Doing quality repairs and getting paid for the work that goes into them are fundamental goals for collision repair shops, and understanding non-included operations can help achieve both.
However, non-included operations—necessary work that goes into correct repairs that isn’t listed in estimating systems—can be missed, to the detriment of vehicle safety and your shop’s bottom line.
“I think they’re one of the most overlooked items when you start maximizing what’s on your estimate and getting paid for what you’re actually doing,” says Luke Salter, who as operations officer at Trubilt Collision Center in Eau Claire, Wisc., oversees OEM certifications and compliance, as well as what happens in the back of the shop, including estimates.
Estimators can overlook non-included operations, he says, for a variety of reasons. It could be the daily grind, simply not knowing about them, or not “wanting to stir up beef with an insurance adjuster”—but in the end, shops didn’t create the various estimating systems, so owners and estimators need to be aware of what they could be missing, while passing that information to insurers.
With changing technology and ever-evolving repair procedures, keeping up with non-included operations can be a job all its own, though doing so will ensure you’re properly repairing vehicles, while getting properly compensated for doing so.
It begins, and ends, with paint.
What’s an easy example of a non-included operation? Look to your paint department.
“Anytime you fix a car, you paint it,” says Cody Rinaudo, who’s been an estimator for the past 7 years at the shop owned by his parents, Frank’s Accurate Body Shop in Slidell, La.
Anytime you’re refinishing a panel, he says, you need to remove impurities from the paint such as lint or dust, so the panel needs to be de-nibbed and polished—that’s a non-included operation.
Frank’s uses CCC ONE for estimates, Rinaudo says, and the formula it uses for denibbing and polishing is 20 percent of the base refinish time for the first panel, and then 10 percent of the time for additional parts.
Salter’s go-to example also comes from the paint booth—it’s color, sand, and buff, which at Trubilt is charged as 30 percent of time per panel. More recently, he says, a popular non-included operation has been preparing the vehicle for repair and preparing it for delivery, “which is cleaning the vehicle.”
“It’s been a little easier to get paid for that lately because of COVID,” Salter says.
Know your system.
Knowing how to catch non-included operations begins with understanding your estimating system, says Salter, as well as that of the insurance company with which you’re working on each repair.
From CCC to Audatex and beyond, he says, each is built differently and in various ways. An obvious difference from system to system is operations that are included, and those that aren’t. From there, differences can include how each system approaches aspects of a given repair.
When it comes to replacing a radiator support, Salter says one system will work it from the inside, out, and another, from the outside in, creating differences in the operations included.
The OEM service manual for any given vehicle is also invaluable when it comes to identifying non-included operations, says Rinaudo, adding, “There are way too many variables for there to be a database that includes everything,” though estimating system procedural pages can be helpful.
With advanced driver-assistance systems varying between different Toyota Camry models, from basic to upgraded (is there a front radar that needs to be calibrated during this Camry’s bumper job?), the manual is your best bet to know what’s needed, for sure.
“There’s so much vast information in a service manual,” Rinaudo says, “unless you read every service manual, you won’t know what to charge.”
Find operations, step by step.
Beyond knowing what to charge, identifying non-included operations will help your shop carry out complete, safe repairs.
Salter says post-collision seat belt inspections are a hot topic. OEMs provide information on how to do them and he says Trubilt Collision Center will charge .1 hours or .2 hours per seatbelt inspected.
While much work goes into prepping for ADAS calibrations (non-included operations that should be charged), Rinaudo says similar considerations need to be made for headlight aiming.
Again using Toyota as an example, he says the OEM has a list of prerequisites that needs to be carried out so the headlights are aimed properly as to not endanger the driver of the vehicle, or other drivers. The prereqs include a full tank of gas, proper oil and coolant levels, the correct tire pressure, and accounting for the weight of a driver being in the car.
“None of those items are included in that half hour that’s in [our CCC] database,” Rinaudo says.
Both Rinaudo and Salter say other non-included operations can be found in structural repairs involving welds. Properly setting up the welder, making test welds, and destructive weld tests are operations for which shops should charge.
If you pay, charge for it.
Keeping up with non-included operations can cost a shop money, and Salter says such work should be included in estimates.
Researching OEM repair procedures—”there’s a lot of time that goes into that,” he says—can be one to four hours of work, depending on the severity of a vehicle's damage.
There’s also the subscription cost for access to OEM sites to access repair procedures, Salter says, which should end up on an estimate as a non-included operation.
“A lot of people are doing daily [subscription] passes because then you can get an actual invoice from the website” to bolster documentation, he says.
If your shop is looking to tighten up around non-included operations, Salter says to start with your estimating system, then the others.
“Read all three estimating systems’ P-pages, guides to estimating, because that’s the first thing we do with all new estimators … so they can understand what’s included, and not included,” he says.