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Diagnostic Processes

Andy Crook of GotBoost explores the importance of processes and procedures.

Diagnostic processes very rarely get the attention they deserve. They tend to exist in the mind of the creator and are passed down from master to apprentice, either verbally or by demonstration and repetition; if they are written down it is only as an afterthought. After all, it takes time to get them all written and agreed, to ensure they are up-to-date and remain relevant to the business. Who does this kind of OJT (On the Job Training) and evaluation anyway? But, maybe we should. A successful business is a systemised business, check out any fast food chain for an example. 

For starters, every business should have processes for dealing with customer enquiries. The actual nature of the process will depend on the activity and not all activities lend themselves to being systemised. However, the more complex the task, the more benefit there is from creating and evolving a system to deal with it. 

If there are work processes that are duplicated each day, then they are the ones that are worth documenting first. Think about your customer enquiries. Does everyone in the business deal with them in the same manner, or does it depend on the person who deals with the enquiry? 

From a diagnostic point of view, what is the perception of your business when a fault has just happened and a potential customer is looking for the solution to their problem having called your garage? It might be very different depending on how the enquiry is dealt with. “Pop over and we’ll have a quick look” is a very different approach to “We can’t identify the cause over the phone so would you like to book a diagnostic assessment, where we’ll carry out a number of tests to try and determine the cause and inform you of our findings?” 

One suggests a quick low value solution and the other, a much more considered approach. 

Good processes and procedures therefore provide a way to communicate and apply consistent standards and practices within your business. Flowcharts are an excellent way to provide a visual element to the task at hand. Staff don’t necessarily have to ask how you want things done, as it is all there, documented for them. Through standard routines, there is more predictability in the job, which can help develop the processes when things need to change. 

Procedures define how and what is done, and by whom. Once worked through, they provide an efficient way of performing the task in a consistent way. They should also provide the framework for evaluation and improvement. 

Good Processes = Business Growth 

One major benefit of good processes and procedures is business growth. If your current systems work, then employing more staff is made much simpler, or imagine if your top diagnostic tech leaves, will you have to start again? If the process is systemised, written down and evaluated regularly then it should be simple to recruit or train a replacement. What if you are the top diagnostic tech? What happens when you’re not there? 

Good Systems:

– Save time and hopefully reduce mistakes
– Aid efficiency
– Reduce training time and costs
– Empower the people performing the tasks
– Ensure consistency in results
– Get used, evaluated and updated
– Support any quality goals the business has

However, bad systems can be as disastrous as having no procedure at all, they:

– Cause error and frustration
– Waste time and money
– Hinder training so often faced with increased training costs
– Are rarely updated
– Don’t get used or read

In this example, the customer creates an enquiry where the receptionist asks a series of questions to clarify the nature of the problem using the diagnostic fault form. This information is passed onto everyone else via the jobcard once the booking is confirmed. The management team allocates the job to the technician, who is tasked with verifying the fault. If the fault is repeatable and obvious, he can proceed to form a hypothesis. If not, the job is referred back to the management team, they can seek further clarification from the customer and evaluate the process used to gather the information, making improvements as required, as On the Job Training and evaluation. 

Each of these steps is a documented process in a systemised business, with the roles and responsibilities clearly defined. Each step the technician takes should follow a carefully planned and refined process. Remember the old engine testers? They guided you through a set routine of: 

– Starting
– Charging
– Ignition
– Fuelling
– Emissions

So, for example, every diagnostic job undertaken here at GotBoost starts with a Battery Health Check if it is a running fault. This is followed by a compression check. Why? Because after evaluation we decided that this was a good procedure – performing a compression check has identified issues earlier in the process and reduced errors. The evaluation loop we have added to our Diagnostic Operating System (shown as a quality control step in the flow diagram) identified the need to include the relative compression check. One example of this was when we were faced with an Audi TT that had flagged a Camshaft Position Sensor Error in a non-start condition. It would try to start but would cut out almost immediately. We focused on the Camshaft Sensor and wiring, performing a number of checks, including scoping the output back at the ECU pins. 

Figure 2

It looked like the ECU was in trouble, despite getting the correct camshaft signal it continued to flag the error. When we checked the crankshaft sensor output we saw something was wrong. It was only then did we carry out a compression check. One cylinder was significantly lower than the others – evidence enough to remove the sump. An overboost had bent a conrod, damaging the block and the piece of debris had in turn damaged the crank reluctor ring, see Figure 2. 

Still think that process, procedure and systems are a waste of time? You may feel that it is much more productive to work ‘in’ instead of ‘on’ your business and just get on with the work, as it pays the bills. But given the pace of change in our industry, those that have these processes in place will thrive. Those without, will just flounder as they will be disorganised, overwhelmed and not know which way to turn, and may take on work they are ill-equipped to do as they do not evaluate their skills, equipment or knowledge. 

Andy Crook of GotBoost has designed a new course ‘The Business of Diagnostics’ that investigates the impact of business systems on diagnostic procedures. He is also looking further into the subject on Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th June @ Automechanika where he is presenting his findings on how automation is increasingly embedded in diagnostic tooling. See page 49 for timings. 


About Autotechnician
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