If you’ve been around auto workshops for any length of time, you’ll know the cars of today don’t look much like the cars of yesterday.
The first electronic ignition arrived in the 1980s. Then came fuel-injection and then multi-point fuel-injection. Over the past 20 years or so, cars have become filled with computers. And now, those computers are all talking to each other.
If the cars of yesterday have evolved so much to become the cars of today, you can guarantee the cars of tomorrow will be leaps and bounds ahead of today’s.
But is your workshop, and your team, ready for it?
Jeff Smit’s warning to many in the industry is “probably not.”
Jeff is the Technical Editor of The Automotive Technician, a workshop owner and a long-time Capricorn member.
“We’re heading towards the autonomous vehicle,” he said. “The fundamentals are changing. From a layman’s point of view, you don’t drive the car anymore; computers drive the car.
“All of this technology really changes the job of a mechanic, or the kinds of roles that you need in a workshop, and the tools you need to make sure your workshop has the full complement of services.”
What is required to future-proof your workshop?
"I predict that within 5 to 10 years, 50 per cent of the workshops that exist now will not be in business. That will be driven, in part, by the investment in equipment and people needed to keep up with technological changes." Jeff said.
So, how do you ensure you’re ready for the future?
“The first question to ask yourself is where do you want to be in five years?” Jeff said. “Do you want to be the one-stop shop that does everything? Or would you be better off subletting some jobs or calling in experts when you need them?
“I think being a one-stop shop is going to be increasingly hard and increasingly expensive. I think specialisation is going to have to become a big thing for the industry. Maybe you specialise in Japanese or European cars, or just BMWs. Maybe you specialise in automatic transmissions, or front ends.”
It’s something Jeff has already implemented at his own workshop.
“I've tried to, where possible, say to a customer, ‘If you've got a problem with your car, bring it to me. I can look after it. Even if I might not do it in-house, I have a network of people that can look after that’.”
It’s time to invest in tools and skills
Whatever direction you choose, the next task is to invest in the tools and the workforce skills required to make sure you can deliver on your goals.
Jeff said a suite of relevant diagnostic and scan tools, including an oscilloscope so you can diagnose circuitry faults, are vital investments.
But it’s also vital to provide the very best training possible to your team. Jeff said what’s missing in many training programs is the teaching of skills necessary to use scope and scan data effectively, so technicians can get a job diagnosed and resolved in a real-world environment.
Opportunities and retirement plans
Jeff said a second reason many workshops will close in the next decade is because the average workshop owner that is close to retirement does not see the benefit of learning new technologies.
“They're not keeping up; they just think they're too old for all this technology and they don't want to bother with it,” he said.
“But if you’re thinking you do want to be around in five years, or if you think you want a business you can sell when you retire instead of closing the doors and walking away, then you need to position yourself to be one of the 50 per cent of workshops that are going to stay and grow.
“To do that, you need to be able to accommodate this new wave of technology that’s coming through.”
Jeff said his approach is to constantly ask himself what the best place to position his business in the market is, and what changes he needs to make to achieve it.
It is, he said, the best way to future-proof a business.
If Capricorn can help you future-proof your workshop, get in touch.