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Design a workshop suitable for the cars of today

For most people, car service workshops are just a building with a technician, tools and a lift or a pit. Repairs get made, problems get solved. Just as there are cars of different standards and capabilities, so is the same with workshops.  Increasingly, as vehicles become more complex and sophisticated, the ability of the independent service garage to be able to diagnose and repair becomes linked with the investment in equipment and knowledge. The days of the mechanic who could fix everything on all cars is coming to an end as the amount of diagnostic and special tools just to read problems are becoming increasingly more refined and brand specific. Even vehicle lifts, which were once quite ubiquitous and standard, are becoming increasingly varied. Multi franchising adds its own problems. Handling two separate brands within one workshop doubles the problem. Specifying a vehicle lift capable of lifting Land Rover Range Rovers and Defenders to Jaguar’s F Types and the new XE involves some very detailed investigation by the lifts supplier and the manufacturer.

The changes seen with the Land Rover range exemplifies with what garage owners are having to contend. Not so long ago, a Land Rover workshop would comprise of only 4 post lifts. The vehicles were built on a frame and every service operation was worked from the basis of a platform lift. The 1997 introduction of the Freelander brought the first monocoque chassis into the Land Rover Range and for the first time, 2 post lifts were required in Land Rover workshops. The addition to the range with the popular Evoke. Jaguar vehicles have also undergone a radical range transformation.

Straightset has just completed the design, supply, installation of workshop equipment at the new Guy Salmon Jaguar Land Rover site Stockport for the Sytner Group. This workshop is truly state of the art and bang up-to-date with the latest equipment and fit out techniques available today.

Comprising  18 service bays suitable for both the Land Rover and Jaguar Range of vehicles, the site is equipped with 18 in-ground SLIFT DV40 lifts. These multi use lifts are ideal for picking up the full range of vehicles in both brands. The absence of lift columns and posts mean next to no door damage to vehicles and providing un paralleled access for the technicians. Sytners have been using SLIFT in-ground lifts since Frank Sytner’s first BMW dealership was equipped with them over 40 years ago.

The dealership workshops also features 2 dual purpose Class IV ATL MOT bays combined with Wheel alignment capability. This provides the outlet with the ultimate in flexibility, changing use between MOT tests and Wheel alignment as demands warrant.

The MOT bay has a new, fully integrated MOT and wheel alignment system with all services accessible via a large wall mounted 42” display which serves both as display for the Brake tester, Gas analyser, Smoke Meter, Wheel alignment and eventually the VDSA on-line certification scheme. The wheel alignment system can be easily relocated between both bays. All of the equipment in the MOT bay is housed in SHURE’s SHURETECH workshop workstation system to give a clean, uncluttered look getting rid of all the mobile trollies that can blight an MOT and Wheel Alignment area.

SHURETECH Workstations also feature in the vehicle technicians’ work bays, each tech having access to Air , oil, water services, power and data, storage for over 7.5sq mtrs of tool storage in cabinets fitted with drawers that handle 200Kg of tools each. Easy access to waste areas, and integrated tool trolleys for each technician. The site services also have facilities to handle bulk waste oil and bulk waste antifreeze. A fully integrated oil monitoring system links into the main accounts and stock management software for seamless integration of oil stock control and allocation by WIP number.

Workshop designs and  specification of equipment revolve around  the requirements of the vehicles and our customers. Workshops have to be fit for purpose. Trying to future proof a workshop is neigh-on impossible. One thing we have learned is there is almost no consideration for servicing requirements when new vehicles are designed. If the car sells, then workshops will adapt to suit them. Currently, workshops are undergoing changes to accommodate electric powered vehicles. Where one would think that where there are batteries there is no exhaust pipe and hence no exhaust extraction facilities required. So that will be the standard in future workshops?… but no…  There will be for many years to come cars with internal combustion engines. Classic cars will still require servicing. Even some electric cars need extraction for fumes in workshops when the batteries are being charged. Hooking up a vehicle to an electrical power supply will become standard practice. The introduction of new LED and Laser headlights has been introduced without any recognised testing protocol and maufacturers are running arounf pumping money into R7D to develop equipment to test them although the cars are in the showrooms being sold today. While ever on-vehicle services are located and accessed by being under a vehicle, workshops will require lifts. 30 years ago vehicle lifts for cars were 2.5 tonne capacity, then the capacity changed to 3t, then 3.5t and now 4t lifts are common place. Why? Surely cars are getting lighter? Not necessarily so. The increase in vehicle strength and crash avoidance equipment all adds weight. The range of vehicles each brand is manufacturing is possibly at its widest ever. Brands with two-seater sports cars and Micro cars to Luxury saloons, SUVs and MPVs, LCVs all adds to the problem of how to handle and specialise in a brand.  Globalisation of the market is another reason. The proliferation of far eastern equipment aiming squarely at the US market is being manufactured by the ship-load. This finds its way into the European market.

And so the best we can hope for is to design a workshop suitable for the cars of today – being a supplier of equipment to the aftermarket service sector is to not be in control of the future. THAT belongs to car designers and innovators of the next big thing.