Problem: How to increase technician efficiency and accommodate future increases in business volume
Solution: Freestanding and wall-mounted base cabinets and overhead cabinets with drawer storage, bulk storage, and workbenching for up to four technicians and their tools
Benefits: Conveys professional image, keeps shop organized, and centralizes tools for quick access
Products Used: Service Bays
When Minneapolis-area car dealership Maplewood Audi decided to build a new facility exclusively for Audi™ sales and service, they envisioned something truly unique. And that vision included the service department. The owners wanted the new shop to be a vast improvement over the typical one: a workplace that would make technicians more efficient and easily accommodate future increases in business volume. It would also have to make a bold statement to customers about quality. “We’re a luxury auto dealer,” says service and parts director Jeff LaMott. “We wanted our shop to help customers understand that we’re professionals who will treat their cars as if they were our own.”
LaMott calls the new 14,000-sq.-ft. shop, which opened in February 2006, a showplace. “Shops have a tendency to look dungeon-like,” he says. “To avoid that, we created very open space and flooded it with light.” The building includes plenty of overhead fixtures, 30-ft. high ceilings, white walls with windows lining the top edge, and grey ceramic tile floors. To help smooth workflow, Maplewood put the parts department at the center of the shop so that all technicians can quickly get the parts they need. Wide work bays make it easier to move cars in and out, and allow technicians to work side by side with less chance of interfering with each other or inadvertently bumping an adjacent car with an open door. The shop includes several items designed to reduce clutter, such as in-ground hoists that lie flush against the floor when not in use, and covers for all overhead hose reels.
“When compared to the old building, there is no comparison,” says John Erdelyi, an Audi Master Guild technician who has been with Maplewood for eight years. “The new shop is brighter, has better air quality, doesn't get as hot in the summer, and is an easier place to work.”
The most striking pieces of equipment in this new showcase are the 19 bright-red Vidmar® Automotive Technician’s Center (ATC) units—one of which sits at the head of each service bay. The ATC consists of a freestanding or wall-mounted base, as well as wall-mounted overhead cabinets. It combines drawer storage, bulk storage, and workbenching for up to four techs and their tools, and can be custom-configured to meet the needs of any dealership.
Maplewood was the first customer to install the ATC. The dealership had long-used Vidmar cabinets in its parts department so management knew it could rely on the company. “Vidmar has been servicing the automotive industry for years and is in tune with the needs of a busy dealership,” says LaMott.
In fact, LaMott says the ATC units perfectly supported the dealership’s goals. Management wanted the shop to convey a professional image and so wanted an alternative to the cluttered, non-uniform array of technician-supplied toolboxes found in many dealerships. “In our old facility each technician’s box was a different color and had different logos pasted on it. Some boxes were worn and damaged,” recalls LaMott. Since the Vidmar units would present a far better face to the dealership’s customers, the purchase decision was made before construction even started. “We were so sure we wanted these toolboxes that we made them central to our building design,” he recalls. For instance, designers had to work around the dimensions of the ATC units when placing water hose connections, electrical outlets, and the wiring for the hoist controls in each service bay.
Techs have embraced the ATC. “The new boxes give you more space than you would possibly need for all your tools,” says Erdelyi. “And they give every technician his own stainless-steel work surface that’s easy to keep clean.” Even the few technicians—himself included – who recently bought expensive new boxes are happy. “We all just liked being given a top-of-the-line new box.”
The ATC units will also help the dealership manage business growth. The new shop can serve customers with no more than a two-day wait, compared to as much as a week during very busy times at the old facility. The question is whether they can maintain that wait time when business increases. “When people design shops, growth is often overlooked,” says LaMott. “We planned for it from the beginning.”
The department currently employs 17 technicians working one shift. But since each ATC has two independently lockable sets of drawers and doors, the dealership can easily add technicians on different shifts as business grows. The individually locking drawers and cabinets will assure that each technician’s tools stay where they left them at the end of their shift.
Not surprisingly, the new shop’s efficient design and top-of-the-line equipment help create a workspace that attracts good technicians. “I don’t think shop-wise you could find a better place to work,” says Erdelyi. “Everyone definitely takes pride in the new facility.”
Customers and technicians aren’t the only ones who have been impressed by Maplewood’s showcase. “I get calls from people all the time who are building new shops and who want to come down and take a look at ours,” says LaMott.
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