The tech your workshop needs today if you want to win tomorrow

The tech your workshop needs today if you want to win tomorrow

What technology should a workshop owner be investing in today, if they want their business to succeed into the future?

Technology in the automotive industry is evolving fast and that’s changing not just the kind of work we do, but also the way we operate.

According to Capricorn’s State of the Nation Report 2020, this is something two-thirds of workshop owners feel they’re capable of dealing with. But we know it presents a few problems, too, with workshop owners naming “changing technology” the fourth biggest challenge to running an automotive business.

So, what technology should a workshop owner be investing in today, if they want their business to succeed into the future?

Jeff Smit, Technical Editor of The Automotive Technician, workshop owner and long-time Capricorn Member, said there are two main types of technology to consider: front-of-house, and back-of-house.

A good workshop management tool

Front of house, of course, refers to the office and administration side of the business. Mr Smit said the first bit of technology any workshop needs is a good workshop management tool, to help ensure the smooth running of the business.

Workshop management tools commonly feature:

  • Finance and invoicing software (or at least links into a commercially available provider like Xero)
  • A customer booking portal
  • Work scheduling and technician management
  • Customer relationship management (including a customer database, or the ability to link into a commercially available provider like SalesForce)
  • Rosters and time sheets
  • Inventory management
  • Reporting and business intelligence.

But for a futureproof workshop, the management tool should go even further, Mr Smit said.

“It needs to be linked into your website, your social media, any apps — all the modern ways of communicating with customers,” he said.

“I think as a whole the industry is way behind in that area, but the tech savvy, younger generation that are now driving the cars and have the disposable income, they’re the ones who don’t want to talk to you on the phone. They want to book online. They want to do all these things differently.”

Now, let’s turn to the back-of-house technology.

Access to technical information

A quarter of Members told State of the Nation they struggled to access the technical information and diagnostics they required.

Gone are the days, Mr Smit said, of pulling something apart in the hope you can see what is wrong with it and work out how to fix it.

“It doesn't work like that anymore,” he said. “You need access to information and networks. It’s vital if you want to be able to nut out some of the more ‘techy’ jobs that come in. If you think you can get by without access to wiring diagrams and that sort of information, you’re just kidding yourself, really.”

What do workshops currently do when they come across something they haven’t seen before? Here’s what State of the Nation found:


What members do when they encounter new technology

Percentage of Members who say they sometimes do this:

Look for information online


I usually figure it out myself


I use Capricorn Service Data


Ask a mechanic at another workshop


Use a non-Capricorn technical info product


Ask a dealership


Automotive Association’s helpline


Send the vehicle to the dealer


Tell the customer I can’t carry out the job



Capricorn Service Data, an option used by almost half of Members, is provided FREE with your membership. It gives you instant access to a comprehensive range of online service information covering thousands of vehicles, including manufacturers’ service schedules, service illustrations, repair times and an estimate calculator.

Powered by Autodata, with its global database of 34,000 vehicles from more than 60 manufacturers, Capricorn Service Data includes 96% cars on the road in Australia and 87% in New Zealand.

Scan tools to match your specialisation

Scan tools can be expensive and there are a lot of them out there, so how do you know which ones to buy?

Mr Smit said many workshops just aren’t doing enough of any one particular kind of job to justify investing in a particular tool. He said workshops may need to consider specialising in an area to make such investments worthwhile.

“You can’t be the guru of every make and model and every part of the car anymore,” he said. “Workshops are going to have to target a particular area or brand or system, or whatever it might be, and specialise more in those areas. The days of doing it all are pretty numbered.

“So, if you specialise in Toyota, you buy the Toyota tool. If you specialise in another brand, you buy the specialist tool for that brand. That way you’ve got the best tool for the job, not just the generic aftermarket one.”

Tools your team actually want to use

While investing in tools is expensive, it can also be a complete waste of money if your technicians don’t actually use them — either because they don’t know how to or because they just “don’t like it”.

 “I've always found that if you involve your staff when you’re buying a bit of equipment and ask them what they reckon, whether they have a favourite, or whatever, then they’ve got buy-in on it,” Mr Smit said.

 “Then when you get it, they’ll think it’s the greatest tool ever because it was their idea to get it.

 “You want to get them excited about a tool, so they ultimately are prepared to use it and learn and develop skills in that area.”

 You’ll find more information about Capricorn Service Data here.

This article was published 08/12/2020 and the content is current as at the date of publication.