Increasing Profits by Reducing Waste

Organization and downsizing are topics that frequently show up during morning news features and in polite conversation. Bookstores have good-sized sections devoted to books hammering home the need to reduce our amount of stuff. Japanese author, Marie Kondo, has ridden her best-selling book on organization, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” to fame and fortune with American consumers tired of their junk-filled homes and lifestyles.

So what does all this talk about organization have to do with your auto service shop? Can I bring organization and a passion to declutter to work? Even better, is waste and lack of organization cutting into your bottom line?

Here are three areas where increasing organization, eliminating waste and increasing efficiency can help you be more profitable.

  • Going paperless
  • Enhancing efficiency
  • Getting greener

Going Paperless

As often as we hear that we’re becoming a paperless society, the paper pile doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter for most of us. That likely includes your shop.

Reducing the use of paper could have a significant impact on streamlining your operations. In addition to eliminating stacks of unsightly yellowing invoices stacked in the corner or clogging file cabinets, you’ll likely be able to reduce duplication, which leads to inefficiency and extra time for your customers. Less paper also means lower office supply costs. You’ll probably gain some needed space, also.

 
When information is handwritten on a document and then entered into the computer, this duplicates effort. There is also the increased risk of error. Printing information when it could be transmitted electronically is another area of inefficiency. While cutting down on paper will save some trees, it also removes time-robbing steps during the key customer-facing process.

When consumers have an issue with their iPhone and visit the Apple Store, their technology-based problem is quickly assessed by a customer service person upon entry. In a matter of minutes, they know what the possible problem might be and the amount of time they’ll be without their phones. Since our 21st century vehicles are just another extension of our connected culture, why wouldn’t you want to move your interactions in a similar direction? Relying on paper makes you appear backward and low-tech, not to mention that your non-digital system is actually less efficient and less secure, too.

Enhancing Efficiency

Vehicle service shops are notoriously inefficient when it comes to energy-use. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), U.S. dealerships (which include repair facilities) use about 18 percent more energy per square foot than typical office buildings do. When energy use is your third-highest expenditure, being able to knock down your electric bill means a better bottom line.

Simply turning off lights and making sure machines are shut down when you leave is one simple thing you can do to enhance savings and efficiency. According to New England-based electric utility National Grid, every 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) saved by turning off things like lights, copiers, computers and other shop-related equipment translates into $100 in savings on your monthly utility bill. Savings like this can compound over time.

Here are some other energy-related steps you can take:

  • Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).
  • Install light-emitting diode (LED) exit signs.
  • Replace older office equipment with Energy Star-qualified equipment.
  • Install programmable HVAC thermostats.
  • Ensure regular maintenance of all HVAC systems and equipment.

Also, consider introducing daylighting during future renovations and redesigns. Adding natural light saves energy and provides an attractive setting for your customers.

The EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager is a free tool that can help you measure and track your energy and water use, as well as waste and other materials, including greenhouse gas emissions from your building. Results can help you pinpoint problems and determine possible efficiency upgrades. The tool is available at the EPA Energy Star Portfolio Manager website: https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/facility-owners-and-managers/existing-buildings/use-portfolio-manager

Getting Greener

Auto service shops generate a significant amount of waste in terms of fluids and other vehicle replacement items. All of this can be detrimental to the environment.

Consider tires. More than 300 million tires are scrapped annually, or about one tire per person in the United States. The Rubber Manufacturers Association indicates that approximately 89 percent of scrap tires generated in the United States by weight are now being put to new productive uses — utilized in mulch, playground material, asphalt and turf for athletic fields. By recycling and allowing these tires to be put to alternative uses, service shops are doing their part to keep them out of landfills, where they can contribute to toxic runoff and a host of other forms of environmental contamination.

Properly disposing of antifreeze, oil and other vehicle fluids, as well as used batteries, oil filters and various other items help mitigate a shop’s environmental impact. There are a host of companies that collect and resell these materials.

Fluids can be combined in a bulk oil collection tank. Periodically, the fluids are picked up by various collection services who may pay you an amount for each gallon collected. This can result in reimbursement amounts of several hundred dollars, or more.

If there are groups in your area championing for a greener planet, you may turn to them for ideas, too. For instance, in Arizona, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has a partnership with AAA Arizona, the Automotive Service Association of Arizona, and the City of Mesa, certifying auto repair facilities under their Arizona Green Business Program. The program promotes pollution prevention, as well as recycling and energy/water efficiency. This is voluntary and allows shops to tap into growing concerns their customers have for the environment. There are similar programs in California and other states, too.

Greening your business can’t always be quantified monetarily. But, being a good citizen has its own rewards. Also, you now have an opportunity to differentiate what you do from your competition, as well as marketing your green practices. You could even periodically have recycling pick-ups at your shop and share green practices that your customers can embrace.

Eliminating waste, increasing efficiency and finding ways to be greener as a business are all positive steps for your auto service shop. You’ll find savings that will benefit your bottom line, and you’ll feel better about the space where you spend a good portion of every day. Your customers will value the efficiency and appreciate you for it. They’ll likely reward you with their loyalty, too.

Jim Baumer

JIM BAUMER is a Maine-based writer who cares about people and the places that define them.