selling the tool at day one; It’s been there for the customer if they need support.”
Commenting on the experience of the RCI day, Harry added: “It’s great to have everyone come in, including our field service team and the sales guys, to have a bit of fun, see what other teams are doing, learn something from it and hopefully go away and start thinking differently.”
We next grabbed Matt Boyce from the company’s marketing department: “Our focus is around marketing automation. We’ve implemented an automated process for all of our diagnostic customers. From the moment they purchase a product from Snap-on, they receive regular content via email with information resources to get the most out of their diagnostic products.”
Next up was Nick, Test Lane Product Manager, who was largely responsible for the rapid creation of a new particulate emissions analyser, the DSS PN, which is destined for the German market, but likely to end up in the UK at a later date: “We were tasked with trying to develop something in fairly short order. It’s designed specifically to measure particulates coming out of diesel engines. The existing technology doesn’t really work with modern vehicles, which emit virtually no visible particulates. The trouble is, they’re still emitting harmful particles that you can’t see. In Germany and Europe as a whole, they implemented legislation to try and find a way to measure those harmful particles that can’t be seen. We did this in nine months, to get into the German market.”
Their offering, E-Missions Impossible came complete with a miniature Tom Cruise dangling from a wire. At this point, all 15 groups had seen each other’s presentation. Every group’s team leader collated the votes for their team, which would next be reviewed by the management team.
Speaking of the management team, we used the natural break in proceedings as an opportunity to grab some time with the top guys at Snap-on who were on hand on the day. Mark Ost said: “I wanted every department to understand their influences on other parts of the business. It took six months to get here, but the engagement has been phenomenal.”
On what outcomes might result, Mark said: “Just seeing some of the activity, we’ll get wins out of it, there’s no doubt. Two-and-a-half years ago we identified what would be an emissions opportunity in Germany, and I was trying to convince my bosses we needed to do this. Last month alone, we did €1 million in Germany in emissions.
“Pre COVID-19, I thought the emissions business was dying. We now know this is actually going to grow significantly. Legislation being driven around the world is going to give us growth. We believe particulate testing will come into the UK as well.“
One of the messages that was coming out from the day was how Snap-on looks to support its customers. Explaining how this is the case, Mark observed: “We have spent a lot of time talking about how we continue to better enable technicians to fix the vehicles faster first time. That’s what we have to be about. What do they need? What does the aftermarket look like today? What is it going to look like in 2030? What is the pattern of evolution for the independent to keep in touch with the technology?
“I spend more time in garages than most General Managers. I will visit one or two garages a week, every week. I can just drop in because I’ve been here so long. They all know me,” he added with a smile, “and they know I like free coffee.”
He continued: “When I talk to them, they all tell me they don’t have access or the time or the money to invest in keeping themselves up to date with that technology. As a company we’ve got to make sure that we’re giving them the products as best as we can to enable them to continue to do those first-time fixes. We’ve got to continue to give more support to our customers.”
Snap-on Diagnostics President Jeff Zuehls, who was over from the USA, observed: “We’re producing new hand tools to address new technologies. We’re producing new equipment as well.”
Then there is the shift to EVs: “Initially when EVs came out, they were seen as a singularity that was going to completely change the world. I think we’ve backed off of that. We’ve gotten a clearer view.
“With service information, you think of an EV as much more technical, but that’s not entirely right. It’s more electrical and the challenge is taking techs from being mechanics to being technicians, to being electrical engineers. That’s where the education and training come in.
We also know that EV have a different maintenance schedule, so getting that touch point that EV owners have with dealerships is also something that we can share in.”
Once the management team had taken their vote, the next step was to announce the winners. The presentation that won the popular vote was ‘The Repair Shop’ as presented by the Service Department, while ‘A Brick’ as presented by the Operations Team won the backing of management. Finally, the overall award went to E-Missions Impossible from Product Management.
Lastly, the culmination of the day came with the prize draw to determine who would win the Model T Ford, which was won by David Parr who came via franchisee Martin Squires. Runners up Michael Kirkman and Simon Gates both received a scale model of the Model T.
Summing up the day, Byron Miltz, M.D at Snap-on Tools added: “The relationship that the franchisees have with the customers means we can continue to provide technicians with the ability to solve problems in a timely manner, doing it right first time. As they are developing their skills, they’re able to grow personally and professionally, and our franchisees are a big part of that.”