Paul - 16th October 2013
This blog post will attempt to definitively answer the following questions (and their many variants).
- How long will you need my bike for?
- When will my bike be ready to be returned to me?
- When will I get my bike back?
- How soon will you be able to deliver my bike back?
- Can I get my bike returned the same/next day
- Can you guarantee when my bike will be returned?
- Why can't I arrange my delivery day/time when I make my booking?
- Why can't I arrange my delivery when you come and collect my bike?
- Why can't you tell me (definitely) when my bike will be be ready when you collect it?
First - the Answer (then the analysis…)
Using the data from the last two years, the answer to 'How Long' is:
|How Long||Upto 24 hours||24-48 hours||2-3 days||3-4 days||4-5 days||5+ days|
|Percentage of Jobs ready (cumulative)||29.9%||70.9%||84.8%||89.7%||92.1%||100%|
The histogram below shows this data in a more easily digestible way. Click on it for a better view.
This was going be in the FAQ but given how often these questions are asked I wanted to dig a little deeper and provide a truly detailed analysis.
Upto now, the standard answer was along the lines of - "80%-90% of bikes are ready to come back to the customer the day after they are collected". By analysing the considerable amount of data within our booking system, it is possible to provide a definitive answer based on the past evidence, rather than just speculate.
They key figure we're looking at here is the amount of time between the collection and when the job is completed and is so ready to be returned to the customer. Very simply (if you like a bit of algebra!): X = Y-Z
X = the amount of time between collection and completion (Aka - How Long)
Y = Collection date/time
Z = date/time when the job is finished. (Fortunately our booking system records z automatically)
So, for example: If a collection is booked for 4pm and the job is moved to finished at 2.35pm the next day: x = 22 hours & 25 minutes
By analysing the data for every booking for the last two years we end up with the histogram and data chart.
Things to bear in mind:
Given the most famous quote about statistics ; 'Lies, damn lies and Statistics' - I feel it's important to make a few points.
- These figures are derived from every completed job we have done over the last two years, therefore they will be skewed by (amongst other things) customers who for example were going away or told us there was 'no rush' and so if we were busy these jobs may have been put to the back of the queue (there is no way to exclude these jobs from the data).
- They also include jobs where parts needed ordering (more on this below) and so there was an associated delay, and jobs which could not be completed until we had some contact with the customer (for many possible different reasons. E.g. To finalise a quote, provide options as requested, where extra problems were found or the customer was not present at the time of collection etc…) these jobs further skew the data
- Finally the underlying data is for each 'Job' and not for each 'Bike' (the difference is that a job can be 1, 2. 3 or more bikes and so jobs with more bikes naturally take longer to complete)
Jobs where parts are required
By delving a little deeper into the data and separating the jobs which are at some point moved to 'awaiting parts' from all the others, we find:
- Jobs moved to 'awaiting parts' - 11.2%
- Jobs not moved to 'awaiting parts' - 88.8%
(Just an aside I'm really quite proud of this split. It's always best to be able to complete a bike in one go, both for the customer and as a mechanic. We're constantly expanding our stock of parts to enable this as much as possible and hitting nearly 90% is very satisfying)
Now, of those 89% of jobs is there a significant change in the time taken until they are finished?
|How Long||Upto 24 hours||24-48 hours||2-3 days||3-4 days||4-5 days||5+ days|
|Percentage of Jobs ready (cumulative)||33.0%||77.9%||92.0%||96.4%||97.8%||100%|
Histogram for this data
Well this is pretty much as expected. Jobs where parts do not have to be specially ordered are completed sooner. And we're nearly hitting that Magic 80% target. The 'things to bear in mind' still apply as well.
How it works / Practicalities / Influences
I'm assuming (always a dangerous thing to do) that if you're reading this (and you've got this far!) that you have an idea what we do here at SCB - so I'm not going to explain that (link to future blog post?). However, some further points specific to 'how long it takes' are:
- The time of day your collection is. Jobs are done in the order that they are collected. Therefore an 8am collection is always more likely to be finished the same day (or next day) than a 7pm collection.
- The mechanic that does the job. OK this might get a bit involved but bear with me. Firstly, it is always preferable to have the same mechanic complete a job from start to finish (do I need to explain why?) Sometimes though a mechanic will need to stop working on a job before it is finished (E.g because they are driving the van or because it is the end of the day and they need to go home!) Now depending on various factors (whether the customer has told us they need their bike back in a certain time frame, whether the mechanic is working the next day etc.) they will either pass the job on to another mechanic to complete or they will pause it and leave it for themselves to complete when they are next back in at work. Naturally the time from collection to completion is longer for these jobs.
- Complexity of the job and other jobs that we have in the workshop at the time. I.e. If we have a lot of complex jobs in. then naturally this will result in a longer time to complete these jobs and so jobs behind them in the queue will not get started as soon - conversely if we have lot of simple jobs in - then then time to complete will be reduced and later jobs will be started sooner.
- Parts! No matter how wide the range of parts that we stock there will always be bikes that need parts we do not, or that we do stock but that we (or the distributor) are out of stock of. We really do everything we can to keep our parts stock to a maximum (and I think the 88.8% figure above bears this out) but there will always be bikes that are delayed due to parts requirements.
- Number of bikes per job. Sometimes one booking can yield 3, 4 or more bikes. If this happens with 3 or 4 bookings over a day or two (and most importantly the customers haven't informed us of the number of bikes at the time of booking) then the increased time needed to complete these jobs may impact on jobs behind them in the queue.
- Servicing of shocks and suspension forks. We use different specialists (mainly Mojo and TF tuned who are excellent) for these. But there is of course a delay whilst this happens. Turnaround is rarely more than a week.
- Staff holiday or illness.
- Time of year / the Weather. We do everything we can (within reason) to match supply with demand (see below) but no matter what we do, on lovely days in May and June everyone wants their bikes fixed. So not only do we have lots of work on but we also have lots of phone calls to answer, emails to respond to and workshop visitors to deal with. It is very hard (nigh impossible) to stop this impacting on the time taken for each bike to be completed..
- Other events that are outside of our control. For example last summer we had a power cut that stopped everything in the workshop - lighting, communication, our booking system, the lot.
What we do to try and minimise how long it takes
We want you to get your bike back as soon as possible, not just for your satisfaction but purely from a business perspective. It makes no sense for us to keep bikes any longer than is necessary, both from a cash flow and logistical point of view. To that end we are constantly looking to improve our service and to provide as quick and efficient service as possible for our customers. To that end we:
- Limit the number of bookings we take each day.
- Continually vary how many bookings we take per day in the future - depending on the current workshop workload.
- Maximise all of our resources (stock, staffing and all other associated logistics)
- Stock over 1300 different parts and are continually expanding the range of parts that we stock.
- Work overtime when required.
I want my bike turned round as fast as possible - what can I (as the customer) do to achieve this?
There is no magic answer to this question but some things you can do are:
- Inform us when you book (not when we collect it) that ideally you really need the bike back by a certain day/time. We will add this to your booking details and do everything possible to achieve your request.
- Provide us with contact details (mobile/email etc) that you are available on if we need to contact you to discuss anything. (So, for example, not just your home land-line if you are out at work all day!)
- Book your bike in in the quiet time - October to February. (Although we do everything we can to match supply with demand, and as previously stated limit the number of bookings we take, average turnarounds are always faster in the quiet time. Or are they Paul? Another graph maybe?!)
Can I pay for a faster/same day turnaround?
In the past it has been suggested that we could charge for a more premium, 'guaranteed' same day or next day service. Although I appreciate there may be a place for this from a service and business perspective it is something I continue to resist. Given the logistical complexities of what we do (come and observe the workshop in action on a busy spring day, if you're sceptical about that statement!) it could, I feel, make processing bikes more complex. But more so, I have (and will continue to) resist it, because I don't want us to have a two tiered service. Every bike and every customer should get the best possible service (that's what we strive for anyway).
Why can't you offer a 'guaranteed' turnaround time? Why wont you arrange my delivery until the bike is finished?
Quite simply, we don't say we will do something, unless we know that we definitely can.
Sometimes customers are frustrated, unimpressed or worse, because we won't guarantee when their bike will be ready at the time of booking. Similarly some customers are unhappy because we will never arrange (or commit to) a delivery until the bike is finished, test ridden and has been written up. We're not being difficult or obstructive, we're just being certain not to make a commitment that we can't be certain of keeping. I think the statistics at the start of this blog post clearly illustrate that our turnaround times are very good, but, they also show that a small minority of jobs take longer. It is impossible to guarantee at the time of booking that your bike will not be one of these jobs. The same applies for arranging a delivery before a bike is finished. I am very clear to all of the staff at SCB that the use of 'absolutisms' is to be studiously avoided unless there is no doubt. Words like must, need, have, can't, will (and will not) leave no room for any other potential outcome if the original statement is to remain correct. Especially when used about events in the future that are yet to even occur! For example: "We will do our very best to have your bike ready for delivery the day after it is collected" is very different to "Your bike will definitely be ready for delivery the day after it is collected" You may think I am being pedantic, but to me this is very important.
Well, when I started writing this I never expected it to become so comprehensive. What else can I say - we really do our best to turn round every bike as quickly as we can. The irony is that there will always be some customers who are not happy that their bike that was collected at 9.30am is not ready for delivery at 4pm the same day, whilst there are other customers who are really pleased (and impressed!) that their bike that was collected at 8.30am is all done and ready for delivery the next day. Cest la vie...
So, (IMHO) the best (and simplest) answer to the question - 'how long will you need my bike for?' is:
- Most bikes are ready for delivery the day after they are collected.
Future plans for further improvement
- More stock!
- Further improvements to our workshop practices (details?)
- Automatic text when a bike is moved to completed