Like a lot of fixed ops departments during COVID-19, the staff at Esserman International Motors in Doral, Fla., was stretched thin. The Acura and Volkswagen stores typically employed 21 porters but cut back to 15 during the pandemic.
The porters who remained had been at Esserman anywhere from four to 20 years, a bit unusual for a job that historically has a high turnover rate.
"We treat our employees well," says Francisco Mora, service manager at the VW store. "Since they have been with me a long time, they're earning more."
But as the months went by, Mora could tell his porters were a stressed-out group. They told him they felt overworked. Dealership traffic was increasing, but with the number of staff decreasing, the porters were busier than ever.
"They weren't just busy, they were being pulled in every direction. I was really riding them," Mora says. "The porters were saying, 'We need help.' "
Mora looked at the department's work process and discovered a flaw.
"It turns out my service technicians were driving the cars through the automated car wash when the work was completed and taking them upstairs to the porters to be hand-dried and vacuumed," Mora says. "The technicians were sitting in line waiting to get a car washed for anywhere from five to 20 minutes when they could be turning wrenches instead.
"It was a process that had been in place for a very long time."
The process was changed, and the porters took the vehicles from the techs to wash and dry them and deliver them back to the customers.
"I eliminated what was holding them back," Mora says. "I eliminated vacuuming, which we had been doing for many years. I anticipated surveys saying the customer wasn't happy because of that. Instead, I am now getting surveys that say they are happier because the service is quicker."
The revised schedule allowed the 15 porters to do the work of 21.
And now, the techs are more productive and the porters more efficient.
"A technician can now get to the next car in minutes because they are not wasting 20 or so minutes in the wash line," Mora says. "I have happier customers because the service is faster and happier employees because they are not pulled in every direction.
"I believe in organization — in step one, step two, step three processes where everyone is doing their part. It's working very, very well."