In a recent industry forum, leaders for both the insurance and collision repairer segments cited rapid advances in vehicle technology as one of their top concerns for the future. To the shop, this means investment in new technology and equipment, along with the training to use it effectively.
For those who read this column regularly, you know I view the collision estimating process as much more than just converting the concepts surrounding vehicle damage to words on a printed page. The business model we all function in today has evolved gradually to an ever-increasing level of complexity. With that in mind, I want to pose a question for the next five years and beyond: how are you investing in your business and in your staff to compete in tomorrow’s collision repair industry?
The fact is, equipment and training should always be top of mind when it comes to the need for shops to restore safety to clients’ damaged vehicles. In higher education several years ago, a video was produced showing that colleges are now educating students to perform work with technologies and in fields that may not even exist today. Technology is moving so fast — what was considered next generation a few years ago is obsolete today. As an example, look to recent OEM announcements regarding new construction materials and manufacturing techniques. Driven by higher safety and fuel economy standards, auto manufacturers are moving toward designs that essentially put the everyday passenger into a vehicle on par with an airframe in a fighter jet. Honda recently launched the 2013 Accord with a new ultra high-strength steel body structure, constructed with new welding technology. And mainstream vehicles using state-of-the-art construction methodologies, such as Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE), are quite possibly in your shop right now.
I think most of the industry understands the tidal wave of new technology from the OEMs, but what resources can you tap into to stay on top of the wave? New coatings, materials and collision avoidance technologies all present different challenges to diagnostics as well as repair processes. In every instance, information is the answer. Knowing the substrate material at the time of the estimate makes for a better repair plan, and accessing the information specific to the collision avoidance technology on board the customer car in your shop could impact even a simple bumper repair or windshield replacement.
Training in OEM repair requirements, along with a core industry education, are essential, and represent a great start to getting up to speed, but how do you know what was built into the client car that just rolled into your shop? OEM certification programs and accessing the information through the dealer parts department was the answer in years past. If we take a page out of what is driving intelligence throughout other industries around the world, tighter integration of information is the answer. And by that, I mean having knowledge at your fingertips about exactly what was on the vehicle when it left the factory — in the form of RPO (Regular Production Option) data — is the best solution for estimators to stay on top of what goes into cars today.
Imagine knowing the build sheet data before you create a repair plan, or addressing the on-board advanced technology and vehicle-specific construction before you commit to a repair method. In today’s fast-paced environments of doing more with fewer resources, quick integrated access to this level of information may well solve many collision repair pain points today as well as in the future.
Just for a twist to my common theme of the ongoing need for training, and for access to information that is available at the right time and in the hands of the right people, think about how you will improve your business by not only keeping pace but also embracing the value that OEM vehicle data and training can bring to your business. It all comes down to understanding the partners that are driving your business now, and in the future. Take their lead and learn from them: apply new knowledge to your business each and every day.
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