Vehicle technology has evolved rapidly in recent years. From simple air conditioning, power windows and power door locks being listed as options in the 1980’s, to onboard computers that correct driver input and perform tasks for us such as, braking and steering adjustments, the pace of vehicle safety advancements is mind boggling.
However, our estimating skills have not kept pace with these technological advancements. Granted, there have been advancements in estimating software, and the vehicle manufacturers are producing body repair manuals which take the majority of opinion out of the estimating and repair processes, but for the most part, our estimating skills have remained in the 1980’s.
Opinion vs. Fact
Historically, vehicle repairs have been performed, for the most part, by technicians based on their opinions, guided by experience. For example, a quarter panel replacement was performed pretty much the same way no matter which manufacturer built the vehicle. The type of weld was determined by the shop’s equipment, available resources and technician skill level.
However, with the advancements in vehicle structural design and materials, opinions guided by experience are no longer an acceptable way to repair vehicles. Most manufacturers have developed vehicle specific repair procedures with the goal of ensuring that their customers vehicles are repaired correctly and safely.
Even the aiming of headlights has had to evolve. Halogen headlights, which once were the industry standard, are becoming rare in passenger vehicles. They are being replaced by headlights with more safety technology being built into them. The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) now tests headlight performance. New technology equates to new repair and estimating methods. If you are not researching the vehicle specific OEM repair procedures then, you are not aiming headlights properly.
Training Is The key
Today, repairing mechanical and collision damage is far too complicated for any one person to know every repair procedure for every make and model of vehicle on the road. It is impossible for an estimator or technician to remember how each vehicle repair should be performed to ensure proper and safe repairs.
In addition, the materials, products and equipment necessary to perform these required repair methods have advanced as well. So now, instead of relying on opinion or outdated repair methods, each repair must be considered on an individual basis. Thorough research must be performed to ensure your damage assessment properly and completely reflects the work it takes to return the vehicle to the safety and functionality the OEM intended.
This new world of automotive technology and collision repair requires an estimating staff that understands the technical aspect of repairs, how to perform thorough research and recognize what documentation should be included in the repair file, and how to communicate effectively with the customers, the technicians and the bill payers.
File documentation is evidence, so you need to treat it that way!Research is a requirement for properly repairing vehicles today, it is not optional. Let’s get this straight, estimates are invoices.
This creates many new challenges for the estimating operation, and management to ensure the staff has the knowledge and skills to perform. Will you continue to write walk-in estimates or should you start scheduling estimate appointments to allow your estimators the time they need to write complete, accurate estimates? Do you need to create a dedicated estimating bay? What equipment does your shop need to accurately and thoroughly assess damage?
So, you may be thinking, how can I do all of this? The answer is, take it one step at a time. You have to adapt or your business will not survive. Recent history provides us with many examples of large companies that were once common household names but are no longer major players because they did not evolve and adapt. Sears and Toys-R-Us are examples. You too must learn to evolve and adapt as an organization. You must plan for, and implement change continuously.