Ask the trade: How have you improved workshop efficiency and is online booking important?

Snuck into our recent round of retail questioning on all things workshop, we further took soundings from retailers on whether an online booking system is necessary and how the flow of jobs can be improved to maximise profits.

How have you improved your workshop efficiency in recent years? 

Alan Shaw, Garage Bikes
This has been essential to our business’s functionality. Running lean on stock, strict workshop diary and stopping those “It’ll only take you 5 minutes” from jumping the queue have all been things we’ve had to implement.

David Lucas, Bike Spanner
The owner of Bike Spanner is obsessed with efficiencies, to the point we’ve arrived for work in the morning to find he’s been working through the night to test out a new workshop layout to reduce the amount each mechanic needs to move around whilst doing regular tasks. I recently watched the movie The Founder, it’s about the original owners of McDonalds. There is a scene where they keep rearranging the kitchen until it’s the most efficient it can be; this is our boss.

Other than that everything that can be automated is. We run a completely paperless system, everything works on two iMacs and a bunch of tablets, all networked together. During busy times we operate an “assembly line” type of system, whereby one person will be cleaning bikes, another re-cabling, another dealing with the wheels. It’s a great way to keep everyone working fast and as a team.

Being based in a shopping centre with a small customer facing workshop we have to do a lot of the work at other locations within the centre. So, when busy, we have one person whose sole task is to run the bikes around between these locations. This isn’t the most efficient, but it’s a needs must.

Do you have any method for the customer to book work in online?

Alan Shaw, Garage Bikes
No we don’t. We have problems with no shows making the diary problematic as it is. I genuinely think the on-line anonymity problem would only make this more prevalent.

David Lucas, Bike Spanner
Yes. The company that made and manages our website specialises in sites for cycle workshops, so we use one of its off the shelf websites. As standard it has a brilliant booking system whereby the customer can select the drop off and collection date, select what jobs they want to be done from a drop down list, or just list what needs to be done if they prefer. The site then sends us a completed job sheet that we then book onto our workshop system. The site costs us £30 a month and is a huge time saver for us.

Roman Magula, London Green Cycles
Yes, we’ve online booking in place in order to best manage the flow of work.

Neil Holman, George Halls Cycle Centre
No, we don’t even have an in-house booking service. Customers can drop their bicycles off when they want and we work around that. Being in a small market town and on a Sustrans route too, we get lots of emergency on the spot repairs. The way we run it we can adapt to anything that comes through the door.

I worked for a company once that had a booking in service and the first day I worked for them, the workshop manager showed me what they had booked in, he said that is two day’s work. They were done in four hours.