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Cleaning up a dirty job

Lucas Deal September 2, 2014

Remember the TV show Dirty Jobs? It was on the Discovery Channel, and was hosted by the guy from all those Ford ads?

Produced from 2005 to 2012, Dirty Jobs featured Mike Rowe traveling the world and spending a work day performing, as you may have guessed, a ‘dirty’ job.

Rowe tried more than 150 jobs during the show’s eight-year run, but one job he never got around to was heavy-duty service technician. While that’s probably a good thing — I wouldn’t want an untrained TV host working on my truck — even without the Discovery Channel’s validation I think it’s safe to say heavy-duty service work can be a dirty job.

When you spend a day working on and under a truck, you’re going to come home with a little dirt on your clothes.

That said, just because service work can be dirty doesn’t mean your service department should wallow in filth.

Messy, grimy, and cluttered service facilities are an eye sore for customers and can create unsafe and ineffective work environments. By doing what you can to clean them up, you can improve the appearance and efficiency of your shop.

The cleanliness and outward appearance of your facilities are key factors in how customers view your business.

Just think about your parts showroom and your sales offices, and how hard you work to keep those areas clean. Your service department should be viewed the same way. When customers see behind the curtain they should see the same level of cleanliness displayed in other areas of your business.

Make it a point for your employees to pick up and clean up after themselves. Spills and congestion should immediately be cleaned, and garbage bins should be accessible and prevalvent throughout your service department. Make it easy for your employees to keep a clean shop.

“We go overboard making sure facilities are neat, clean and professional,” says Dick Sweebe, president at Summit Truck Group. “That’s what separates us from the competition.”

Keeping your shop clean can keep employees safe as well.

Slick surfaces can be slippery when wet; oil stains can be fire hazards. Cluttered workspaces or service bays can hinder an employee’s access to safety equipment.

Bill Wade, managing partner at Wade & Partners, says keeping a service department clean is a good way to minimize those ticking time bombs. A prolonged period without a time-loss accident doesn’t mean your service department is accident proof, he adds.

Sometimes it just takes a third-party to point out your risks.

“It’s a good idea to pay attention to insurance audits,” says Wade. “If you are at risk because of something you’ve done, or aren’t doing, they will usually point you in the right direction.”

And while dirty floors and equipment aren’t likely to produce EPA or OSHA violations independently, they can be a precursor to future issues.

A dirty shop can be an unproductive shop, too. Ever had a workday come to crashing halt when you can’t find something you need because your office is a mess? A dirty service department can present the same problems.

Require your technicians to keep their service bays, toolboxes and workspaces clean, and educate them on the benefits of cleanliness in their operation.

In the service industry, speed is the name of the game. Customers need their trucks back on the road immediately, and when you quote them a SRT they expect you to hold up your end of the bargain. A 45-minute repair taking an hour and five minutes because a tech couldn’t find his torque wrench isn’t OK.

Maximizing technician productivity isn’t just about repair procedures and parts procurement processes. If you want your shop running in tip-top shape, housekeeping matters, too.

Service is a dirty job, but you shouldn’t have to have a dirty job site.

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