By Dennis McGinn – Land surveyors place a marker known as a benchmark at a peak’s highest measured elevation. Unless the mountain moves, this point of reference calibrates other measurements taken from it. In used car reconditioning, two benchmarks help operators calibrate their processes for maximum output, efficiency and economy:

  • Time to Line — or T2L — calibrates the time taken to get cars from acquisition to sale-ready.

 

  • Accountability calibrates by time the tasks and steps to get cars successfully through mechanical and detail and through photography so they can be marketed online and on the lot.

 

Accountability can have a negative perception, but when focused on improving reconditioning outcomes it becomes crucial to this department’s success and profitability. Ronald Reagan, when discussing his Cold War position toward the old U.S.S.R., said the best accountability approach is to “trust, but verify.”

We all work smarter when we know our output is being verified. Accountability functions built into recon workflow software make this verification both practical and reliable. Accountability also helps you calibrate sublet vendors.The challenge involved in vehicle reconditioning accountability is reconditioning’s complexity. It engages the resources of several departments and many individuals within the dealership. The tasks and steps that structure and define recon output are numerous and multi-faceted — and, if recon is to be efficient, these parts of the process must flow forward in the right order. Keeping track of all this in real time, by individual and function, is hardly practical without the benefit of software tools designed for this purpose.

The right tool used here gives managers and recon staff access to real-time process clarity. Having such transparency available means easier identification of delays and other choke points so they can be addressed immediately and allow vehicles to move through recon faster. Clarity provides validity of workflow — you know exactly the status of each task, step and vehicle in the workflow, including those at sublets or vehicles that could be otherwise be misplaced on the lot or at those sublets.

Recon workflow accountability:

  • Keeps time-critical functions moving forward
  • Ceaselessly monitors each task and step in the workflow and those individuals assigned to those tasks and actions in real time and by the clock
  • Provides managers with accurate, provable facts about what’s actually happening along their recon assembly line, along with information about who’s pulling their weight and who might need a little persuasion or coaching
  • Is flexible so the used car manager can handle exceptions without creating workflow disruption. For example, to pull forward in the stream cars in greatest market demand so they get retail ready faster or to move a car to the head of the line to accommodate a customer and get that vehicle ready for delivery ASAP.

When you measure and monitor accountability in this way, you’ll discover how easy it is to identify ways to improve outcomes. Manage accountability and the dealership will increase T2L efficiency that:

  • Improves inventory turn
  • Reduces holding cost, which is each vehicle’s daily burden of dealership overhead
  • Gets cars sale-ready faster to maximize the 21-day premium retail opportunity; cars sale-ready in fewer days keeps this retail window open that many days longer
  • Improves sale gross by reducing the overhead costs that erode profitability

“It’s hard to know where we would be without accountability into our reconditioning processes,” said Renard Bergstrom of Bergstrom Cars in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. “With the cost to carry these cars today — and with Internet-driven price sensitivity — we just have to get cars to the sales lot faster. It is hard to think about how bad things were before we applied this accountability. We used to lose vehicles out back because of the BS and other games that went on. The accountability this tool brings to us also gives me the ability to teach people how to expedite things.”

T2L and accountability benchmarks work because they stimulate behavior change by enabling staff to measure and prove their performance against their peers.

J.D. Dantzler, general manager for the Manly Auto Group, described it this way: “The teamwork this workflow process creates is incredible. Because it establishes and shares our reconditioning vision and goals across the team, everybody is moving in the same direction. It has taken out of the process all the ‘Not my problem — no one told me’ excuses and finger pointing.

“More than anything, this accountability gives our employees a greater sense of job accomplishment,” Dantzler said. “It enables them to track and click-off their particular tasks in the overall process. The guesswork is gone — and employees and managers alike know they’re doing well.”

Here’s how this benchmarking contributes to success:

  • Gets to Truth: Accountability validates truth; otherwise, gossip and blame create frustration among staff and management, which detract from work productivity.

 

  • Eliminates Delay: Process-driven recon monitors and measures workflow and helps identify where the delay is occurring that is slowing T2L. This delay increases costs and erodes sale gross potential.

 

  • Improves Communication: Now no one has an excuse for confusion or their inability to answer questions such as, “Where’s the ’16 Malibu that came in yesterday?” Mobile, text and e-mail communications keep connected parties notified about each step and location of each vehicle in the recon process.

 

The highest peak in vehicle reconditioning is a three-to-five-day T2L. Using rapid reconditioning workflow software to calibrate accountability to this benchmark will improve recon speeds and contribute more dollars to your used car operation’s profitability.

Dennis McGinn is Founder and CEO of rapid reconditioning workflow software company Rapid Recon, who also wrote the book about recon time to line, RECON T2L, the Starting Line for Reversing Margin Compression. Visit www.rapidrecon.com for more information.