DEG Still an Underused Collision Repair Resource
The Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG), which launched in 2007, last reported its amount of inquiries at 9,000 in 2015. Nine thousand may seem like a large number, but compared to the size of the collision repair industry as a whole, it’s a relatively small amount for a free initiative with the goal of helping improve the quality and accuracy of collision repair estimates. With such obvious benefits, why aren’t more shops using the DEG?
“With the amount of shops using an estimating system in the U.S. compared to the amount of inquiries that the DEG receives each year, it seems like there are still shops that are not aware of the free services and tools the DEG has to offer,” says Arthur Harris, current administrator of the DEG.
What is the DEG?
The DEG is a non-profit established through a partnership with the Automotive Service Association (ASA), the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP) and the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS). It is a free service that can be utilized by estimate system users to help resolve issues that are found in the estimating systems, explains Harris, who joined the organization in 2011.
The web-based tool efficiently addresses database issues and errors within the estimating platforms of CCC, Mitchell and Audatex, explains Nick Kostakis, representative of the AASP and member of the DEG Joint Operating Committee (JOC). It interfaces with both the originator of an inquiry and the three information providers to achieve a positive outcome that results in improved database accuracy.
“Someone who is looking to use the DEG is likely dealing with estimates. While those systems do a really good job of putting together operations, labor times, etc., I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t come up with missing parts or omissions,” says Aaron Schulenburg, SCRS executive director and the first DEG administrator. “The DEG addresses those errors in omissions and addresses the areas where the data is not reflected. The DEG has a full-time employee whose job it is to communicate with information providers. A person can submit an inquiry and know there’s someone on the other side working on their behalf.”
Once an inquiry is submitted, the information is made public and available to anyone using the DEG. Schulenburg explains that it was important that the system be transparent and available to the industry as a whole.
“By making it more public, it encourages some of the information providers to be a lot more responsive,” he says.
A shop benefits when there is a change or correction in the estimating system, according to Harris. By using the DEG, he says, a shop will increase the accuracy of the estimating systems.
“The estimating systems are to be used as a guide when writing an estimate, but unfortunately some estimate users take what is in the system to be the final word,” he says. “If there is a mistake, it will be difficult for a shop to be compensated for the correct amount.”
With a very few amount of studies being done on time by information providers, the repairs being done in the shops each day can provide the information that is needed. The DEG offers a convenient way for repairers and estimators to get this real world feedback, explains Harris.
According to Kostakis, the DEG was met with skepticism when it launched.
“Over time, it has not only grown its customer base, but I believe it has also become widely accepted by the industry at large as being an indispensable tool in the industry,” he says.
“The process itself continues to refine, as we go through and each year passes,” Schulenburg adds. “In the beginning, there was uncertainty and resistance from information providers. It feels now like everyone has embraced the process.”
Since its inception, a couple of new features have been added, including a Top 10 List in 2012, which addresses more macro level issues about estimating systems. Each estimating system has its own Top 10 List, which ranks by votes the top issues that users are having with the system. The website also includes a tab called Estimate Toolbox, which has tips for writing an estimate and documents needed for information providers. Another tab, News Blog, which was added in 2012, is yet another way the DEG shares information with the industry about database-related issues, according to Harris.
In 2015, the DEG became more active on social media and started creating a weekly estimating tip with the SCRS, which can be found Wednesdays on the DEG’s Twitter account, @theDEGweb.
“The DEG will be a resource for achieving accurate data and helping to educate estimate system users.”
—Arthur Harris, DEG Administrator
Looking to the Future
Harris, the current administrator of the DEG, has a clear vision of where he’d like to see the DEG going.
“I see the DEG not only being a free service that can assist with labor times or incorrect information in the estimating system, but also a tool that can be utilized by estimate users when preparing an estimate,” he says. “With a growing amount of information on our website that includes previous inquiries and our “Estimate Toolbox,”’ the DEG will be a resource for achieving accurate data and helping to educate estimate system users.”
For Schulenburg and Kostakis, the future is all about creating greater industry awareness and database accuracy.
“I see the future just continuing to expand,” says Schulenburg. “We’re at 9,000 inquiries, a great deal of which have changed data in the database. I think we’ll continue to see adjustments as different technologies become readily available. I see it continuing to evolve as the information providers continue to evolve.”