The Race Shop

Fans who attend national drag racing events have an opportunity that isn’t extended to spectators of other motorsports. They are all allowed access to the pits to watch top racing teams wrench on their cars between racing rounds.

Columns From: 3/1/2007 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Derek Korn

Fans who attend national drag racing events have an opportunity that isn’t extended to spectators of other motorsports. They are all allowed access to the pits to watch top racing teams wrench on their cars between racing rounds. The most impressive of this between-rounds work happens in the pits of top fuel and funny car teams, where supercharged engines are completely torn down and rebuilt in less than a couple hours.
The qualities that allow a race team to pull this off are shared by employees of successful shops. Think of your shop as drag racing team and determine whether you:

Work as a team—All members of a racing team—crew chief, crew members and driver—know their roles. Similarly, shop management must make sure all employees have a clear idea of precisely what is expected of them. Employees should also have a simple mechanism for suggesting ways in which processes can be improved. They should be encouraged to make such suggestions on a regular basis.

Mind the 5S’s—Workplace organization in the pits is essential so that tools and parts are located within easy reach for the crew members as they quickly work on a race car. The same applies to a shop. Employees are much more efficient when they’re not constantly walking the facility looking for equipment. Wasted time is the enemy in the pits and in the shop.

Remain flexible—How a team tunes its race car depends on factors such as temperature, humidity, venue altitude and track condition. There are also many ways in which a shop must be flexible. There should be an effective way to insert hot jobs into the work schedule. Shops must also be versatile to make money on the short runs, as well as the long runs. Employees cross-trained on multiple machine types can be deployed where needed, when needed.

Capitalize on your one chance—Unlike Nascar drivers, drag racers can’t make mid-race pits stops to adjust an ill-performing car. Win, and you advance to the next round. Lose, and you’re loading your car on the trailer. The elimination rounds of a drag race are similar to that first job from a new customer—you have one shot to get it right. Misfire on that new customer’s first job and you likely won’t get a second chance.

Stay consistent—Consistency on the track wins racing championships. Consistency in the shop in terms of continually coming through for your customers builds relationships. These days, that’s what it’s all about.

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