Ensuring Repair Success
There are 42 million reasons to make significant changes to your business model and to your mindset when it comes to the choices you make in your repair methodology. Most readers of FenderBender are keenly aware of the recent jury verdict that awarded $42 million dollars in a case where faulty repairs were performed by a body shop that did not follow OEM procedures. Mark Allen, the collision programs director for Audi, recently coined the phrase “42 million reasons” during a VeriFacts Guild 21 call.
So, what do we as collision shop operators need to do to insulate ourselves from the financial liability of improper repairs? I believe that if you implement the following strategies into your SOPs, you have a pretty solid chance of being on firm ground in the event that your repair methods are called into question.
You need to implement a blueprint/repair planning process in your shop. There are many versions of blueprinting that exist in some shops today and there is not a one-size-fits-all process that you can plug and play in your shop. Once you’ve decided on the outline for your blueprint process, you’ll need to insert some non-negotiable steps into your system that will alleviate a ton of friction, prevent failures of your process and virtually guarantee the proper repair is done to each vehicle. The first non negotiable is to create and implement what I call a client questionnaire. Most of you probably have a questionnaire that asks for pertinent details about the customer, the vehicle and perhaps asks about who referred the customer. I suggest you dig deeper and ask things like, “How did the accident happen?”, “How many people were in the vehicle and how many seat belts were in use?”, “Do you notice anything different about the way the vehicle drives or sounds” etc. You can compile a list of questions like these to help guide you in your blueprinting process.
The next non-negotiable is to have a process for doing an electronic scan of the vehicle before starting a teardown of the damaged area. There are many different schools of thought on how best to accomplish a pre-repair scan and it seems like scanning has been the hot topic for the last year. Options include training your techs to do the scans in-house or connect the vehicle to a device that communicates with a remote facility that has the diagnostic tools and technicians that can interpret the current status of all vehicle systems. I’m seeing a couple of new companies entering the market to provide this service in addition to legacy companies, such as asTech. Another option is to use a mobile sublet vendor that comes to your shop to do the scans. Your friendly neighborhood dealership can do the scans for you. This truly is a non-negotiable so you must perform this part of the blueprint process on every repair. In a future column, I’ll discuss the steps and strategies we’ve used to actually get paid for this process.
One other crucial and non-negotiable process to implement involves the gathering of OEM repair procedures, specifications and bulletins for the vehicle you are blueprinting. You will need to assign responsibility for gathering and distributing this information to your blueprinter and the acquisition of this info must occur prior to beginning the repair. For example, your blueprinter looks at a vehicle prior to teardown and writes a preliminary estimate that includes a quarter panel replacement. The blueprinter’s next move is to access, print, and read the replacement procedures in order to understand the cut locations, attachment methods (MAG welds, MIG brazing, STR welds, riveting, gluing, clinching, etc.) and additional materials and parts that may be needed for the installation of the panel.
The best source of OEM information comes directly from the OEM technical information websites. Many of the sites are available on a subscription or pay-as-you-go basis but there are several OEMs that publish the information at no charge. Use OEM1stop.com as a launching point for getting access to individual OEM websites. Some shops use an OEM information aggregator such as ALLDATA or the systems from CCC and Mitchell. Each shop must make a business decision as to which resource is used for retrieving OEM repair information but, in the end, this is truly one of the most critical non-negotiable processes you will need to incorporate.
In an upcoming column I’ll discuss a few more non-negotiables you’ll need to add to your blueprint processes and, as promised, I’ll let you know how to get paid for your efforts. For now, remember that you have 42 million reasons to get going on this now.