Garage management software | Case Study: Donnellan Auto Services

The returning winner of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry awards 2020 – Donnellan Auto Services was founded in 1999 in Galway, Ireland. John Donnellan shares the story of the company and how they are getting on with the garage management system provided by Garage Hive. Read more on how the auto service is benefitting not only from garage management software but also the processes that have been put in place…

About the company

The company was founded by John Donnellan in August of 1999 to meet the demand of a vehicle rental company that required a garage to service its fleet. The garage started by selling tyres and carrying out wheel alignments, we decided to open up as a full-service garage in 2000 with the introduction of the NCT to Ireland. Starting out with a one-bay operation in 1999, growing to its present size of seven bays. They started initially fitting tyres and carrying out wheel alignments with the top of the range alignment system at that time. In 2009 John Donnellan took over the business completely and in 2011 Donnellan Auto Services underwent a major rebrand. Donnellan Auto Services now employs 5 staff, himself included. He has himself and Helen on front of house and 3 techs in total.

Tell us a bit about you:

“I have been working repairing cars since I started in secondary school in the Garage business.” The timing was perfect however not intentional as the NCT was introduced into Ireland in the year 2000. John saw the demand for NCT pretesting and preparation. “We purchased an NCT pre-test lane brake and shock tester. I believe we were one of the first Independent garages to be able to offer THE NCT service. In 2004 we purchased our first Air conditioning machine again the first Independent workshop to offer this service in our area.”

Experience before Garage Hive

How did you first come across Garage Hive?

“I was on a training course and the subject of garage management systems came up, and people were mentioning different Garage management systems, but Garage Hive kept coming up. I was very interested as I was looking to improve on the one I was using currently.”

What made you decide you needed a change software? i.e. were there any problems you were trying to resolve?

“I was looking for a system that could manage my technicians’ times clocked on jobs, versus the times we charged for on jobs. This is where Jobsheet analysis really stands out for me in the reports Garage Hive provide. Workshop efficiency was another issue, I had no idea how we were performing.”

“The booking in schedule was another thing I was looking for! To be able to see what jobs are in progress/ finished/ not started gives me great control over what’s going on at any given point throughout the day, and have Jobs been completed on time. The job card is built from the schedule and carries seamlessly through from the schedule to the jobsheets, then I can attach electronic vehicle inspections, and can do an estimate. This work, once authorized, can be added back onto the jobsheet before then doing the final invoice, once the work has been done. Garage Hive’s core processes are really clear. The systemising of these steps makes it easy for anyone to follow.”

From Garage Hive, there is some powerful reporting through Garage Hive Reporting App. This includes a daily, weekly and monthly breakdown. From this, I can monitor at any time of day, week or month, the total sales to date, weekly sales, daily sales broken into:

Had you tried to fix these problems with another software prior to Garage Hive? If not was there anything else you tried to do to fix the issues?

“When I started in business I used a programme which was stored locally and allowed me to create purchases and invoices but very little else for running a workshop. I asked them many times to make changes/ updates. They kept saying maybe someday, however my changes were not on the plan after I’d asked. I could never talk directly to them, I had to go through their agent in Ireland.”

“I then changed to another system. This was a significant improvement with managing the schedule creating job cards and invoices. The job cards were paper-based, and I was depending on the tech to write them up and then FOH populated the job card to produce an Invoice.”

What was the reason behind you choosing Garage Hive over the other software providers on the market?

“So I was looking into my options for a garage management system and what I wanted to do. It had to be cloud-based and online so I could access it at home on any PC and it would have all my data/ info there ready for me. Techs had to be able to clock on and off jobs. I wanted electronic job cards and electronic vehicle inspections. I wanted a real-time schedule so I could see where we are as the day progresses. So, I was looking at different software options and wanted to get a demo when I found out that a number of the suppliers were going to be at the Automechanika show in Birmingham, in June 2019 so I booked a flight. I looked at the various offerings and while some of the software suppliers had a lot of what I needed when I met Alex Lindley at the Garage Hive Stand, he gave me so much of his time showing me how everything works and how everything comes together on what was a very busy day I knew Garage Hive was the system for us. “

It was more than a software package it was a process. I returned to Garage Hive’s Head Office with Helen my office manager a few weeks later we got an in-depth demonstration of the system, and we had it installed up and running in August 2019.

The Implementation

How was your experience when first using Garage Hive? What immediate changes did you see?

“Immediately we noticed how easy it was to manage the schedule, take bookings and assign jobs to techs. The techs then in turn can see what jobs are in front of them. This is very visual and everybody can see what is going on and can prioritise accordingly.”

How did the Garage Hive team help with this and how has the support been since you’ve been live with us?

“We opted for the onsite install where Dawn came over and spent 3 days with us setting up the system and training my FOH and technicians. I think it took us approx. 6 weeks to get comfortable using the system. It felt so different from what we were using, but then it all came together. I would highly recommend anyone installing Garage Hive opt for the onsite installation. It really helped us with the change.”

How did your technicians get on with using Garage Hive?

We went from purely paper-based job cards to Huawei tablets overnight and my techs took to them naturally. We have one tech who I thought may struggle with changing over, who now completes the best vi inspections and just does things by just following the processes within the system.

What would you say your most positive experience is with Garage Hive software so far?

I love the vehicle inspection process! We have an extremely consistent vehicle inspection process to follow now, so every tech inspects the cars the same. It is a fantastic process from the tech creating the VI, to front of house creating the estimate, and sending it to the customer for approval.

"The customer approves the work and the job card is populated with just a few clicks it really makes the communication with the customer easy but also really clear. When sending the VI to the customer they already understand what’s required before we follow up with a call, so if they do request a call back then it's so much easier to explain what needs to be done to the customer."

Customer results

What have been the most significant changes you have noticed since switching over to Garge Hive?

“We are organised, everyone in our organisation knows what’s going on every day. The estimation and approval processes are seamless and very clear vehicle inspections with photos and attachments that make it very easy for the customer to understand what and why repairs are required. The Garage Hive Reporting app is a game-changer for me as I can see exactly what has happened in the business during any given period.”

I think that Garage Hive systemises how our garage works, and it all starts with the schedule.

“There are so many other features we use now without any thought that we just take for granted such as Autodata repair time integration, Net Promotor Score. The pay by garage link is the most recent feature I have started to use; this really is a useful feature where we just send a link to pay their invoice. This is a very convenient time-saver, and our customers’ response to it is great! This all works well with us being able to send over VI inspections by email and get approval by return mail or phone.”

What’s next for you? What are you looking to achieve over the next couple of years?

“The future for me is to prepare for me not to spend so much time in the business repairing cars but to spend more time planning and implementation. I want Donnellan Auto services to run without my full-time input. I can see that this is well on its way with the business systematisation by using Garage Hive and the great support of the team around me. Very soon after I met Alex Lindley, Alex sent me his template for calculating my gross profit target. This helped me know what GP needs to be and what our labour rate needs to be. I can monitor this daily, using the tools of Garage Hive and Power Bi Reports.”

“I like the Facebook community because I see what other people are asking questions that I may not have even thought of and learned from the answers posted by the Garage hive team or other Garage hive users. Also, I learn about features from the webinars run by the Garage Hive team.”

What is the single biggest reason you would recommend the Garage Hive’s management system to another garage owner?

The thing I like the most about Garage Hive is that it's not just a software package, it’s a detailed and powerful system, with a strong set of core processes, that works well within a garage. It is constantly being improved, with new features being added all the time. It just keeps getting better and better the more we use it. There are so many features to the system there are some I haven’t yet got to use. The future with Garage Hive is a bright one, not just for the immediate but for the long term also. The company is constantly progressing and will continue to develop its software so I am confident we will be a part of the Garage Hive community for many years to come.

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