According to the 2015 FenderBender KPI survey of nearly 500 collision repair shops, roughly 41 percent of shops said they still don’t use a management system. That number is alarming, says Dan Espersen, corporate operations manager at ABRA Auto Body & Glass, a former senior program manager at ALLDATA and a 38-year veteran of the industry. He says that many shops don’t fully understand what their management systems can do for them, especially when starting out. And what’s worse, he says that many shops that do utilize a system aren’t using it to its full potential.
“The unfortunate part of it is that the majority of them are underutilized,” he says.
Management system providers constantly add tools and features— beyond counting cars and tracking parts—that can increase your shop’s efficiency and automate tasks that shop operators would otherwise have to do manually.
A number of shop management system experts spoke with FenderBender to offer a look at some of the frequently underutilized features available in most management systems—features that can help speed up your shop’s repair process and increase profitability.
Start with Some Basics
First, the experts agree that even the basics of a shop management system can be powerful tools for better business performance and should be utilized.
Those basics include:
• Track profitability
Management systems track where a shop’s sales come from and the facility’s profitability on each of those sales. Brian Stepp, director of compliance at Fix AutoACAB Automotive Group, says it is critical for shops to be proactive about tracking their profitability and making sure they do everything they can during a job to remain as profitable as possible.
“We find that we can do analytics on certain carriers or clients, not only just capture rates, but also how often we’re supplementing them, what parts we’re doing, sales mixes, parts utilization, gross profit metrics,” he says.
Brian Elmi, director of product management at Mitchell International, says you can track the work performed by each technician each day. That can help you understand your shop’s profitability on labor—and gives you insight into each tech’s performance come review time.
• Order parts
Stepp says the parts screen allows shops to see what’s been ordered, if it’s been posted and credited, whether it’s a sublet vendor, as well as track discounts, returns, deliveries and pricing changes.
• Monitor work in progress
Espersen says this is one of the biggest problems in the industry that shops need to control. Shops need to keep the correct amount of work in progress (WIP) on the shop floor at all times, Espersen says, to help eliminate bottlenecks slowing down their shops. Your management system has the capability to help you do that and that reporting functionality is underutilized.
“A lot of shops have a major critical error when it comes to managing WIP,” Espersen says. “They are underutilizing their management systems to control that WIP. Some of the management systems have built-in capabilities to link with other tools that they could use for scheduling.”
Beyond the Basics
Once a management system has automated your basic tasks, you can explore the potential of your software for continually improving your processes.
Elmi and Stepp recommend looking at a few of the following, which exist in most shop management systems:
• Automatic updates
Management systems can automatically send vehicle status updates through email, text messages and the shop website as vehicles move through a standard repair process that’s configured in the management software, Elmi says. This also helps improve communication with consumers and insurers.
• Social collaboration tools
As there is frequent conversation happening between the shop and the business’s various partners, such as insurance carriers and vendors, social collaboration tools allow those conversations to be streamlined and happen more efficiently. For example, RepairCenter allows users to create networks (such as with CSRs, insurance carriers, parts vendors, etc.) and then communicate in real-time to share knowledge or information.
“Think of it as a private Facebook for the shop to connect and communicate,” Elmi says. “It’s very similar to what shops would use in daily life to connect with people. It creates a collaborative environment within the organization.”
• Visual indicators
Visual indicators within the system allow shops to monitor the status of a job to make sure it doesn’t lose on anything that could affect its profitability. Users can set goals on profitability for parts and labor, and realtime analytics will alert the shops if those goals are not being met. For example, if parts price changes and a supplement is needed, you could end up losing on money if a supplement was never completed. Instead, an indicator will automatically tell the shop if a change needs be made or something is overlooked.
“With those visual indicators, we’re trying to bring those front and center,” Elmi says. “All of those indicators will help them manage their profitability up front. Shops that have embraced the solution really love that.”
• Access to OEM repair information
It’s imperative that estimators, production managers, parts personnel and technicians have access to the latest OEM collision repair and technical data, Elmi says. Management software delivers through every aspect of the repair process.
“This is becoming much more important nowadays, being able to know how they need to repair the vehicle. Cars are becoming a lot more complex. You have all these aluminum-bodied vehicles and you need to take special precautions in repairing them,” Elmi says. “Having special access to the OEs that says, ‘Here’s what you need to do as part of the repair process,’ it makes it that much more effective.”
• Cycle time reporting
A lot of times, says Elmi, shops rely on partners to report their cycle time or what the goal should be.
“Sometimes the shops don’t realize they have that information to make the right decisions for their organizations already,” he says.
Elmi says most management systems have a cycle time indicator that can be used from the time an assignment was reported to the insurance company.
“How long did it take for the customer to come in? How long did it take to start the job? How long did it take me to deliver the job?” he says. “Those are all really important milestones within the production of the vehicle that the shops can measure in real time to make sure they have the correct data to represent their shops properly.”
• Customer experience
Stepp says this is one of the most underutilized functions in management systems but can be one of the most important, especially given the increasing importance of CSI and NPS scores to insurance companies. The customer experience portion shows which customers you’ve made contact with, whether the customer has been converted to a repair order, etc.
“It gives your shop personnel access to potential opportunities that have gone away, walked to your competitor or just maybe are on the fence,” he says. “That’s also the dashboard of what your current CSI scores are. It gives you insight into where your shop is ranking on the overall experience in a given month.”