Minit-Lube's 10 Operations Decisions That Provide Competitive Advantage
The following 10 operations decisions provide competitive advantage to Minit-Lube’s strategy (Heizer & Render 2008):
1. Product Design: Minit-Lube’s provides services, with a narrow product strategy, could be defined as “lubricating automobiles” (i.e. performing oil changes, lubrication and interior cleaning of vehicles). It allows the subsequent development of more focused and efficient operations. Minit-Lube seeks to differentiate itself from (traditional) competitors by facilitating fast service, and providing convenience to customers (i.e. it has a superior service design which enables it to service 3 cars at a time).
2. Quality: It is a service standard of Minit-Lube that a serviced car leaves the station every 5 minutes (on average). In addition, quality exceeds normal standards as all service personnel are (neatly dressed and) trained from the Minit-Lube school. This results in greater customer satisfaction as there is limited task variety high repetition, good training, and good manuals. Hence, quality should be relatively easy to maintain.
3. Process: Minit -Lube’s has three service bays with each bay being manned by a service team. Each service team is comprised of three persons. Minit -Lube’s standard three-person service will have one person check fluid levels under the hood, another to interior vacuuming and window cleaning, and the third to remove the oil filter, draining the oil and checking the differential and transmission, lubricating as necessary. Thus, this efficient use of human resource enables fast service provision as three workers work simultaneously on a car: Minit-Lube’s process strategy enables employees and capital investment to focus on doing this mission well. This adds to Minit-Lube’s competitive advantage as competitors (e.g. “general purpose” garage or gas station) will find it hard to imitate such efficiency.
4. Location: Minit-Lube operates in its own premises where buildings are clean (e.g. painted white and often surrounded by neatly trimmed landscape) and are usually located near residential areas. As traditional competitors may not emphasize much on the working environment, Minit-Lube has advantage as its location selection and unique (spotless) environment allows it to perform its service in a spotless environment, and in locations that will reach and appeal out to (savvy) customers (i.e. convenient, fast-service and clean environment).
5. Layout: Minit-Lube has a process-oriented layout focused on ‘job-shop’ environment which maximizes efficiency and quality of services being provided: reducing waiting time, allowing the cars to move in and out of the bay swiftly. To facilitate fast service, the layout design of Minit-Lube’s three car bays are designed specifically for the tasks of lubrication and vacuuming, minimize wasted movement on the part of the employees, and to contribute to the speedier service (i.e. allows cars to be driven through three abreast into the three service bays, with each bay being manned by a service team).
6. Human Resource: Minit Lube’s Human resources strategy focuses on hiring a few employees with limited skills, training them in a limited number of tasks so that they can be closely supervised during the performance. For example, the well trained service representatives (graduates of the Minit-Lube school), will greet customers and take orders which typically include fluid checks and necessary lubrication, as well as filter changes for air and oil. The service team consists of three persons who are well trained, specializing in precise task assignment which allows them to give maximum level of service. Hence, this ensures cost effectiveness by building good customer relations and providing speedy and accurate service.
7. Supply chain: Minit-Lube’s purchasing is achieved by the negotiation of large purchases and customer packaging. Hence, Minit-Lube’s has a competitive advantage by building good relationships with reliable partners who can supply Minit-Lube with good quality and affordable materials, equipments or parts at short notice. For example, Minit-Lube has collaboration with Minit Automotive, where all mechanical work Minit-Lube is unable to handle will be referred to this partner. Minit-Lube also has affiliation with several organizations such as Automotive Oil Change Association, Automotive Vehicle Industry. (Minit-Lube 2008)
Minit-Lube should keep their inventory investment to a minimum and expect a high turnover. Doing so would ensure that Minit-Lube will not incur holding cost and affect the quality of the inventory, allowing equipments or parts to be replaced quickly during unforeseen circumstances.
9. Scheduling: The scheduling of Minit-Lube’s services is similar and quite straight forward for most vehicles. Once volume and volume fluctuation are determined, Minit-Lube will able to provide service in the least possible time frame by using the human resource efficiently to meet customer schedules, assisting both staffing and customer relations.
10. Maintenance: With relative little equipment to be maintained, little preventive maintenance is required. With its three bays and three systems, Minit-Lube is ensured that backup is available in case of failure.
Therefore in conclusion, Minit-Lube differentiates themselves from the competitors by providing fast, reliable and superior services at the lowest possible cost in a customer friendly environment as compared to other gas stations, automotive repair chains and auto dealers; achieving a competitive advantage over its competitors through differentiation and low cost.
References:• Heizer, J & Render, B 2008, Operations management, 9th edn, Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey
• Minit Lube, viewed 09 October 2010 < http://www.minitlube.com/>