Why don’t Car Dealerships use the Lean Thinking from the Manufacturing Process?

Image source: Nina Mercado https://unsplash.com/photos/e9YFrEBWit8

Please drop your car off between 8-10am and collect between 4-6pm… This is on the heels of recent posts about customer services. This morning, in the pouring rain and a howling gale, I dropped my mother’s car off at the garage for repairs. I hadn’t been there for about 7 years but was instantly reminded of why I stopped – shocking organisation, which resulted in hassled staff and poor customer service.

Looking at what was going on I couldn’t help thinking, they could do with some Lean thinking here. A bit of Gemba Mat wouldn’t go amiss either. Admittedly it wasn’t a Toyota dealership, but I’m sure the manufacturers they represent would employ some sort of Lean thinking. Why on earth hadn’t it found its way out here?

This is what I experienced:

  • Lack of signs. The service department and sales were opposite sides of a main road. There was nothing obvious to say this and I initially went to the wrong place.
  • Drop off time. I was only offered 8.30am as was everyone else. This had negative consequences.
  • At drop off time the area around the Garage is highly congested with people dropping off vehicles, commuter traffic and the local kids heading to school.
  • There aren’t enough ‘service’ parking spaces at the garage. You either need to park on the main highway or in a nearby street.
  • If you are being collected, your lift will have to park some distance away; a big deal if it’s raining like today.
  • Everyone booking in at 8.30am leads to long queues and delays at the booking desk.
  • People are hassled because they are running late, this translates into irritation with the booking clerk.
  • The booking clerk gets annoyed, and a vicious circle develops with the next customer in line.
  • Just to add the icing on the cake, the detailed ‘what is wrong with the car’ information I had provided over the phone hasn’t found its way onto the partly prepared paperwork, so they ask you all the same questions again. Fine when you know your vehicle intimately, not so good when dropping off your mother’s car.
  • Finally, ‘if you want an update, please call after 2pm’.
  • Now proceed to work….. “Have a nice day”….. No thanks to the garage.

I know there is a better way.

I’ve experienced it in other garages.

Had the garage taken even a cursory look at the process they would have seen so much opportunity to improve the flow and end up with happier customers and (I’m sure) happier and more engaged staff.

My suggestions to improve:

  • Multiple booking in slots during the day. Even a morning and afternoon session would reduce the congestion and have considerable benefits.
  • Better signs – let people know what’s happening and where. All pretty straightforward visual management / 5s activity.
  • Please, please, please use the diagnostic information you get over the phone.

I do find it amazing that this was the customer facing end of a highly efficient manufacturing organisation that uses approaches like lean, yet it doesn’t seem to travel beyond the factory gates. I wonder why?

So, What’s the PONT?

  1. Some systems and processes are set up in a way that they cause blockages which results in an inefficient service and customer dissatisfaction.
  2. Customer dissatisfaction can have a negative impact on staff which leads to a ‘vicious circle’ developing.
  3. There are straightforward techniques like Gemba Mat which help improve processes and flow. They are widely used in vehicle manufacturing and could be adapted and applied by car dealers…….. please have a go.

But there is hope at the end of this tale. I’ve just come across the book featured in the picture. ‘Creating Lean Dealers’ by David Brunt & John Kiff. It was a Shingo Prize winner for research award in 2010 so well worth a read. I’m going to recommend it when I pick up the car, today hopefully.

“Car manufacturing has been transformed by lean over the last 20 years, yet car dealerships have remained virtually untouched – until now. “

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here: https://whatsthepont.com/churchill-fellowship/

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