Servicing up to 1,000 vehicles every month, Northampton-based In Town Automotive is a successful independent that’s tackling industry challenges head-on with careful time management and investment – GW Views finds out how.
The workshop initially opened in 2010 as a fast fit operation on the back of an online motor factor business.
In Town Automotive service manager, Kimberley Dorr said: “The business initially started just as Online Automotive, an online motor factor which sells parts across the UK and Europe.
“During this time we’d get customers asking if we could fit the parts they’d get from us but the answer was no, we were just a parts business then.”
The workshop, which at the time employed two technicians to service three bays, proved hugely popular and in less than a year of opening was at full capacity.
“Customers liked our ethos, so we quickly gained trust as a straight-up, honest garage,” Kimberley added.
“We’re now no longer just fitting tyres and exhausts.
“We’ve got 15 bays, nine technicians and we’ll do everything from brake pad replacement to full engine rebuilds.”
It’s the early days that truly laid the foundations to the success of In Town Automotive.
Garage owner, Terry Dorney said: “When we opened the garage the first challenge was finding customers, after that it was building the right team but you do reach a point where you need better systems to maximise your opportunities.
“We started working on our own garage management system when we couldn’t find one that was flexible enough to fit the way we work.”
Terry and his team required a system that would boost technician efficiency with intelligent time management.
Kimberley said: “We needed something that would give us a breakdown of how many jobs we could complete in one day.
“We looked at lots of management systems but none seemed to offer what we needed.
“From here, Terry developed a completely new company to develop a management system that satisfied the needs of our workshop.”
TechMan evolved from the ground up with ideas put forward by the technicians at In Town Automotive.
“We had all of these thoughts; ‘wouldn’t it be great if it did our MOT reminders for us’ and ‘what if it told us when our parts are here’.
“It’s got to the point now that I don’t know how we’d survive without it.”
TechMan has now itself grown to be a hugely popular workshop management system across the UK, as other independents favour its intuitive tools.
“It’s really important for us that we don’t stand still,” Kimberley said.
“We’re kitted out with the latest diagnostic kit and workshop equipment.
“Everything we do is aimed to make things as easy as possible for our technicians, so it’s important we provide them with the right training and tools for the job.”
As a Bosch Service workshop, technicians here train predominantly on the Bosch programme but Kimberley explained that she often invites brands into the garage for training sessions too.
“We recently completed a hybrid safety training course here and a brake refresher course too.
“We’re constantly training and investing, we have to.”
Getting to know Kimberley
What’s the best car you’ve worked on?
We have a customer that’s been using us since we first opened and she has a lovely Morris Minor. It’s got a name, Miss Rainbow. She’s absolutely beautiful.
And the worst car?
I’ll go for my least favourite, the old shape Ford KA. They’re all rotten.
What’s the most useful garage tool you have used?
100 per cent, Bosch KTS.
What’s the most useless garage tool you have ever used?
I don’t think we’ve got a useless tool to be honest. We only buy what we need and if we buy it, it’s something that will get used.
What’s your ideal day off?
Maybe a spa day, but I’d need access to my work phone.
What profession would you be in if you weren’t a vehicle technician?
Lorry driver, that would be alright.
What was the most embarrassing moment of your career?
We hadn’t long opened the garage and I’d never driven an automatic car before. I jumped into an automatic Freelander to move it, wasn’t use to there not being a clutch so put my left foot on the brake way too hard and hit my head on the steering wheel as the car came to an abrupt halt. I managed to hit the horn and everyone saw.
What is the biggest challenge the industry faces at the moment?
For the independent sector it’s the changing technology, autonomous vehicles, pass thru and the threats from VMs as they try to take away access to data but I feel that it will only really be a challenge to those garages that don’t invest and don’t move forward.