Running a Shop Operations

10 Ways Our Industry Can Improve in 2017

Order Reprints

Every new year provides new opportunities. I truly believe this, my friends. And while we should strive relentlessly for improvement each and every day, it’s good to treat the turning of the calendar as a time for true reflection. 

What did we accomplish in 2016? Where did we fall short? What can we—and should we—improve upon and achieve in 2017? These are simple questions with complex answers. And we might each answer them differently. We all have our own goals in mind, and I’m no different. I set personal goals
every year. 

Another thing I do, though, is set a “wish list” for the industry—10 items that I feel our industry needs to change or improve upon to make it even greater for those working within it. I did this last January in this space for my first-ever column for FenderBender. Some of those items for 2016 were achieved; we still have work to do on the others. And we have more work to do in 2017.

1. Pre- and post-repair scanning will become the “norm.” Diagnostic scanning became a hot topic in 2016, in many ways picking up steam following FenderBender’s early reporting on the issue (“Digital Industry,” April 2016). Last year,  many OEMs came out with position statements in regard to pre- and post-repair diagnostic scans. Others still haven’t. Hopefully, all will get on board in 2017, but the biggest hurdle for shops is with the insurers. We need them to become more accepting of the need for this and remove the friction that shops encounter on a daily basis while they work hard to do the right thing.

2. The information providers (IPs) will develop labor times for scanning, recalibrations, etc. Most insurers that I have spoken with say that they recognize the need to pay for scanning on an estimate, but they have concerns over what constitutes fair and reasonable reimbursement. This is where wish No. 2 comes in: We need the three major IPs (CCC, Mitchell and Audatex) to work with the OEMs to do time studies or take into consideration the OEM labor times and publish these in the estimating systems to remove the “how much?” obstacle.

3. Standardization of symbols for non-reusable parts in repair procedures. Some of the OEMs have symbols in their repair procedures for non-reusable parts, but they are often not in their parts diagrams. More importantly there is no standardization of these symbols, meaning that one OEM may use a black circle and another OEM may use a black circle with a slash through it. Some standardization is needed.

4. Improved, modern scheduling. Scheduling is one of our biggest challenges, right? And it is time for a software company to step up and provide an online scheduling system that both OEMs and insurers can look at to see a shop’s capacity at any given point in time—including the types of jobs that they can take. We also need to move away from this “no-cars-taken-in-on-weekends” mentality. It’s time to stop the madness and let shops show their capacity online, and then insurers can schedule their customers properly. Canada has an awesome scheduling program called Pro; let’s look to our friends in the north and have some discussions

5. Standardization of OEM repair information. Shops spend far too much time searching for items in repair information due to a lack of standardization in how each OEM designs it. This is why many shops lean on ALLDATA, CCC ONE  Repair Methods, Mitchell TechAdvisor, etc., because they attempt to standardize it. But, as good as those resources are, critical information can get left out. This can impact the safety of repairs. OEMs need to make this information standardized to help ensure quality. This is important. 

6. Proper classes and training for recalibrations and scanning. Many OEMs require specific classes and training for their certification programs. But where are the opportunities for techs to be trained on recalibrations and scanning? Why aren’t these available (either through the OEM, or someone like I-CAR could assist) and required? This needs to happen now.

7. A solution for estimate rekeying issues. I can’t believe we are still having this conversation in 2017. Rekeying solutions exist with all three major IPs, and other folks like Estify. But the roadblock is the insurers. When will an insurer finally step up and communicate the necessary steps to eliminate this with their field staff? Seriously, folks, this is just insane.

8. A new parts category for better price matching. Currently a lot of shops price match their parts—putting on an OEM part at the price of the aftermarket alternative. This creates havoc for their bookkeeping and accounting departments, as well as for the OEMs who want to track it. Often shops leave the part as “aftermarket” in the estimate to reflect the price … but the cost goes to the OEM in the financial records, which are now inaccurate. We need a new parts category to reflect this, and, no, “opt-OE” is not the answer. 

9. CBSA becomes the “norm.” The core based statistical area (CBSA) system is a method developed by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to define a geographic markets. This is what CCC uses as the basis for its indicator reports; it’s also what State Farm uses for its market averages. As an industry, everyone—IPs, rental car companies, etc.—should treat this as the standard to allow for some consistency.

10. Paint and materials standardization. OK, I’ll admit it: This is a repeat from last year, because nothing was accomplished. But it is critical to have an industry-wide standard as to what is and what isn’t considered paint and materials. 

There you have it, my friends, and I promise you this will not be the last time you hear me mention these items. I plan to work every day to making this industry better in 2017 than it was in 2016. We have a great opportunity—all of us—to decide right now to work toward change. No excuses. Let’s get it done.

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