IAC Blog & Articles

Facility – the importance of process-driven design

Posted On: August 16, 2019

One of the most underrated topics in the automotive industry is the facility, its planning, construction and use. This is paramount to the success of your business. If you’ve thought about building or renovating a facility, read on. 


We’ve all been there, in dealers that somehow feel awkward and maybe a little chaotic with people rushing around frantically. In most cases this is due to the facility’s design and layout. 


Poor design (and function) comes in many forms: from unsightly trash storage, to badly placed tire machines, to a hidden coffee machine for customers that rarely works, to toilets that are inconveniently placed on the second floor. 


Building a facility starts with serious planning. Sure, architects can render drawings but it’s critical that all possible processes in the dealer are considered, this includes sales, pre-owned, and parts and service.  


There are things that architects simply don’t know when creating design plans. It’s not their fault, they have never been in what I call “dealer land.” They can’t be expected to understand all of the day-to-day processes and therefore will inevitably miss something. 


That “something” can be costly. Here’s an example: in an average 10-bay workshop, saving 90 seconds per repair order will net an added profit of $27,600 per year. Now extend that for 15 years that’s $414,000. Not bad for a minute and a half eh? 


One way to save those 90 seconds is to create a comfortable work space. I’ve long been an advocate of air conditioned workshops, and personally I don’t buy the excuse that, “it doesn’t get that hot here.” Over the years I’ve worked in oven-like shops and witnessed technicians battling heat exhaustion as they try to repair complex cars. It just doesn’t work.  


I’ve also seen the opposite where a clean air-conditioned shop is used as much by the sales department to showcase the dealer’s repair services, or even the customer while their vehicle is being serviced, grateful for the opportunity to see the work being done in comfort. 


Let’s revisit that 90 seconds: conversely, according to studies there is a 2% drop in productivity per degree over 25 degrees (inc humidex) for  work places with manual work. That equates to a loss of $28,000 per month. Installing air conditioning simply makes sense from a staff, customer and fiscal perspective. 

The pursuit of the perfect dealer is a never-ending one. There are so many interdependencies in the processes that you need to break them down into fast, medium and slow processes. The methodology for figuring out the ideal layout for your facility lies in the speed of each process and how they fit together. 

From here you see where the important elements in the dealer must go and then how the other supporting parts fit in. This only becomes clear from standing back and fully understanding all processes in the dealer facility, paired with experience in dealer operations. 


Over the years, I’ve been involved in the design of some spectacular dealers and personally witnessed the substantial impact small design changes can make when processes are part of the equation. I’ve also seen dealers fail to properly incorporate its processes in the facility design which has led to serious operational challenges. 


If you’re thinking about building or renovating a facility, plan brain storming sessions to identify the timing of your individual processes, bringing all the stakeholders and architects together. Collectively, you can fuse process with design as you create perfect store for your needs, your staff’s needs and your customers’ needs. 


This is most effective when you have an outside consultant help in this process. Having that objective outside perspective tends to keep the meeting flowing and the ideas in sync with the building requirements as well any manufacturer requirements. 


If you act in haste you will for sure repent at leisure. 

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