Hot sun and ‘the occasional typhoon’ are just some of the changes tech faces in returning to the Philippines.
By Allan Janssen
During breaks in his day, David Lim puts down his tools and relaxes in the shade of a nearby mango tree.
The technician, who learned his craft in Canada, says his return to the Philippines has given him an insight into the way auto shops operate on both sides of the Pacific.
For five years, Lim turned wrenches at various automotive shops and dealerships in the lower mainland of British Columbia. Then he returned to his hometown, the island city of Cebu, Philippines.
In a letter to Canadian Technician, Lim says he has found many similarities between B.C. shops and the Hyundai dealership where he’s now employed… but there are also a few interesting cultural differences.
For one thing, super-speedy service is the norm in the Philippines. In fact, his dealership has two quick-service bays that offer “Jet Service.” They promise the work will be done in 60 minutes… or it’s free!
Each Jet Service bay is manned by a team of three techs. They use drive-on peak scissor lifts and air-powered wheel lifters to get the job done as fast as possible. Lim says having these bays dedicated to quick-service allows the rest of technicians to focus their efforts on diagnostics and more intricate repairs. Electrical and HVAC repairs are also separated into their own departments for this reason.
The dealership boasts 14-bays in total, including an alignment bay (with a modern Hunter alignment machine), and 11 general service bays.
Techs enjoy an air-conditioned overhauling room, and a massive helicopter propeller-like ceiling fan with each of the eight blades about the size of a spoiler to cool them down from the hot tropical weather.
Unlike most Canadian shops, Lim’s hand tools are provided by the dealership.
“This is the case for most shops here,” he explains. “Tools are provided by the employer, which somewhat compensates for lower pay. I brought some of my own Snap-on and Mastercraft tools anyway.”
Special tools and shops supplies are also supplied by the dealership. A dedicated “tool keeper” oversees the equipment and keeps everything organized.
The roles that employees play within the Cebu dealership are also different than those in B.C.
A team of four or five techs report to a lead man who assigns their jobs. There’s also a chief technician, a service manager, and an assistant service manager to report to. “Car jockeys” road test all the vehicles and bring them to the technicians in order to save time.
Like many Canadian employers, Lim’s employer in Cebu believes in give-and-take with his employees. On his first day in the service department, a meeting was held to discuss shop improvements. As a reward for making necessary changes to shop operations, Lim and his fellow technicians were promised bigger lockers and bunk beds for their air-conditioned siesta room.
Lim starts his day at 8 a.m., and ends at 5:30 p.m. –the same as he did in Canada. He’s given two 15-minute breaks, which he likes to spend lounging under a mango tree. The half-hour he’s given for lunch is just enough time for a quick meal and a nap – or perhaps a midday shower or “a courtesy haircut from the parts guy!”
Aside from equipment upgrades and free haircuts, what Lim really likes about working at the Cebu dealership is the generosity and support they are able to provide to the community. After a recent super typhoon and earthquake, all the staff including the service managers and the owner’s family voluntarily helped pack relief goods and pitched in any way they could. Sacks of rice, boxes of noodles, canned goods, bottled water, blankets and slippers where brought to the dealership, some of it is still stocked by the tool room for the next bout of bad weather.
“The net income is not quite on the same level (as it is in Canada) but quality of life isn’t far off as long as you are able to adapt to the local ways,” he says. “And as long as you can bear the tropical sun and the occasional typhoon!”