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September 2016 Revisited

A short update on the posts of September 2016 is that they are all still valid, with no significant changes yet evident. I believe that there is work in the background and these significant changes are closer to the surface than they were last year, but for now they are still beneath the surface.

Next Accident Ready Leadership still faces the challenge of competition between many parties. The insurance companies and OEMs have not reached any agreement and at the shop level the flat rate technicians, with the ready ability to move between employers on a moment’s notice compete with owners on the quality of repairs and the time needed for these repairs. That owner is also competing with the shop down the street, which is keeping its customers (and insurance companies) happy with shiny cars and on time delivery ‘Fixing them All Wrong’.

Several of the September articles talked about technology and vehicle complexity. The issue that can be added to these posts now is the unwillingness or inability of the industry to accept the training required to use the equipment needed to do these correct repairs. Facility owners are buying the equipment needed to achieve certification, but are unable to train their employees. This inability to train is a direct result of being Stuck in the Past with the Future Looming and the need for new business models A New Business Model for the Repair Side.

Another topic last September Collision Repair and Certification has seen some changes in the past year, but there is not yet any clarity or true focus. This was covered again in two posts in December ‘Certification- Muddying the Waterson the 9th and Certification-Another View a Week Later on the 20th.

The changes since these posts were written are incremental, but the focus is not much clearer. In an undated news release on the CCIAP website it was reported that the over 1,000 shops nationally had registered for the CCIAP program in the first six months, which may have been in early spring 2017. This was due in a large part to the requirement by Economical Insurance, stating in a December 22, 2016 article on the CCIAP site that they would only work with accredited shops. At September 27, 2017 only 46 shops of these 1,000 registered facilities had achieved accreditation.

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Vehicle Owners and Repair Complexity July August 2016 Posts – Revisited

At NACE/Automechanika in Chicago I had a hallway conversation with a knowledgeable and interested industry participant. He referred to the Mary Barra comments I had quoted at the start of this project in 2016. He did not remember when she had made these comments and he used 10 years where she had said 5, but it does indicate that awareness of change is building.

The second post that appears in July of 2016  was lightly edited in January of 2017. Since that time there has been slow change in the right direction, but to a very large extent the situation described a year ago still holds; if the cars looks clean and shiny and drives well everyone is happy. What this means is that the 5 years needed to get to the right place has now been compressed to 4, with not a lot happening since mid-2016. This is a lot shorter than the 10 that my colleague in Chicago had been thinking.

Looking at the RIOO post of August 31 again not much has changed. The consumer continues to be busy with all the other (in most cases of more immediate urgency) concerns in his or her life and as a result there has been minimal engagement on the part of the car owning public. In this vacuum the major players in the repair industry are still continuing to compete and protect positions; they have not yet reached a significant level of collaboration.

It is starting to look like it will be the vehicle manufacturers who will take the lead in educating the vehicle owner about safe repairs. One challenge for them will be working with insurance companies to come to an understanding of safe repairs. In March 2017  I had commented that the OEMs were not helping their case by sticking to procedures that are more market and lawyer driven, rather that safety. Examples of this were the use of OEM used parts and the repair of wheels. At one of the 2017 NACE sessions wheel repair was brought up as an example of OEM overreach

The other two August posts (Honda Civic Cutaway and the How and What of Repair) , related to the complexity of modern vehicles and could have been written this month; not a lot has changed in the overall market. There have certainly been some improvements, but the industry has made very little movement toward acknowledging the need for specialization and at NACE two weeks ago  a presenter still talked about  ‘seeing what it looks like after a pull’  which is very outdated thinking to be coming from a presentation podium. There were also casually tossed out comments about what the information the estimator needs to pay attention to, but no discussion of the time and training involved in getting at this information.

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RFINA One Year Out

The first posting on RFINA was in July of 2016, with brief comments supporting the views given by Mary Barra of GM in an article from The 2016 World Economic Forum. 

The statements made by Ms. Barra are as relevant now as they were a year ago, and even more so because we are one year further along in vehicle technology evolution.

At this one year mark of the RFINA project it may be of value to go back over the other articles posted over that time to check their current relevancy and validity. Progress made, or not, on the issues will also merit comment.

This week the NACE/Automechanika Conference in Chicago will bring together leaders in the collision repair industry and I expect that new and current statements and announcements will be coming out of that conference.

It will be more effective to wait until after the conference for a review of RFINA to date and the one year review will start in August.

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A Quieter Phase of Getting the Work Done

I have not posted anything for over a month for two related reasons. There seems to have been less Next Accident Ready related news and we have been busy in our own operation incorporating new procedures while remembering that we have to keep fixing cars and generating revenue.

Neither of these, the lack of news or the focus on day to day operations suggests backsliding or giving up on anyone’s part.  In an operating environment, whether a single local operation or a very large national organization, changes cannot be continuous and piled on top of each other. Change happens in steps and after a number of steps there needs to be a period of ‘level ground’ operation to allow these changes to be to be fully understood and integrated into operations with minor or major revisions as this is done. After some period of level operation, perhaps extending weeks or months the next series of change steps can be taken.

In 2015 there was a flurry of activity (and tension) around structural repairs. In 2016 and the first months of 2017 there was a significantly more stressful period of activity and discussion around electronic scanning and calibration. The 2016/2017 period was more stressful partially because the electronic issue was harder to understand. But it was also more stressful because this came up right on top of the structural repair changes. The industry had not had a chance to settle into a new equilibrium before the next round of changes hit.  Now after two big and separate issues there is a collective need to allow the changes to settle in and become understood.

We are now at a stage where a measurable number of operators in the industry recognize that this work needs to be done and are in implementation stage. There is less tension and disagreement than there was last year, so the work is being done more quietly without much controversy or noise. But this is new work and all participants need a period of time to work through many variables and scenarios to develop a workable model. In the coming months these new procedures will have made a significant move toward mainstream acceptance as requirements for proper repair.

This is not to pretend that we have solved the problem of new technology and all cars will be properly repaired from now. We are only just over a year into a five year transition and many more changes will be needed. But the period of relative calm now is a very good sign. Two years ago there were things that were new with a capital N or in all caps. The industry has worked through this New and the lessons learned will mean that next year’s changes will be lower case new and will be managed with much less tension.

Those who have had their head in the sand to this point will however be faced with a mandatory all caps NEW if they wait until next year to poke their heads up.

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Scanning; White Noise and Progress

Last week, on March 29th, CCIF presented an all-day session in Toronto about vehicle electronic code scanning.

A statement in the introductory comments caught my attention; to paraphrase ‘everyone in the industry is interested in and motivated by the need to get the vehicle back to the same operational state as it was in before the accident.’ Pre-accident in all operations is a subtle but real change from the overly simplistic catchall of pre-accident condition. The wording suggests that changes in repair procedures are being recognized and accepted as required.

It was then said that one of the factors blocking movement toward the goal of pre-accident in all operations was ‘white noise’.

An interpretation on this comment could be that everything is new, everything is changing rapidly and there are many commentators speaking from different points of interest. There is validity in many of the comments and positions being taken, but they are not all of the same validity and integrity and collectively the result is white noise. Many steps will be needed to get to the right place; an understanding that we are still surrounded by a lot of noise is one of these steps.

The scanning seminar itself was a very good example of a step toward quieting the noise. Only a year ago the discussion was about whether or not scanning procedures were needed. At this session in March of 2017 there was essentially no discussion or debate about whether or not these procedures were required. Instead the questions were about how best to do the needed work.

Answers did not jump out, certainly not ‘The Answer’ but the acceptance of the questions as legitimate was a big step in itself.