Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Getting the most out of your quick lube software

October 11, 2010

Over the years, I have noticed many quick lube operators do not utilize their software as much as they could or should. Now add in a carwash along side the quick lube, and the problem becomes even more prevalent.

Like many things in life, sometimes you only get out what you put in. However, you may be surprised how a little effort will go a long way in producing results from your software for your quick lube.

Inventory 101
Inventory management is probably the most underutilized area of any quick lube software, yet it’s more important than ever given today’s rising cost of goods sold.

Are you or your manager utilizing the inventory capabilities built into your current system? How much product do you have on your shelves just collecting dust? Do you have another location that could use that same product but orders it for their store anyway?

Your software should automatically deduct items from inventory as they are sold. This leaves the inflow side up to your manager to make sure new shipments are added into inventory the day you receive them.

The most critical procedure that your manager needs to oversee is the physical count at the end of the month. Your current software, or the one you are considering for purchase, should print out physical count sheets for your employees to fill out when they count your stock at the end of the month.

When the count is complete, adjustments should be entered in to the inventory system. This works best with two people: one to read from the count sheet and one to run the computer.

Your software should make this easier with two simple features:

  1. The adjustments screen should be pre-ordered in the same sequence as the count sheet to speed up the process.
  2. The computer operator should not have to calculate anything. He should only have to enter the actual quantity on hand. The computer will calculate the variance automatically on the end of the month report.

Once this is complete, your software should print out a complete end-of-the month report detailing all inventory activities for the month, including beginning quantities, received items, shrinkage, sales for the month, actual quantity on hand and the cost and retail values involved.

Now comes a very important step: examine the report! Be sure to check your packing slips vs. your new shipment entry logs on the computer. Scrutinize any adjustments. Look for areas where you may be over stocked. You are bound to have these and other issues if you have not been running your inventory system properly.

Keep ‘quick’ in quick lube
How much time are your lube techs investing in identifying the year, make, model and engine for each vehicle? And more importantly, how accurately are they doing it?

If they do not spend enough time identifying the vehicle and engine, they are creating a liability for you and your customer. If they are conscientiously identifying each vehicle down to the engine every time, you’re sacrificing faster service times and paying more for labor.

Both scenarios are easily remedied by implementing a VIN scanner. Every car, whether new or repeat, is identified down to the engine by decoding the scanned VIN barcode. This takes place as soon as the trigger is pulled and all pertinent lubricant and parts data is accessed and tied to that vehicle. You can even greet the customer by name, see their last oil used and service history, and take his/her order right at their car.

Besides speeding up your lube bays and having accurate parts and lubricants for each vehicle, VIN scanners also provide 100 percent accurate customer lookup and vehicle history because you no longer rely on the license plate to look up their records.

Lube shops that rely on the license plate to store customer records are under the false impression that they have a good customer history. If they were to look at their database in depth, they would see that their customer history is actually fragmented or split between multiple records due to changing plates and bad data input.

Upgrade and stay on top
If your system is just too old to accomplish what you need it to do then its time for an upgrade. See what the latest version offers from your current software provider. Or consider a different software package that is more geared toward the lube business if necessary.

Converting your customer history from your old system to the new is easier than you think. These days, there are more options available to you when it comes to pricing.

Some software providers are offering their software as a service where you pay a small initial fee and then pay for support, updates, and software use on a monthly basis. This method reduces your initial expenditure and preserves your cash flow.

Or you might choose the more traditional route of purchasing the software license up front and reducing the cost of keeping your system supported and updated.

Look for a graphical user interface that makes it easier for your employees to use and train new hires. See if touch screens are available as an option as this will make an easy system even friendlier and simple to learn.

Another new technology to look for is solid-state computers with no moving parts. These computers are more reliable, more durable, and last longer than conventional PC’s that use fans and hard disks with spinning platters and bearings.

And last but not least, of all the new technologies that have emerged over the years, the one that has meant the most to our customers is the VIN scanner.

Maybe all you need is a refresher course on your current system. So blow off the dust on that user’s manual or schedule some training.

If your system is just too old or the options are not there for you, start shopping around for the latest technology. Investing in your system will yield results for your quick lube business and that investment could come in the form of time or money.

The good news is, the resulting dividends will be paid back to you in happier customers, higher profits, and increased control of your business.

Craig Harris is the national sales manager for Auto Data, Inc. and has sold software and computer systems to the quick lube and carwash industry since 1993. He can be reached at 800.767.7580 or