"bob time" Are we hurting ourselves by completely leaving out or underestimating time, in professional discussions and resources?

Randall Owner/Technician Michigan Posted   Latest   Edited  
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Industry
Where Did The Time Go

I suspect most understand that many of the challenges we face in this industry have a root cause of low profitability in general, as we consider the service industry as a whole. I suspect most also understand that we don't sell anything in the service industry until we sell time first, and that drives everything else. 

It has occurred to me recently, as I am absorbing content from industry forums, case studies, resources, SOD calls, theory training, equipment training, articles, ect., that their is something missing. For the most part, in virtually every case(Imo), we leave out completely or drastically underestimate the time consumed to perform the services/process/procedures we are discussing. 

I believe that this is caused by the fact that each individual approaches a problem differently, with different knowledge levels, skill sets, equipment capabilities, ect, So how could possibly have a time estimate that has any meaning? 

I am going to suggest it starts here on DN. 

Whether you folks are willing to admit it or not, you are the best of the best. As such you have the opportunity to establish a new language for time, that could be invaluable towards moving this industry forward. In the title line, I called it “bob time”, described as follows:

"Imagine you are among the best equipped and trained/most efficient/most knowledgeable technicians in the industry, for the particular problem you just fixed/diagnosed/completed, how much time should have been allowed for the process?"

By including this baseline time estimation, I believe we could accomplish a great deal for so many that struggle in the industry, and as such, help our selves. Services advisors and other customer facing individuals are constantly looking for ways to justify the diag time we charge for, and i believe it is human nature to underestimate time, just like many technicians and technical advisors do. If we had a “best of the best"(bob? call it what you want) time estimate for them to consider, I believe it could go a long way into improving profitability for many shops. 

Imagine if every resource, video, discussion, case study, ect had a bob time associated with it. Over time it would make a difference.

In my mind bob time is a starting point to adjust from. It should be the minimum time, that we should ever charge for a process/procedure/diag/service, regardless of what capabilities our techs have, because if it takes the best of the best this long to perform, how could it possibly be justified to charge less. I am convinced “we” do regularly charge less then bob time. 

The following examples are what doesn't help profitability. i am not singling these individuals out, they are just examples of what we are all guilty of:

My light bulb moment came a month ago as we were considering purchasing a new scope, and I reviewed a video by a respected industry trainer describing diagnosis of a vvt system, requiring connecting all eight channels to the vehicle. The video flashed from sitting inside the car talking about the problem, to hood up and scope connected to 8 different sensors, and looking at the outputs on the scope. My brain immediately said OMG, I would have to charge three to four hours of time for this procedure, where is that referred to in the video? I ended up reviewing more videos from the same organization and decided to hold off on the purchase, because my front counter is not ready for the tool, I need to provide them more resources to work from, so this can be a profitable purchase, not just a "you gotta have it" purchase. 

Another example came yesterday on a different forum and then this morning I see this:

"No codes. Cranks good no start no spark.

So I had a few minutes to check this out before I left for work today.

I have good injector pulse, that I checked with the pico scope and current clamp.

Tailpipe has 30,000 ppm hc cranking showing good fuel, sounds high but no biggie.

I am assuming there is no spark on all coils because there is no signs of life.

For sure I have no spark from the 3 front coils that are easy to access.

I have battery voltage on both terminals of the coil connector while cranking with connector plugged in.

The coils have no primary signal from pcm.

Scanner shows 250 rpm cranking."

This is a perfect example of what i am talking about. Did it really take a few minutes? I suspect we all know it did not. The author was not trying to be malicious, it is just the way the human mind works.

I believe each and everyone of us can do better.

Maybe it starts here

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Mark Engineer
Colorado
Mark
 

Randall Nice! I like it, B.O.B. Time. I have pretty much given up watching most TV. When my wife is mastering one of her art projects (cute analogy since she has her master’s degree in art) I’m absorbing info from one of the automotive magazines I receive or here on DN or back on iATN seeing if there is a morsel to digest. When I’ve had a tough diag challenge during the day I’m researching…

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Randall Owner/Technician
Michigan
Randall
 

Thanks Mark, Interesting approach using the parts cannon analogy. I can use that with my front counter staff as another consideration, when they are struggling going back to the customer for additional time or presenting an unexpected estimate, after diagnosis is complete. Their does appear to be additional struggle when the diagnostician is not the person selling the job. Appreciate the…

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Sean Technician
California
Sean
 

I’ve always approached my time with the following mindset…You have to give to get. But, I just did a timing cover reseal on a 16 toyo taco 4x4 , SI said first step was remove engine. They basically want you to put the engine on a stand and perform the repairs, paid 17.2 hours. Writer bumped it to 18.5hrs. I didn’t pull the engine, but we all know how much clean up time is involved with all the…

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Randall Owner/Technician
Michigan
Randall
 

Thanks Sean We just finished a similar job on a Subaru, and I was concerned as soon as i saw the engine on the bench. I have become sensitive to “High liability jobs”, and whether we charged enough. “Educating customers is key” and in some cases re-educating them on what they think they know. Randy

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Jeff Technician
South Carolina
Jeff
 

That is exactly why I will not ever work on flat rate again! The last flat rate shop I worked for I was the only tech that could diagnose. It was one of those places where they didn’t want the tech talking to the customer or having any access to the shop management system. Couldn’t even order my own parts. When I told the manager it had a failed injector and showed him on the scope he replied…

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Rod Diagnostician
California
Rod
 

“that digital crap don't mean nothing to me” , after you educated yourself at your time and expense , bought expensive equipment with your money and learned how to use it on your own time. Unfortunately the legal system protects individuals like the degenerate that told you that nonsense.

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Jeff Technician
South Carolina
Jeff
 

Ain‘t nothing like working for a shop manager who gets that deer in the headlight look when you say volumetric efficiency or it’s stuck below stoichiometric lol I just quit. Only job I’ve ever walked out on in my career!

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Randall Owner/Technician
Michigan
Randall
 

Thanks Jeff We are definitely an industry filled with “independent” individuals, and greatly varying knowledge and experience base. It sounds like you have landed where you belong, and that is all any of us can ask for, both for our selves and each other. We can make it better for more participants Randy

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Michael Mobile Technician
Utah
Michael
 

Randall, It would seem that many of us would be reluctant to share how long some of our diagnostic ordeals go. There is often some troll that will tell you that you wasted time with this or that. I do see where you are coming from. We throw others time around on here like they can spare an hour or ten. “Pull out the transmission and look for a missing washer on the flex plate” Like one can do…

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Rod Diagnostician
California
Rod
 

Interruptions are the biggest time wasters, depending on the person it can take up to twenty minutes for the brain to get back in the groove.

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Randall, In an ideal world the clock would start ticking as soon as the customer walks in (or I am called for a job on site), similar to visiting a lawyer or a doctor. Take all the flat rate gimmicks and throw them out in the trash where they belong. This industry has become so lame that shops are “going under” due to discounting repairs. Free estimates are a reckless way to do business…

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Randall Owner/Technician
Michigan
Randall
 

Thanks Glen I believe their are many owners in our industry, that are waiting for “permission” to run their shops in a “better way”. For me, that permission came over many years of being exposed to individuals like yourself and many others that support the forums, associations and organizations in this industry. Your point about the one “hour diagnostic game” fits my current direction…

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Randall Owner/Technician
Michigan
Randall
 

Michael I understand the reluctance, and none of us should have to spend time/energy defending our approach or process, when all we are trying to do is provide information to help folks. I believe there are still ways(as you described) to bring time into the conversation much more often, and treat time with the highest level of respect that it deserves. I am especially sensitive to the…

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Dan Technician
Ontario
Dan
 

Hi Randall We as an industry need to be united in many ways and have some representation out there . I just look at the dealership network and see so many great technicians subsidising the oems that a making huge profits and those technicians are doing warranty work at a large discount to customer pay. We must unify and then we can all dictate what we should and must earn as a living . But…

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Randall Owner/Technician
Michigan
Randall
 

Thanks Dan Agreed, we have a long way to go, and we will get there.

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Randall Technician
Pennsylvania
Randall
 

Randall, I believe that we need to begin the process of no longer behaving like a commodity. This past summer we visited an Amish farm that (within the past year) is no longer in the dairy business. Milk is a commodity, the retail price per gallon has not moved with inflation. Much like tire and lube work is (perceived as) a commodity and seems to be in the same price vacuum. None of these…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Randall, I would rather substitute the word “commodity” for service. Of course, people abuse that very word to mean ‘servant’. Truly, only the right people are qualified to perform service for their fellow human. Not to get religious, but our life's mission is just that. Whatever the skill or trade, people are meant to be in service to our fellow human. When people think they are too good…

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Randall Owner/Technician
Michigan
Randall
 

Thanks Randy I believe there is hope, and Covid may have done us a favor. At least currently in my market, consumers no longer assume they can just call us anytime and get their vehicle “right in”. That said, we don't have any commodity driven mass merchandisers in our county, so it is difficult for me to comment on that aspect. I will say that I have been my own worst enemy in my 40 plus…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hello Folks, I witnessed a process going on in two shops I frequent and this DN conversation came to mind. Both shops have recently changed over from the old-time card and clock method to a central desk top computer for the techs log in and out on. Here's the catch, what use to take a matter of 30 seconds to write a work order number and time stamp it, now takes well over 10 minutes to sign…

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Katelyn Technician
Georgia
Katelyn
 

In a very niche example, my last job forced me to log BOB time on our electronic log systems. (I worked for a trucking fleet.) I can absolutely tell you how long it will take software to upload on a good unit, (45 minutes) an old unit, (90+ minutes) and a rejection to happen on a bad one (60+ minutes). That being said, we had 60+ Freightliner Cascadias, each with their own e-log unit and a…

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Randall Owner/Technician
Michigan
Randall
   

Thanks Katelyn I believe we have similar examples all over the industry, when we consider the same process and procedures, on the same or similar YMM, are being diagnosed or performed many times, even though none of us may do the same one many times. Their is a benefit to the industry in sharing “time” in some format, BOB or some other measurement/language. Randy L.

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Randall Technician
Pennsylvania
Randall
 

Randall, The reason I brought up the dairy farm comparison, is because for the last 60 or so years all of the small ones gave up. That seems to be the position that the small 2 -3 tech shop is in. We have three major tire stores nearby, they set the price structure for basic service work. Either we price ourselves out of tire and lube work. Or lose money doing it. We have 5 years accumulation…

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Mark Engineer
Colorado
Mark
 

Randy My first suggestion, “Don't race the other guys to the bottom”. Charge what you have to charge to stay in business. If some of your customers go to the “chain” stores based on price only, after they get a taste of service (or lack thereof) and “wallet flushing”, they'll be back. I like for some of my customers (who are on the “fence”) to try my competitors, almost all of them have…

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Randall Technician
Pennsylvania
Randall
 

To all, Thank you for your time. I am not the business owner, as such there are questions that I cannot answer. My concern is that labor charges for quick service menu priced jobs do not generate enough labor revenue to be profitable. The “EFL” (effective labor rate) is significantly reduced, by the ratio of menu vs. shop rate jobs. The 33% (pay to billed) imbalance can only be met with an…

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Glenn Owner/Technician
Texas
Glenn
 

Hi Randall Quick service and menu pricing only makes the company money at a steady rate.

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Randall Owner/Technician
Michigan
Randall
 

Randy S. I was intrigued by your dairy farm comparison. as we have also witnessed the final dairy farm in our county going away in the last few years. We have no corporate farms. Our markets are similar, and most that read this would find it difficult to comprehend what it is like doing business in markets like ours. Together we average 49 households per square mile, and 83% of our households…

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Chad Owner/Technician
Pennsylvania
Chad
 

Randy, I’d like to chime in and firstly introduce myself. My name is Chad …, I am the owner of …’s Trailside Design Inc. Randy Sterner is my lead technician. I really enjoyed reading your reply and would like to touch on some things, and paint a few more strokes to the picture. I went into business 5 1/2 years ago. I started from scratch. I had a 0.25 acre of land (down an old dirt…

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Randall Owner/Technician
Michigan
Randall
   

Chad Your Welcome We too had very humble beginnings in a single bay of an old gas station building and $2700 dollars from my grandpa. Many scary moments for myself and my wife, with our 3 and 1 year old sons. I left what was generally considered a “lifetime” position with the county road commission and my wife worked at the grocery store at night. With a whole lot of immense good fortune…

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