Go overseas for an OE or buy a business…? This was the dilemma faced by Nathan and Mel before they bit the bullet and bought Te Anau Auto Services in 2006. Read the case study to learn about Mel and Nathan’s journey from late nights and weekends on the couch doing paperwork to getting more family time.

“I’m not taking home a huge pile of invoices at the end of the month like I used to.”

Why did you start the search for a workshop management system?

“For 10 years we were using a combination of MYOB and paper – paper invoices, paper job cards, paper everything.

We really wanted to get away from our paper system. I used to go home at the end of the month with a big bundle of invoices to sort out. We wanted to be able to do it all at work, not take it home and sit in front of the TV.

We then also wanted to grow the business and we hired a business mentor to help us do that. The first step with him was to evaluate where we were at that point in time, and he asked a lot of questions that we couldn’t answer. The mentor explained the key performance indicators for workshops, things like productivity, margins, the markup on parts, labour to parts ratios.

It became clear that we couldn’t get that information with our paper and MYOB system, so the business mentor encouraged us to look for software to help us manage the workshop.”

How did you implement the system?

“The South Island team installed and trained us on SAM. Grant understood that we were wanting to save time and get away from the paperwork, so we spent a bit of time going over our job kits (templates) and the text that goes into them so that that information can just be added straight into estimates and invoices.

Our mentor was from an accounting background, he was able to guide us in how to set the system up from an accounting perspective. This was especially important so that we could make sure we were putting the right information in, to get out the right information to measure the growth of the workshop.

We got the right GL codes in there right from day one, things like payroll and misc., so having that accounting knowledge was awesome.”

How has SAM helped your goals of going paperless and growing the business?

Capturing lost time and profits
“We’re definitely making more money now because we’re accounting for all the hours the guys are working. They clock on when they walk in the door, every time they start and finish a job, and then they clock off again at the end of the day.

I was quite shocked at how much overcharging I was doing. I was estimating that I did half an hour on a job, but it was actually only 15 minutes. Then we had bigger jobs that staff were coming on and off of throughout the day and we’re now able to capture the whole time they’re working on a job.

At the end of the month, I can look at the reports to see where the guys are spending their time, especially non-jobs that are taking up their time, and see if we can allocate their time somewhere more worthwhile.

We wish we implemented time-clocking from day one, we got the gist of SAM, but we weren’t using it to its full potential. We wanted to get our heads around SAM first, but it actually didn’t take us too long.”

Reaching hundreds of customers in seconds with email and text reminders.
“Originally, we had all the customers details in a spreadsheet, and we would do a mail merge to print their details onto the warrant cards. We were doing around 200 a month and then sometimes you would get returned mail. It was a lot of money going on stamps.

We got the SMS add-on from day one, we wanted the ease of being able to text people to let them know their cars are ready. At first, we had a backlash from customers, they liked the old, printed cards because they could put them on the fridge. It took a while to change those habits.

We now do most of our service/WOF reminders by email, and when customers don’t have email, we’ll send a text message. We get really great conversion with email, and our customers actually get a bit grumpy if they don’t receive their service reminder email.”

Reducing paperwork with paperless job cards
“We wanted to get rid of the paperwork in every part of the workshop so getting a computer in the workshop made sense. We originally had two computers, the main one and one in Nathan’s office. Then when we got busier in the workshop, we got the computer there so that the techs could get to it more easily.

All the information is already stored in SAM for them, the jobs are already set up, the vehicle history, the stock information and they can text the customers to let them know their vehicles are ready. The main thing is the team aren’t wasting time doing a lot of paperwork.

The team can see at an instant what stage the jobs are up to, we have colour coding for the job statuses so when a car turns up it’s blue, when it’s a priority it’s pink, waiting for parts it’s peach, and when it’s completed it’s green. Even when it fails a WOF we colour code it to purple, so the office staff know it failed for when the customer collects the vehicle. We have a total of about 10 different colour codes which works really well for organisation.”

No more late-night reconciliations
“I used to be going home at the end of the month with a big bundle of invoices trying to work out which part went with which job invoice. We weren’t tracking anything before. We were using MYOB, it did have a stock module but it wasn’t as refined. It was a nightmare reconciling at the end of the month.

Now I place an order and create a purchase order in SAM. When the parts turn up we receive them in SAM so we always know what has arrived and what we are waiting on. We entre the parts invoices as we receive them and I can match the invoice to the order by the purchase order number. I’m not taking home a huge pile of invoices at the end of the month like I used to

The suggested buys have made re-ordering really easy. I use it every day when the travelling rep turns up. I can just go through the suggested buy list when they turn up and then they’re back on the road again really quickly.”

What are your top 3 tips for someone looking to implement a workshop management system?

  1. Put stock in accurately right from the start.
  2. Set up job kits and stories. The better you set them up, the more time you save later by not having to type the info into estimates or invoices. Makes it a whole lot quicker for staff.
  3. Make sure everybody knows the system.

What tips do you have for someone wanting to implement time-clocking?

  1. Just do it.