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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.

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Something New and Who are You Going to Call

In the past few weeks and months I have been seeing a slowdown in the amount of new information related to Next Accident Ready repair. At the same time there does seems to be a lot supporting or collaborating the information and concepts that were being discussed last year. This tells me that those who were working actively with the principles of Next accident Readiness last year will be ahead of the curve as it becomes fully understood and accepted by all parties.

I do get information from sources other the John Huetter at RDN, but his daily articles are my first look every day. Today, March 17, he has written a very interesting piece about OEM parts and a major Australian insurance group.

FCAI praises ‘strong signal’ on OEM parts from major Australian insurer IAG

The one sentence synopsis is that OEM parts seem to be good for everyone involved.

In the something new department, there was a short quote attributed to the insurer IAG that included ’….repairers will benefit from strong technical support.’

This is an example of what seems like an incidental comment causing a flash of understanding.  Cars are getting far more complex and we have to check repair procedures on each repair, but if there is some ambiguity or uncertainty who do we call?

If you have bought the part on the aftermarket good luck with any call. If you have bought all the aftermarket parts you could and only one or two technical parts from the OEM that you will maybe get a response from the OEM. If you consistently buy all, or at least most, parts from that OEM they will take your call and offer support.

The car will be repaired and calibrated properly, your customer will be happier and safer and, while maybe not right away, in the longer term the insurer will be happier was well.