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The Possibilities of Perfect Estimating

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A lot has changed in Rick Leos’ 27 years in the collision repair industry. Yet, the goal of repairers is still the same.

“It’s all about putting the car back to pre-accident condition,” says Leos, a collision business development consultant for Toyota. “We’ve been saying that’s our goal for my whole life in this industry. We’re not there yet—far from it.”

One of the main issues, Leos says, has always been the subjectivity of estimating. A vehicle comes into a shop following an accident, and it’s up to the estimators to determine its issues and how those issues need to be fixed.

“The problem has always been that there isn’t a way to objectively say, ‘This is the way it has to be done,’” he says.

That problem could start to fade, though. Leos points to the latest in estimating technology, like the Matrix Wand (the new 3D measurement system created by Matrix Electronic Measuring Inc.) or the various estimate-scrubbing options, as proof that the industry is progressing.

And then there’s Toyota’s new predictive estimating software system, which, despite being in early-stage development, has already been referred to as a “game changer.”

Instead of starting with a blank slate and recording all of the issues found in a vehicle, the Toyota system gives repairers an entire list of features, parts, and standards of repair for each component for a specific vehicle. It’s all based on build data provided by Toyota engineers.

Estimators simply enter the 17-digit VIN into the system, select the section of the vehicle, and start crossing off, or “omitting,” the features that were not affected in the accident.

“It’s estimating by omission,” Leos says. “It is objectively telling estimators what needs to be done.”

It’s another piece of the estimating puzzle, Leos says. And, as he discussed with FenderBender, there is a lot that goes into the concept of a “perfect” estimate.

Can the industry ever reach a point of truly perfect estimates?

Perfect? I don’t know about that. You always have the repairability question for each vehicle. These guys still have to make judgments on whether or not something can be repaired.

So, will it be perfect? No. Will it be 100 times better than what we currently have? Yeah, it will.

How can the shortfalls be solved?

That’s where technology in the industry comes in. New tools like the Matrix [Wand] and things like that help you measure the damage and figure out which components to omit in the estimate. You need the technology to examine and repair the vehicles.

Putting it all together (in our system) simplifies it all. You have this list that we created of what to look at and what to check off, and then these tools can help with determining the repairability aspect.

How does the Toyota system make that process better?

Having these standards and these lists of components detailed and explained by our engineers creates an objective way to look at it.

Like I said, it won’t be perfect, but you’re going to reel in these shops that are (estimating) high or low, and you’ll bring them to a standard.

When the OE puts a standard out there that includes methods of repair that are recommended by engineers, vehicles are going to be estimated more accurately. Cycle time will improve, because parts ordering will be more complete. And it’ll give repairers a leg to stand on with insurance companies and in a courtroom.

How will people be able to access the new system?

We’re working with current (information providers), right now. It will live in an estimating platform, not as a stand-alone program. We are funding the program, and it will … hopefully be with all of the main three IPs at some point.

Do you see it being a trend with all vehicle makers?

I’ve already talked with other OEs—10 of them—at our OE roundtable. They’ve committed to it. They said, “Rick, you build it as a template and we’ll fill in the blanks.” We’re all on board. We just have to get to it. There’s a lot of work still to be done, though.

And all of this gets the industry closer to getting vehicles back to pre-accident condition?

Yeah, that goal is always going to be there. We’re getting as close as we can to reverse manufacturing the car. It’s never going to be perfect, be we can get close.

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