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Q&A with Ben Johnson of Mitchell 1

As a former shop owner, this expert knows how to make sense of all the information out there.
Monday, April 20, 2015 - 07:00
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Today’s repair shop owners are inundated with information: new parts, new technologies, training opportunities and business management and marketing techniques. We recently spoke with a former shop owner who now works to make some of this information more accessible to owners and technicians.

Ben Johnson is director of Product Management for Mitchell 1. He is a former automotive repair shop owner and has been involved in leadership roles in the automotive aftermarket for more than 24 years. He explained some overall industry problems, solutions in general and what Mitchell 1 can offer.     

Motor Age: What are the biggest challenges facing shop owners and technicians in the industry today?

Ben Johnson: It’s a really interesting time in the automotive aftermarket right now. There are many different factors converging, but an overall theme that I’m hearing a lot these days goes back to the basic need to get vehicles through the bays faster. I know that sounds familiar — like old news even. But there are some new dynamics that affect productivity, and shops are facing an assortment of challenges they’ve never dealt with before.

For instance, I read a report recently about the growth in the average number of cars and light trucks per service bay. There are more vehicles on the roads today, but fewer service bays to service them. Between 1999 and 2014, the number of cars and light trucks in operation grew nearly 21 percent, but in that same time period more than 60,000 service bays shut their doors. Those two trends combine to create a 30 percent increase in vehicles per service bay. That sounds like great news for auto repair shops, right? And it is. But the growing demand also comes with some challenges.

For one thing, as vehicles have become more complex there has been an explosion of information to repair them, as well as a proliferation of sources to access that information. What has not changed is the need to keep cars moving through the bays. Customers still expect to have their cars back the day they drop it off, or at latest by the next day. Add the increased volume of vehicles per bay, and this poses a big challenge for shops.

Motor Age: So, what are some of the tools available to shops to help them deal with rising volume and high customer expectations, while the complexity of diagnosing & repairing vehicles also continues to increase?

Ben Johnson: The issue for technicians is no longer about availability of data to fix cars, but how to find the right data — and more importantly, how to find it quickly. In general, service professionals get the information they need to diagnose and repair vehicles from three main sources:

• Diagnostic trouble codes from the vehicle
• Online OEM reference data, and
• Real-world information from peers in the industry

Juggling all of these resources to quickly find the exact information needed can be difficult and time consuming. Many technicians access multiple websites and services to get their information. But to be most efficient, technicians should be able to search for repair information once from a single source. At Mitchell 1, we’ve been working hard to consolidate all these types of repair information into a single application, so technicians have everything they need together in one place.

This goes beyond OEM repair information, which we’ve been providing for decades. Our repair information product, ProDemand, now also contains millions of “Real Fixes” based on actual experiences and repair orders from professional technicians. The SureTrack diagnostic module in ProDemand also has helpful tools like guided component tests and a library of known-good waveforms. Our newest feature, ProView, even paints a picture based on real-world fixes about probable causes for multiple trouble codes frequently found on vehicles being diagnosed.  Our goal is to be a one-stop solution for shops, so they don’t have to waste time on the phone or looking at different websites to fix the car in their bay.

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