In tire operations, technology part of success

Kevin Brooks oversees the operation of some of the best-selling Big O Tires outlets in the country. Brooks attributes part of that success to office technology. (Business Times photo by Mike Moran)

Kevin Brooks oversees the operation of eight Big O Tires outlets in Western Colorado, some of the best-selling locations for the franchise nationwide.

Out of 435 Big O outlets across the country, Brooks has two outlets among the top 10 revenue producers. At least two West Slope outlets have made the top 10 for 14 straight years.

Brooks credits his employees as his most important resource in providing the kind of service that produces high revenue. At the same time, though, efficiencies resulting from office technology play a large part.

Brooks can be found in his own office in downtown Grand Junction well before dawn on most business days. He scans the Internet for more efficient ways to run his business and for clues as to how he can add or upgrade technology to make the company more successful.

Technological updates have led to reduced staffing at many businesses, and Brooks’ industry is no different.

Big O tire manufacturing plants are at full capacity, yet need fewer people than they did a couple of decades ago, he said. Machines can crank out molded tires quicker than workers make them by hand and the tires come out perfectly every time. Most cars now have tire pressure monitoring systems that alert rivers about low pressure, meaning employees aren’t needed for that function, either.

But for manufacturing workers who might long for the days of higher employment, Brooks said technology actually offers more opportunity for people who might be looking for jobs outside of those filled by college graduates.

“A fairly untrained person can use a computer system to order tires,” Brooks said. The same can be possible for operation of machines that monitor engines, track fluid levels or tire tread. Because Big O offers services that include oil changes, brake work, shock absorber replacement and alignments, the company needs people who can operate the technology — technology that’s often second-nature to young people starting out in the work world.

And more technology is on the way. Brooks expects mobile phones to offer an application that enables them to scan a car license plate and download information about the history of parts and maintenance on a vehicle. A similar app might be used to scan a row of tires to determine what was sold in a given day and what the company must re-order. All the information, of course, would be downloaded onto computers operated by people.

And, yes, Big O will continue to seek people to perform managerial roles and specialized jobs, creating openings for recent graduates as well as for people who work their way up within the company.

What trends does Brooks see in the near future as he helps meld technology and people skills? “Four to five years from now, everyone could be working from a home office,” he said.

If that scenario comes to fruition, Brooks will likely spend some of those early morning hours researching ways to manage people working in remote locations even as he implements whatever new technology might come down the pike in 2016.