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Tech and Tools Survey

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It’s no secret that vehicles today are evolving at a rapid pace, both inside and out.

They’re lighter, stronger and far more high-tech. To ensure proper repairs, today’s shops not only need to be up to speed on the latest procedures, but they also need the right equipment.

To find out just how well equipped the collision industry is for modern vehicles, we put together this survey. It asked shops across the country whether they have some of the essential tools and equipment for today’s repairs, based on guidelines from Assured Performance Network and some of the industry’s leading operators. Because of the increased use of and interest in aluminum and advanced composites, we asked whether shops were equipped for those materials as well.

What we found is that the vast majority of shops are investing annually in technology, tools and equipment, but many still are lacking resources that have become commonplace in the industry’s best-run facilities, such as electronic management systems and customer satisfaction index (CSI) software. It’s no surprise that shops with higher sales tended to be better equipped, and those shops also tended to have heavier involvement with direct repair programs (DRPs), likely driving the need for modern tooling. 

As customer and insurer expectations increase alongside vehicle complexity, more shops will need to make these investments to succeed in the years ahead.

Tech and Tools budgeting

Roughly half of respondents reported dedicating 1–10 percent of their annual revenue to technology, tools and equipment investments. Fewer than 20 percent of shops said they allot more than 10 percent, and 33 percent said they have no specific tech and tools budget. Shop type, size and income made little impact on budgeting. 

Certification and Training

Three-fourths of respondents said they are involved in I-CAR training and 30 percent are Gold Class shops. Nearly 70 percent are involved in training beyond I-CAR and about half have received one or more manufacturer certifications.

The front office at G&C AutoBody in Santa Rosa, Calif. Photo by Michael Amsler

Front Office

The vast majority of respondents said their shop utilizes an electronic estimating system and more than half of all participants said their shop uses an electronic management system. The number of shops using a management system increased concurrently with annual revenue, with 100 percent of shops generating $2.5 million or more reporting the use of one. 

Most of those top-tier shops also reported using software for tracking customer satisfaction, managing customer relationships, and monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs). The use of those programs dropped off dramatically at shops with lower sales volumes. 

And on par with recent industry trends, over half of all respondents reported using an electronic parts procurement program.

Data and Diagnostics

Most surveyed shops have invested in diagnostic equipment and very few lack access to OEM repair information.

The shop floor at Auto Body Hawaii in Kailua Kona. Photo by Giselle Thompson

Shop floor

When it comes to body and frame equipment, most survey respondents have the basics covered. But a significant amount of shops reported missing some key equipment for modern repairs, including a 3-D measuring system and squeeze-type resistance spot welder.

Painter Jason Fortner at Columbia Auto Center in Columbia, Md. Photo by Kathy Hertel

Paint Department

More than half of all shops surveyed reported spraying waterborne paint, or both solvent-based and waterborne paint. Multi-shop operations, dealership shops and franchises were more likely to spray waterborne, though, while 55 percent of independent, single-location shops reported spraying solvent-based paint only.  

Advanced Materials

About a third of surveyed shops reported the ability to repair aluminum components and only a handful claimed to be able to repair carbon fiber. But many of the shops that said they are capable of repairing these advanced materials are lacking the equipment to do so.

FOR COMPLETE SURVEY RESULTS VISIT: FENDERBENDER.COM/2014TECHANDTOOLSSURVEY

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