How to build more profits into mounting and balancing services
In the September issue of MTD, dealers, business coaches and manufacturers shared suggestions for getting more profits from mounting and balancing services. The following article looks at how equipment maintenance and technician training speed bay turns and lower costs.
Kevin Keefe, vice president of marketing for Hennessy Industries, Inc. says dealers do their due diligence when buying a machine in order to get the best possible return on their dollar. After the purchase is made, however, they may overlook cost in bay turns. “The quicker you turn that bay, the more money you’re going to make and the lower your cost of owning that equipment,” he says.
Bay turn basics
Keefe says speeding up bay turns comes down to several fundamentals: the right machine for the application, the right adaptors and accessories to do the work that comes through the shop, basic maintenance on the machines, local service support and parts, and training for tire technicians.
“If you do a lot of service on custom wheels or run-flats, or do large custom work, do you have the right clamping accessories for your tire changers?” Keefe asks. Likewsie, the correct assist devices ensure technicians are able to effectively service different types of tires.
“On the balancing side, a lot of pickup trucks require specialized adapters to get past mounting challenges. There’s just a pure capability standpoint for equipment,” he says.
Bay turns are also affected by the reliability and durability of equipment and the availability of service and parts. Proper equipment maintenance has a role, too. Keefe cites keeping tire changers oiled and tabletop and clamp areas clean and free of debris. Balancers, cones and shafts should be replaced every three years or 30,000 cycles to prevent centering errors.
Keefe offers an example to show the sensitivity of a balancer: “If a 16-inch tire and wheel assembly that weighs 40 pounds settles into a nick on a cone just ten thousandths of an inch deep — about the thickness of a business card — that will generate a balancing error that will cause a vibration equivalent to almost an ounce of imbalance.” He says Hennessy offers upgrade kits for its balancers.
The best balancers available today use a superior alloy shaft to prolong the life of the shaft to ensure a proper centering for the life of the balancer, according to Greg Meyer, product manager, wheel balancers for Hunter Engineering Co. “When investing in equipment, dealers also need to consider how easily accessible service and replacement parts are. Wheel mounting and balancing is a hugely profitable area for a shop, and long equipment downtime can really impact profitability. Some companies even offer local support that can provide same- or next-day service and parts replacement.”
For wheel balancers, age is less of a factor in equipment deterioration than number of cycles.
“The more cycles on a machine, the more rapidly it will deteriorate and the more likely it is to require service,” says Meyer. “The older a machine, the less likely it is to contain key technological advancements that increase speed, accuracy and overall productivity. Dealers should strive to invest in equipment that will make them more productive. For example, the best of today’s machines greatly reduce weight chasing by ensuring an accurate balance on the first try. Features like this lead to greater productivity and, ultimately, profit.”
Keefe says Hennessy’s design philosophy is to anticipate the probable technological changes in the industry and design for upgrades. “If you bought one of our tire changers in the early ’90s, prior to the advent of run-flat technology, wheel diameters of 30 inches, and other technological advances, you could equip through adapters, accessories or upgrades that machine to handle any application that’s out there today.
“We purposely design with an upgrade path in mind because we never want a customer to need to go out and replace a relatively brand new piece of equipment because of new technology we could have seen. From a durability standpoint, we design our equipment to last in the highest volume, most demanding store environments.”
Invest in training
Training is essential in light of today’s diverse OEM assemblies. More conventional assemblies might require a less skilled technician, but with the rapidly growing number of specialty wheel and tire fitments, training a technician is more important than ever, according to Meyer.
“Dealers frequently experience high turnover in technicians, which complicates the training process and can make a wheel balancer less profitable than it should be. The best of today’s machines solve this by including several methods of built-in training.” Examples include 3D animations, a library of video tutorials and on-screen prompts that guide the operator through the balance. ■