The automotive refinish industry continues to feel the impact of the labor shortage and faces a clear challenge to attract the next generation of talent. With an aging workforce and a dwindling number of technicians, the demand for skilled workers far outstrips the supply. With a reduction in collision technicians, from 160,000 in 2016 to around 152,500 in 2020, the need for an additional 113,000 technicians by 2026 becomes palpable, according to a report by the TechForce Foundation, a nonprofit training firm in the transportation sector. What can be done?
Embrace modern tech
By streamlining the paint repair process, these innovations promise higher efficiency and time savings, preparing body shops for the future and ensuring continuous output even in a labor crunch. For instance, imagine technicians swapping 1,000+ paper chips with a digital vault of 70,000 color samples. Consider body shops using automated paint mixing systems and a digital assistant for a new standard of paint mixing precision and creating ideal color-match environments. The result? Through modern innovations, body shops can color match and repair vehicles more efficiently with a reduced workforce. Next-generation technology reduces vehicle downtime and increases the repair turnover rate, leading to improved productivity, with some shops reporting a 15-percent key-to-key production improvement. New tools are entering the market daily for additional body shops to access.
A generation ready for tech
The integration of technology makes the profession more appealing to the younger generation, who are tech-savvy and looking for careers that use modern tools and practices. This can help address labor shortages and ensure a steady inflow of skilled technicians. Also, this generation isn't just adept at using these tools — they're at the forefront of driving further innovations, enriching the repair processes, and adding immense value to body shops and their customers. Carl Garcia of Carl's Collision Center in Fall River, Massachusetts, said, "Today's entering workforce grew up with smartphones and technology. Modern tech allows us to adapt and innovate to attract the changing workforce."
Another significant benefit of innovation in body shops remains the continuous learning and upskilling opportunities it offers experienced technicians. By being exposed to the latest tools, technologies, and methods, technicians can expand their skill sets and stay updated with industry advancements. Modern tech can enhance their professional value and foster achievement and job satisfaction.
By adopting modern tech, shops not only contribute to environmental responsibility but can also appeal to a growing base of eco-conscious consumers. In addition, embracing sustainable business practices resonates with the values of the newer generations, positioning body shops as a more appealing workplace. For example, the swap from a manual to an automated mixing process creates a spill-free system that excels in mixing precision. In fact, body shops report up to 10 percent less paint waste during mixes with automated systems, creating a cleaner and safer work environment.
Enhanced customer experience
Digital platforms and software allow for better customer engagement, from appointment scheduling to real-time updates on repair progress. Other modern technology includes multi-angle color cameras and advanced 3D visualization for the best color match quickly and easily, elevating the overall service experience. Streamlined repair process management and accurate color-matching can significantly bolster the reputation and success of collision repair businesses. Satisfied customers often become brand ambassadors, promoting the body shop's services through word-of-mouth.
The road ahead
The strategic integration of digital tools and technologies in body shops is becoming the new refinish industry benchmark, with thousands of body shops already adopting the tech. Using digital tools and technologies enhances productivity and ensures a positive customer experience and more sustainable practices. It also helps attract and retain skilled technician talent.