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Stop Tool Theft From Wrecking Your Service Department

With competition from independent shops, increasing adoption of electric vehicles, and the specter of self-driving vehicles, dealership service departments have a tough road ahead. Despite these challenges, one thing remains true: Fixed ops is the backbone of the dealership.

There are ample opportunities for increasing revenue in the service department, but there’s one issue that hurts profits and could even contribute to employee turnover: tool theft. Let’s examine how this problem affects your service drive and technicians.

Dealership-Owned Specialty Tools

If you buy a lot of specialty tools, you know that tool costs can skyrocket, especially if your shop does body work and you’re required to purchase duplicates of tools from specific brands to meet various manufacturers’ certification standards.

A rivet gun, for example, can run $8,000 to $12,000. If you own a certain brand of rivet gun and a manufacturer requires a different one, you’d have to fork out another several thousand dollars just to be able to work on a specific make of vehicle.

If you had even one $8,000 tool stolen, how long would it take you to recoup that cost?

Employee-Owned Tools

Staff attrition is one of the biggest threats to the auto mechanic industry, with 30 percent of dealership technicians leaving their jobs each year. Some even leave the field altogether. It doesn’t help that fewer people are graduating from postsecondary tech training programs.

One of the major factors deterring people from the field is the cost of purchasing tools, which sources estimate is anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000. Some technicians incur debt to pay for these tools, which takes a toll on employees’ career satisfaction.

Imagine how demoralizing it would be for an employee to have invested tens of thousands of dollars in these tools — their livelihood — only to have them stolen. Unfortunately, there have been several reported cases of this scenario happening at dealership service departments over the years:

  1. Five boxes of tools worth a total of $100,000 were stolen. Some technicians had spent more than a decade collecting the items.
  2. Thieves stole at least $50,000 of tools, hauling them off in trash cans. Technicians had to get by on shared tools until the insurance company paid to replace the stolen ones.
  3. Several thieves stole $20,000 worth of tools — in addition to 10 high-end cars.

One insurance executive suggested that businesses offer tool insurance to technicians as an employment benefit. An even better perk, however, is to help avoid tool theft in the first place.


Preventing Tool Theft

Regardless of who footed the bill for the tools in your service department, thefts will put a dent in your profits. By the time you tally up opportunity costs, insurance deductibles, and employee turnover, you’re looking at an expense that’s substantially more than the actual price tag of the equipment. To prevent tool theft, start with the tips below:

  1. Require employees to lock up dealership-owned tools.
  2. Encourage employees to lock their tools away in a secure location at the end of each workday.
  3. Secure keys to tool chests, cabinets, or rooms where tools are stored. If you’re already using an electronic key control system in your service department to protect customer keys, consider using the system to manage tool storage keys.
  4. Consider storing diagnostic scanners, tablets, and other small tools in electronic lockers that can be controlled with your electronic key control system.

By taking steps to protect the tools in your service department, you’ll not only protect your hard-earned investment but show your employees you value them. Looking for more ways to maximize your profits in the service department? Check out “How Electronic Key Control Can Help Your Service Department Get Reimbursed for Shuttle Rides.”
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