Gear-head ratios

SCREWDRIVERS, SOCKET WRENCHES and car lifts are just some of the tools that Saab technicians use to repair the cars they see every day. They're all standard issue for the company's approximately 255 dealerships and service facilities in the United States, and right alongside them are the technicians' PCs. These days the lower-tech items outnumber computers by about 20 or 30 to one, but according to company officials those ratios are about to change.

Executives at Saab Cars USA confirmed that the company plans to increase the number of PCs in its dealerships. In fact, the board decided that by March 31, 2001, every facility must have at least one computer for every four technicians, with that ratio enforced through the usual regular site inspections (along with safety precaution checks and so on). John Libbos, manager for Saab Cars USA service operations in Norcross, Ga., says these new machines should make it easier to diagnose car problems, and provide technicians with valuable news and parts information by connecting to a special maintenance-only intranet.

"The PC is becoming just like any other tool our service personnel use in their daily activities," Libbos says. "For this reason, we want the machines to be available to every technician at all times."

Libbos estimates the plan will bring more than 100 new computers into the company's U.S. dealerships. Saab Cars USA won't foot the bill for the approximately $1,200 machines but plans to subsidize a percentage of each facility's purchase depending on how many PCs one shop buys. He adds that the company's IS department will provide software and online training tutorials for technicians who'll use the new machines.

This story, "Gear-head ratios" was originally published by CIO.

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