About English Racing
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple years, you have probably heard of English Racing. They are a premier destination shop in Camas, WA which is about 15 minutes outside of Portland, Oregon. English Racing has been a go-to shop for Evo, DSM, and Honda tuning for many years. More recently, they have been taking in Subaru work as well as building several of the fastest GTRs on the planet.
English Racing's race rig at TX2K15
The shop is owned and run by Lucas English who, like most shop owners, wears many different hats. Lucas divides his time among managing the shop, answering phone calls, tuning cars, and writing invoices.
Lucas at his desk working on invoices
In the front office, he is supported by Myles who handles a bulk of the phone calls, emails, and customer service/scheduling.
Myles spends a great deal of his time answering the phone
The shop itself is spread out over a couple buildings including one for their AWD Dynojet, a smaller two lift building primarily for GTR work, and the main building with the waiting room, office, engine assembly room, parts storage, and the primary work areas with 5 lifts. There is a large, recently paved parking lot where they keep the customer cars in for work. The parking lot has a slew of every type of car they work on ranging from simple tunes to ground up builds. English has a team of techs who divide the work up based off specialty.
The back side of their main building
We have known Lucas for several years because we both come from the Evo world so we were intimately aware of the struggles associated with running this type of shop. The most obvious issue is the sheer number of cars they had to work on.
Their parking lot had a lot of cars in for work
It is quite the daunting task trying to track all the work that needs to be done and all the parts needed for each car. Without a good system to do this, shops will spend too much time on overhead activities. This includes tracking down parts, trying to remember the work done, answering phone calls from customers wondering what is going on with their car, pushing cars around, and even directing technicians. This cuts into the profitability of the shop. The guys at English did have several systems in place to try and help their process. The most useful was their use of Google calendars to track appointments. They were also using the multi-user QuickBooks for accounting. And Lucas had created his own Excel worksheet for tracking the status of all the cars in the parking lot/ But this was a very labor intensive process in itself.
I spent day 2 entering jobs from google calendar to MSA
After talking with Lucas a couple times about My Shop Assist, we decided it would be of huge benefit to him for us to simply fly up there and help implement a complete shop management system. Lucas fully understood that his time is extremely valuable and he simply didn't have any to spare to try and learn a new system on his own.
We at My Shop Assist realize that this is a pretty common struggle for shops who are aware they need to improve things but can't devote the resources to do so. We addressed this issue in December, 2014 by offering a consulting service where we would visit the shop in person and do the heavy lifting for them. This includes importing all of the customers, tasks, parts, and users, then adding all of their current projects, and finally training all of the staff.
We agreed a good time to visit would be right after he returned from the California Shift S3ctor half mile event. This would give him two good weeks of use on his own before they head down to Texas for the Texas Invitational. This trip to the TI event would give him a chance to meet us in person again where we can go over how its working out for him. We can address any questions he may have and keep him going in the right direction towards better efficiency and higher profitability.
On the first day of the visit, I was introduced to several of the guys on Lucas' crew. Lucas gave me a tour of the shop and explained several of their current processes. Lucas said that over the past 6 months they have been pushing hard to clean up the shop but that it was still a work in progress. Years of hard work with not enough time devoted to cleaning and organization can takes its toll on the shops efficiency. It also makes the shop look less appealing to higher end clientele. The first big change was his parts room. English Racing stocks a large amount of competition clutches which were neatly organized on the shelves and labeled for each application.
Their move to organize the shop was obvious in the new parts room
This same thing applied to Wiseco Pistons, GSC, ARP, ACL, and even a bunch of Magnus Intake manifolds for Evo's. English Racing buys direct from the manufacturer on many of these products and also helps with some R&D. This is excellent for maximizing profit margin and establishes himself as a resource the manufacturers can use to test their products in practice. Having a good amount of product on the shelf also means they can turns cars around faster because they wont have to wait for parts to be shipped to them.
Myles likes their parts room
Another area of the shop was reserved for parts to be used on scheduled cars. Lucas was using the shelves to tag parts with the customers name and made it clear to the team those parts were not to be used for anything else That way, cars can come in and leave the same day because everything is there for it.
The last change I will point out was the use of rolling racks to store parts for customer cars. When you tear down a car for a motor build, there are a lot of parts that need to go somewhere until the new engine is ready to go. The use of these rolling racks minimizes the footprint on the shop floor these parts take up. It also keeps things off the floor which adds to the professional look we strive to achieve.
The rolling racks behind the lift contain the parts from disassembled cars
A bulk of the remaining work Lucas’ team had left to do was cleaning up used and old parts throughout the shop. It's often difficult to throw good old parts away because you know at some point another car will need it. The downside is that those parts will be in your way until that time comes (which could be years). We advise shops to take a good hard look at their pile of used parts and determine if they really need to hold on to them. Most of the time, if a customer needed a part to fix a car, just make them purchase a new one. Lucas and I looked through several of his shelves and he started coming to the conclusion that keeping many of the used parts is just a waste of space.
My work with Lucas began after our tour. The first part to setting them up with My Shop Assist was to integrate their customer list from QuickBooks into MSA. This gives them a good start to adding jobs and makes each job a little easier to create from here on out. Next, I went in and reviewed their parts and services within QuickBooks. They had a very extensive list of OEM parts used on the various cars they work on but much of the aftermarket parts were missing. The services were grouped under just a few distinct line items. On my flight to English Racing, I anticipated needing to make a good service list for them to work from. I built a good base of tasks organized by type of task and broken down to specific areas and even specific vehicles when appropriate. Since we at My Shop Assist have been in the aftermarket automotive industry for many years, we have a pretty good idea about what the task list should look like. And this list would be a great start for them to build off of as time goes by.
Throughout the first day, Lucas was working hard to get invoices printed for me for the cars already at their shop (and it took essentially his entire day). I needed these invoices so that I could enter the jobs into MSA for his techs to begin working from. This process was very time consuming for him because the QuickBooks database he originally had didn't have many of the parts or services they commonly use. He would manually have to enter it every time a car needed it. When you’re doing that 5 or 6 times a day, I would estimate between 3-4 man hours a day would be saved with a more complete service and parts list available to pull from in MSA and then export as complete invoices back into QuickBooks. This simple process improvement of streamlining invoice creation and having more data to pull from could potentially free up 80/hrs a month of Lucas and Myles time (at $100/hr that’s $8000 dollars a month more potential earning time without having to hire another person or work longer days). In the coming weeks, we are going to be working closely with English to continue to enter more data with them and to better fit the spreadsheets created for them to the pricing structure they use there.
By the end of the first day, I had MSA connected to their QuickBooks via the web connector and was able to transfer jobs from MSA into Quickbooks as invoices. This is a critical component that shops who implement other “General” project management programs overlook. I also had entered in all of English Racing's technicians into the system and even had several of the invoices entered as jobs into MSA. One of the techs began tracking his time late in the day with MSA This is a key component to what Lucas was wanting to fix from his previous system of hand written time cards. I gave myself some homework for the night to begin creating groups within MSA and to further customize the labor list to their needs..
Day two began with showing several more technicians how to use the system and explaining the purpose of what its being used for. It took several hours to explain it, answer questions, and demonstrate the functionality to them. By this point, Myles was proficient at adding jobs and had begun using MSA in place of their Google calendar for new appointments. He also successfully took an email thread with a customer for a staged power package they offer, entered it into MSA, and emailed the work order to the customer with a request for a signature to authorize the work. The customer digitally signed the request within a few hours and Myles was able to follow up with a deposit placed and parts marked to be ordered. Because the work order was created in MSA, Myles already had the work allocated to the specific technicians (which automatically appears on those techs to-do lists when they log in), had the job listed on the calendar, and will be able to export it to QuickBooks as an invoice once the job is completed. The biggest struggle with explaining MSA to shops is how the dots are connected through the work flow in a shop. Over the next few months, as Lucas and his team are more comfortable with using it, things will become increasingly apparent about how seamless MSA makes running the shop.
By the end of the second day, many of the cars at their shop had been entered into the system and we were ready to start the third day training the rest of the technicians about using MSA
By the second day, the techs were tracking hours on the cars they were working on.
I spend the night building out specific groups that Lucas can use for engine builds and short block assemblies. This will reduce the time to quote and invoice a full engine build. Additionally, fewer things will fall through the cracks. Lucas and I went over several motor build invoices and found he was grossly underestimating the “misc fluids, seals, cleaning supplies” charge he was using. And there were even discrepancies on certain parts pricing from one invoice to another. These are the small things that cut into the bottom line without even realizing it. By building out specific groups of parts and services, every engine build going forward will have identical pricing without missing the small (but significant) supplies he was overlooking. These supplies are no longer grouped into “misc supplies” and are called out as individual line items which makes his invoicing more professional to the customers.
I spent the third day training the remaining technicians and making sure all questions were answered. I also entered his dyno waiver legalese into MSA and showed them how to take signatures for the waiver
Aaron at his home away from home on the dyno. Now able to upload the dyno sheets and get waivers signed with MSA.
Lucas also wanted to start using the Time clock within MSA because it was difficult to edit times using their paper time clock system which required manually totaling out each employees times every week. The MSA time clock report generates this report automatically and it is easier to make corrections.
Overall, the visit was extremely productive! It took Lucas away from the task at hand many times throughout the day, but I did most of the heavy lifting to get them moving forward with the new system. By the time I left, everyone was actively using the system and the active jobs screen was growing rapidly as new cars were being entered into the system. I plan to follow up with Lucas and his team several times through the next few weeks to make sure all their questions are addressed and they continue to smoothly transition to using MSA. I want to thank the team at English Racing for inviting us to come help them, and for the opportunity to see their operation!
This service is available to anyone interested. If you think your shop would benefit from a visit like this, please Contact us.