Research, Repair Procedures and You
The state of collision repair is constantly changing. The next decade will usher in new drivers and new technologies on board already complicated vehicles. Collision repair requires shops and technicians to stay up to date on all the changes in the industry.
That means knowing how to research changes and upgrades in repair procedures. Researching repair procedures and finding the correct information is essential to fixing vehicles. It’s not just a quality issue; it’s a safety issue.
Shop owners and technicians need to know how to access resources and services to help find the necessary procedures for new vehicles. The state of access for OEM-specific procedures and how shops stay updated when they change are evolving.
"It's critical to know how to research repair procedures. I used to tell people that we worked on cars—now we work on computers on wheels," says Dave Streen, a 20-year industry veteran who sold his shop during the pandemic and is currently a consultant to the collision repair industry. "Cars have evolved so much that if you're not staying cutting edge, you're following behind. If you take any brand, they don't want anyone performing improper procedures because it tarnishes the brand and industry. It's important to research the proper repair procedures."
Here's what you need to know about researching repair procedures and how always to find the information you need to stay updated on changes in the collision repair industry.
Stay Informed on the Industry
The internet has changed everything. It's given us access to information at our fingertips if we own a smartphone. Today, shop owners have access to YouTube, articles, podcasts and other forms of information online.
One way to stay up to date is to access information online, and the good news is that a lot of it is free. Shop owners can set aside educational time each week to study the latest repair procedures and do so from the comfort of their homes.
"Understanding how to find the best repair procedure information is challenging for us as shop owners," says Stan Medina, shop owner of Certified Collision Works in Corpus Christi, Texas. "We've found that you have to figure out how to research your niche. The industry is generally behind, so understanding how to research your niche helps you stay ahead. We work hard to research the best repair procedures and create credible documentation."
Pick a good podcast, find your favorite collision repair YouTube channel, and read blogs and articles. Study and subscribe to trade magazines and publications such as this one. As changes happen in the industry, these sources of information update their content, and thus, you. A famous saying says, "An expert is a student first."
You can't learn about the latest repair procedures without studying them. Stay current on the newest models of vehicles and how to repair them. Pick your best sources of finding information and use them every week.
"You can get a handful of information for free reading the free trade magazines like FenderBender magazine," says Bill DeCarr, owner of Bumper to Bumper Auto Body & Collision Service in Syracuse, New York. "Of course, the dealers you buy parts from will supply you with an abundance of information—OEM spec sheets and panel replacement procedures. There are a handful of websites with free info. For the latest information, you can go to the manufacturer directly and pay per vehicle, month, or year."
One of the most valuable resources is your fellow shop owners. A 20 Group or other kind of business association is a great place to share information about trends relevant to your local market.
Take Training Courses
There is plenty of free information, but there are also many great training courses you could pay to take offered by organizations like I-CAR. In the 2022 FenderBender Industry Survey, 76% of all respondents reported paying for I-CAR training for their employees. A similar number reported taking it themselves. One way to run an efficient shop is to have an informed shop.
Half of all survey respondents reported paying for OEM-specific training. There may even be training offered by vehicle and parts manufacturers you and your employees can take. An investment in training courses will pay dividends as your team will be updated on the latest changes in the industry, and your customers will see that because you'll be able to handle any car.
"I research and study new repair procedures two to three times a month. If a car is coming in and I need more info, I'll take the time to research. I research as much as I need it," says DeCarr.
Stay Up to Date on OEM Documentation and Procedures
Speaking at the 2022 FenderBender Management Conference, Mike Anderson stated that there is another pandemic coming for collision repair: A pandemic of poor estimating. Anderson went on to give an example of a typical repair that, if researched properly, would require 40 hours of reading time to be done properly. Research has to be a shared responsibility.
OEM procedures are the best way to get a vehicle back to its original condition. Vehicles today are more sophisticated and constantly getting updated. OEM procedures are a vital part of the repair process, and staying up to date on documentation and procedures is essential.
Finding the latest updated OEM documentation may be challenging, but it's out there. You can assign a member of your team to research OEM documentation and procedures and find the most updated information.
"Who's the expert on that brand, make, or model? The person that made it. The first step is to go straight to the manufacturer's resources. Follow their procedures—the go-to is the OEM standards. They're the ones that know," says Streen.
The I-CAR website offers a portal to where to find repair procedures, which often comes with a fee. For shops that don't hold a certification for a certain manufacturer, short-term subscriptions may be available to service a one-off vehicle. A vast majority of today’s repairs require at least some kind of research.
Hire Expert Coaches and Consultants
The digital information age also means you can hire experts and get virtual or in-person training. One growth strategy shop owners can use to stay updated is hiring coaches and consultants.
You may need more time to research the latest repair procedures, and your employees may be busy repairing cars. One way to stay updated on changes in the industry is by hiring a coach or consultant to get you up to speed.
You can hire a coach or consultant at a schedule that works for you and have them train regularly. You can have group training to make the process more efficient. The good news about hiring coaches or consultants is that you can do it in a timeframe and training style that works for you.
Before you hire a coach or consultant:
- Do your research.
- Make sure the professional you hire is updated on the latest collision repair procedures and has a lot of experience working with shops.
- Ask the professional about their experience in the areas where you want to be trained and ensure you're satisfied with their answers.
Knowing how to get the information needed to stay updated on the latest repair procedures is vital to ensuring your shop is constantly repairing vehicles to their best. Your customers want to do business with a shop that stays up to date on the latest and best repair procedures. Customers want to do business with a modern shop that makes the repair process smooth. Learn to find the information you need and implement it in your repairs.