Monthly archives of “October 2016

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Repair Procedure Variability – Another Reason

Here is another take on why the 5 year period we are in now will continue to be chaotic. In this case, it has nothing to do with good or bad, right or wrong, but rather the complexity of matching reaction time and responsiveness between organizations of vastly different sizes.

A somewhat lazy business theme of the last 20 years is that small companies are virtuous because of their quickness and nimble responsiveness and large companies are less virtuous because they are slow to change and react. An argument can however be made that the differences in reaction time are not a matter of good or bad, but simply a function of size, or what you could call business physics.

A 20’ speedboat turns a lot quicker than an ocean freighter, but that does not make it a better vessel.

The collision repair facility that I own has 15 employees and a sales volume sufficient to support staff training and ongoing equipment upgrades. Well trained staff and good current equipment allow us to run a progressive modern operation. We are well versed with current protocols and processes and work well with all insurance companies.

Applying Next Accident Ready principles requires us to do work that is not currently covered by these, largely automated, protocols and processes. RFINA procedures that are required are introduced into the work flow and billing process through a very labor intensive way, with additional documentation, photographs and communication both within our operation and with our external clients (these are in most cases insurance companies.)

This extra work obviously takes more time and we have seen that as we work toward understanding and implementing these procedures there has been a negative effect on productivity and revenue.

We can see all this on a day to day basis, and we knew at the start of this transition that there would be costs associated with the transition. Our small size allows us to adjust immediately if we see that the costs have become too high or we see that something we are doing is not correct. This adaptability is not an indication that we are unusually talented, but is simply a function of size.

The insurance companies that we work with have far more than 15 employees and realistically has a very limited ability to manage claims and interactions outside of well established, standardized and in any cases automated processes.

This is not a knock on insurance companies, it is simply a matter of scale. As a vehicle owner this scale works for you because it allows the insurance company to sell you a policy at a manageable price.

Change is needed but for big companies this change cannot happen in a spontaneous way.  There will be key people within that large company who will have a very clear vison of the future but the changes needed to get there cannot be done without a lot of planning, training and the involvement of a lot of people.

If it does not work out as well as needed the change back is difficult and sometimes impossible.  That ocean freighter that is very much needed to move massive loads will not turn on a speedboat dime.

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It May Cost a Lot But That is Only Part of the Problem

A friend in Ontario sent this link to a Province article by Mike Smyth. Yes the wonders of the internet, he is in Ontario, I am in the lower mainland but he saw the BC article that I missed completely.

Mike had a point to make about expensive parts being one reason why insurance costs are rising and he made that point accurately.

However, his article invites a bit more comment; the cars need to be repaired correctly. A broken headlight is easy to see, and the cost of replacing the light can be determined. With the Mazda example the new light gets put in, aimed, high and low beam checked and away you go, with the insurance company paying close to $2,000. But did anyone check if the lights have Auto Dimming or Active Cornering Response and do these features need to be recalibrated. The camera behind the Camry windshield may turn on and send information, but if it is not aimed correctly it will send the wrong information and the auto braking feature will not be there for you the next time it is needed.

To continue the example of how carefully repair procedures have to be researched before repairs start, I have no idea if Mazda 5 headlights have any auto features (I made up the Active Cornering Response phrase, but it sounds as real as Lane Watch which is a current Honda feature) and I don’t know if the Camry camera controls Auto Braking. I would need to go to one of a few sources of information to determine if these features are in these cars or not. If I think I know because the last Mazda 5 we worked on did not have these features I am getting it wrong, one trim level difference and many almost invisible features can be included.

And as a fun comment on the Tesla that Mike led off with. I hope ICBC sold that with solid documentation to keep it from being registered after repair. My guess is that it will be repaired, because there is no market for Tesla used parts and whoever bought it will figure out a way to register it somewhere. If Tesla thinks it can’t be repaired they will not supply parts nor technical information so whoever does the work will be improvising and whoever buys the car will not be buying a Tesla but something that could be a called a TesLike. That car will definitely not be ready for its next accident.

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The Importance of Information and Who is Using it

This article by John Heuter, the Editorial Content Director at Repairer Driven News has some useful statistical information and includes an easy to follow video on the importance of correct repair procedures. However I am reposting this article less for these features than as supporting information to articles I have written and posted previously. This article supports and affirms the importance of Next Accident Readiness and also affirms that this is a concept that still needs time to become a part of industry procedure and culture.

You will see that John uses a medical example to demonstrate the need for information as I did in the How and What post of August 18.

The quote in the article from Mike Anderson of Collision Advice is consistent with the themes I have used in other posts, with Complexity in Every Car from September 21 being a good example.

Mike looks to improved information access as a solution and I do not disagree with him at all in this opinion, but for most problems there is more than one possible solution. Another solution, one that is more time consuming and costly to the individual repair facility, is the development of a new role in the management and support structure.

The list of industry participants in Next Accident Ready Leadership post of September 7th includes roles that are currently in place in most collision repair shops. In looking at the list in the Leadership post, there is no role of Damage Report Writer or Tech Researcher.

The natural first thought when requirements start to change is to redefine roles and add responsibilities while looking to improvement in efficiencies and technology to free up the time needed. This is what Mike is suggesting with his discussion of added features to estimating programs that will allow today’s estimators to become tomorrow’s Damage Report Writers.

I will go out on a limb and suggest that today’s estimators have enough to do now with their duties including customer contact, parts ordering, insurance liaison and collaborative scheduling of work. To give them access to a huge amount of new information and expect them to work properly with it is unrealistic. To expect them to put their faith in an automated program without having the training to interpret or fact check (to use a current popular theme) is not good business.

The role of Damage Report Writer or Tech Researcher is currently needed; after some years of experience and further automation it may be that this function can be combined with the estimator/customer service rep but initially the specific skills and learning required mean that a separate role is needed.

In the How and What post a medical example was used. For this one let’s use a news reporting example of the relationship between the TV News Anchor (Estimator) and the research staff/ fact checkers  (Tech Researcher/Damage Report Writer) working in the background.

The story has to be told that evening, just a few hours away and while the anchor can put together and deliver a very good story she could not do it on her own in the time allowed. The background staff can work with the raw reporting from the field and go to their many sources for the verification and additional information that will allow the story to be told accurately.  As in the medical example the related but different equally important skill sets come together to achieve the needed result, neither could do it well alone.

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Ready for or Causing the Next Accident?

I have tried to keep posts focused on the topic of Next Accident Readiness and the performance of the repaired vehicle in a subsequent impact. In this one I will move off the focus to the very related topic of accidents caused by incomplete repair.

As an example of the subtlety, and importance of complete repairs this article from Repairer Driven News on Oct 4th discusses how Safelite Glass plans to equip their shops with calibration equipment that will allow them to do needed resets after windshield replacement. The point of this is not to teach you about the intricacies of windshield repair, but to show that complexity is rapidly changing in every aspect of car design and repair. If this attention is needed after glass replacement it becomes easier to see why it is very important in collision repair.