Using mounting and balancing to process more cars

Feb. 19, 2010

Here’s your dilemma: due to the ongoing recession, your budget for capital improvements is the same as last year — nil. That means no new service bays or machinery for your garage.

You’re also working with a very limited advertising budget.

On the labor front, things are just as tough. In fact, to trim costs, you’re even thinking about paring down your roster of tire and auto service techs.

Meanwhile, you still have to hit your targets.

To get there, you need to increase the number of cars your shop processes — and not just by a few.

According to Kevin Keefe, vice president of marketing for Hennessy Industries Inc., one of the quickest ways to boost your car count is to streamline your dealership’s mounting and balancing process.

Five S concept

During mounting and balancing, you want to keep wasted motion and energy to a minimum, says Keefe. To achieve this, he recommends that tire dealers and technicians implement  the “Five S’s”:

1. simplify,

2. straighten,

3. scrub,

4. stabilize,

5. sustain.

To simplify and straighten, “go through all of your tools and equipment — anything in your tire bays. If you don’t use it, get rid of it. If you do use it, make sure it’s in good working order.”

There’s a tendency for bays to attract clutter, he says. “Find a place for (your tools) and identify that place, whether it’s a tool caddy or a wall rack. Find a home for the tool and make sure everybody can clearly see where that home is. It should be as close to the point of use as possible.”

Scrub, he says, is self-explanatory: make sure your shop equipment is clean.

“Stabilize and sustain means developing a process to make sure the first three S’s are maintained.”

Use checklists. On a daily basis, make sure your wheel weight bins are full and you’ve replenished your valve stem stock “at the location they’re going to be used. Also make sure your repair materials have been replenished.

“Sweep your floors every night. Get rid of whatever clutter might be lying around, including tires. Get them out of your bay.

“A weekly checklist might entail cleaning your balancing cones, cleaning your tire changer table-top, and lubricating your clamps,” says Keefe.

A monthly checklist might consist of adding oil to your tire changer.

“The whole Five S process says, ‘I only have what I need to perform the operation in the most convenient, productive place possible, and I have created a safe, clean environment.’ That’s the foundation of everything else you do.”


Batch to one-piece

So, you’ve implemented the Five S’s. What’s next? Take a close look at how you move tires through the mounting and balancing process.

Keefe says too many dealerships rely on “batch processing, where the technician takes all four tires off the vehicle, rolls all four tires over to the changer, mounts the new tires on each rim, and when he’s done with each one, he stacks them up near the balancer. Then he balances all four tires, one after the other. He takes all four tires back to the vehicle and puts them on one at a time.

“In other words, he’s performing all of the operations in one batch, taking all four tires through each step of the process at the same time.

“This creates a lot of wasted motion, and basically creates inventory. At each step of the process, you have as many as three tires waiting to be worked on.”

The solution, he explains, is to go to a “one-piece flow system, where you start at the front driver side tire/wheel assembly, take it to the tire changer, mount the new tire, take it to the balancer, balance it, and put it back on the vehicle. Then you take the rear driver side tire/wheel off the vehicle and go through the same process.”

One-piece flow minimizes wasted movement, ultimately speeding up the mounting and balancing process without sacrificing accuracy. “Once you’ve transitioned to one-piece flow, you can look for additional waste in your process,” he explains. Solutions may include:

• Repositioning your mounting and balancing machines for easier accessibility.

• Performing certain steps in parallel.

• Minimizing technician down time.

“Can the tech be doing something else if there’s a wait time during the process? Think about inflation on a tire changer. What if you can perform that inflation using an automatic inflator?”


Another benefit of one-piece flow is the ability to measure the process’ results.

“Once you have stabilized the process and made it repeatable, you can measure it.”

Keefe recommends measuring job time “from the moment the car pulls into the bay until the second it leaves the bay. Some people (measure) from the time the customer approves the work until the time you hand his keys back. That encompasses more processes.”

When mounting and balancing, “focus on the back shop rather than the front shop. There are a lot of things you can focus on back there that are low-hanging fruit.

“Just having your balancing accessories stored in a convenient location next to your balancing machine and making sure your machine is equipped with the accessories you need so you’re not running back and forth stealing and borrowing items will improve your productivity” Keefe notes.

“Five S and one-piece flow may come as a shock to some tire dealer’s operations and people,” says Keefe. Both processes require daily enforcement “and they sometimes require a culture change in an organization.

“Not every dealership is capable of making that kind of a shift. It’s a commitment — something you have to drive every day.

“But we’ve worked with some high-profile independent tire dealers who have employed these (techniques) and they’ve made some great strides” in boosting both their car count and, ultimately, their bottom line.    ■

Don’t chase weights! ‘Do it right the first time,’ says Hunter

“Weight chasing is a very common problem when balancing wheels,” say Hunter Engineering Co. officials. “That is, applying additional weights after the first attempt at balancing the wheel. This can be caused by a number of things: incorrect weight placement, having to supply large amounts of correction weights, incorrect wheel dimension entry, etc.

“The single most important thing you can do” to streamline the mounting and balancing process “is doing it right the first time. We’ve known of shops that have 18% warranty on balancing alone!

Low-taper cones and collets have been shown to reduce comebacks by centering the wheel correctly the first time.”