Understanding Manual Auto Repair Shop Systems

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FileCabinetThe term ‘System’ can be used to refer to a number of different things. In the context of this writing it will be mean a ‘Defined process through which business transactions are processed and recorded’. In today’s terminology the term ‘system’ is often thought of as software, computers or both. In actuality the term has evolved into an all-encompassing concept which can include all aspects of business transaction processing. However, a system is the method by which a company chooses to process a given business transaction and the software, computers, network, etc. serve to support that method. Before the advent of computerized business systems all business transactions were processed on forms and stored in file cabinets in an organized way using a filing system.

The Repair Order Process in Auto Repair consists of a number of steps starting with identifying the customer requirements, development labor and parts requirements, quoting a price to the customer, obtaining approval, procuring parts if necessary, performing the services on the vehicle, delivering the vehicle to the customer and receiving payment. Separating this process from computerized support allows understanding of activities performed by people and the relationships at points in the business process.

When a business process is executed without computerized support – pre-printed and sometimes multi-part forms are used. In auto repair the primary instrument for this is the Repair Order Form. The repair order form contains boxes for customer info, vehicle info, service requirements, parts requirements and other related information. A form that supports the process of auto repair order fulfillment will start with the initial information being recorded on it and subsequently information being added to it as the vehicle progresses through the repair process. Information is added to the form until the repair order processing cycle is complete. At the end – after vehicle delivery and receipt of payment – the form will be stored in a file cabinet in such a way that it can be found later when needed.

Gaining an understanding of processes and systems without the underlying computerized support mechanisms serves to expand our view of work flows, interdependencies and relationships in the auto repair business. Today’s auto repair business systems evolved from the manual systems that were utilized before computer systems came into being. Therefore all computerized auto repair systems were originally designed based on a defined business process. The depth and breadth of the computerized system is directly dependent on the business process from which it originated. If the procedures in place were rudimentary and focus was given to small segments of the process – the computerized system will reflect that. If the procedures in place were well formed and encompassed the full auto repair order cycle – the computerized system will reflect that. So understanding how things would work without computers gives an understanding of why computerized business systems work the way they do.

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