All posts filed under “Industry Relations and Culture

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Capacity at the Manufacturers

The last post discussed industry capacity, with the emphasis on the physical and knowledge capacity of the repair side to do the highly technical work that is required for correct repair of modern vehicles.

The other two participants in the overall repair industry, the manufacturers   making and selling the cars and the insurance companies who are involved in paying for the majority of repairs also have serious capacity issues.

Of these two the manufacturers are probably facing the bigger challenge. They are prescribing more and more detailed and rigorous repair procedures but have not addressed the practicalities of performing these repairs. In common with all other very large organizations they have to find a way to get the understanding and belief in these needed repairs down through their organizational chains to the people who are actually tasked with the repairs. Just as with the repairers, organizational culture gets in the way. In addition to a very long communication chain, they are faced with a number of profit seekers along that chain

The manufacturers do not own the dealerships that sell their cars, nor do they employ the people working in the service departments of these dealerships. The dealer principle is pressured and incentivized to sell as many cars as possible. In turn his service department is pressured and incentivized to keep customers reasonably happy while making as much money as possible. The service manager has to report to the fixed operations manager and the important things in his report will be; are the customers reasonably happy and are we making money. The easiest way to make money is to do what you know how to do, as quickly as possible.

If a new recalibration procedure involves 4 to 6 hours and results in a correction that is mostly invisible to the driver there is not a lot of satisfaction in the procedure and there will be a resistance on the part of the buyer, whether owner or insurance  company to pay for those hours. The result will be a lot of talking and negotiating to get to an agreement to do the work for perhaps a 5 hour invoice. But the flat rate technician is accustomed to booking 5 billable hours in 2 to 3 hours and he will feel that he is losing if he is paid only 5 hours for the actual 5 hours he puts in (the service department model also depends on his billable hours). Nobody is making money under these conditions.

The collision repair shop that calls in with a request for a specific calibration can easily be told ’No it’s ok, you don’t have to do that calibration.’ The collision shop is happy to hear that because they would not make any money from the sublet calibration and they can get the car through much faster if they don’t do it. The insurance company is not going to complain about a lower bill, But does it really need to be done? The answer now is yes. The technology has been built in the cars and current requirements are that this calibration has to be done in specified circumstances. The capacity issue is that these requirements have been set by one department, or silo, without consultation with other departments about how to implement the required procedures at the scale required.

One long term solution may be to improve the technology so that it becomes much more self-calibrating. One very difficult interim solution will be for the manufacturers to recognize that technology has outgrown their current business model and a new model is needed for this part of their operation. Perhaps off site dedicated calibration centers, perhaps release of information to the aftermarket to allow entrepreneurs to set up these dedicated calibration facilities.

Once again; I could go on, but then you will stop reading. The existing problems are not at all trivial and a lot of collaboration will be needed to reach solutions.

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Industry Capacity – More Complex than Just Space and People

In September 2016 at the Canadian Collision Industry Forum (CCIF) meeting in Vancouver a panel presentation discussed the topic of electronic diagnostics of accident damaged vehicles. At that time the short form description of this procedure was ‘scanning’ a longer form was ‘scanning and fault clearing’. Both of these terms refer to accessing the vehicles computers to search for fault codes that would indicate either damaged electronic components or an occurrence that had triggered a fault code.  If the code is cleared by the technician performing the scan and does not reoccur this suggests that the event which caused the code had been corrected. If the code re-appears after clearing this suggests that the problem still exists and further work is needed to correct it. If I continue with explanations or examples all of you will stop reading within the next few words. The topic is complex and can very quickly run to many pages of technical detail for even a good overview.

By January 2017, when this topic was again discussed by a panel at the CCIF meeting in Toronto understanding had expanded to include calibration.  Calibration refers to the adjustment of cameras and sensors to a position or setting that allows them to function as designed. With cameras and blind spot sensors this will mean a specific aim, with airbag sensors in seats this will mean a weight calibration that will then allow the seat to pick up whether there is a child, an adult or no one in the passenger seat. Once again I could go on and you would stop reading.

During 2016 the discussion of these topics was relatively new and centered on who would pay for the needed procedures, which were not part of the common procedures that the industry was used to working with.

What came out in Toronto, to people who were listening carefully, was that who would pay may be the least of our worries.

Industry capacity to identify and perform the volume of complex scans and calibrations needed is perhaps a bigger problem.  Capacity refers to both available time and physical space, and also to knowledge and skill.  The time and space may be found, but the development of needed skills will take time.

Going back to the ‘who will pay question’; what needs to be done and how it will be paid for?  Answers to these questions are needed before there is clarity to the vision of the required skills and from that clarity an understanding of the needed skills development.

Many progressive operators are paying attention and doing as much background prep and development as possible. For these people this is a cost and an investment that will likely have a return in the future.  Many more operators are waiting to be told what to do and for them the shift to correct repair procedures will be a challenge.

The transition period to the needed new model for the collision repair industry may have moved back out to the 5 years we started with.

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Certification – Another Update

I posted two articles about certification in late December and there has been enough activity in the first few weeks of this year that an update is warranted.

In an interview with Collision Repair Magazine.com last week Andrew Shepard, the Director of the AIA Collision Sector and the administrator of CCIAP (Canadian Collision Industry Accreditation Program) told the interviewer that CCIAP had reached 1,000 shops registered in the program. He did not say how many of these shops had achieved accreditation, but at this point this is not as important as the fact that close to 25% of the collision repairers in Canada recognize that certification is an important validation of their training and upgrading efforts.

Most of these facilities are part of the four major banner programs and it is likely that their participation was encouraged, if not enforced, by the management teams of these programs. This is not at all a bad thing; they are involved and will all become better repairers for this involvement.

Independent, unaffiliated repair shops still make up the majority of the Canadian collision repair industry and these operators can continue to be an important part of the industry, but to that they have to stay current.  This strong wave of banner shops becoming involved in the accreditation process will prompt progressive independents to also get involved and this will be good for the industry and all vehicle owners.

The insurance industry is supportive of CCIAP and with this support there will be a significant benefit to the entire repair process, and once again the vehicle owner. Accreditation involves equipment, training and very specific repair procedures. Acceptance of the requirements of accreditation by all parties takes away a lot of opinion, subjective thinking and ‘common sense’.

The repairer and insurer relationship demands the efficiency provided by the existing automated electronic claims processing systems.  A widely accepted accreditation system will allow the inclusion of required new repair processes into these automated systems.

There have been a lot of changes since my first post in July of last year. We may get to where we should be in less than 5 years

 

 

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IIHS Safety Ratings and Repairs

IIHS is the acronym for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  This is an American organization founded in 1959 by insurance companies interested in understanding all aspects of highway safety. With their business built on insuring cars and drivers it makes sense that they have a greater understanding of accidents, damage and injury.

This link gives a good background on the IIHS and how it has evolved

One of the most publicly visible areas of IIHS work is their crash safety rating system, which is developed based on crash tests in their own testing facility. This rating has real world implications, with a 5 Star IIHS rating used by manufacturers as a selling feature and by insurers as a guide to setting insurance rates.

Manufacturers pay a lot of attention and will make design changes to address the issues that prevented them from getting top scores. You will be safer in a 2016 vehicle than you would be in a 2010 or 2005 vehicle in the same type of hit.  You will probably be safer still in the 2017 because none of the manufacturers move backwards on safety.

The car may be somewhat more expensive to repair, but you will not care much about that if you walk away from the accident with no injury. Your insurance company should be ready to pay an extra $2,000 or $3,000 or even $10,000 to repair your car if tens or even hundreds of thousands in injury costs are saved.

5 Stars to 3

The insurance company should be ready to pay; but then we run into the real world of measurement and reward in a compartmentalized business. The insurance adjuster, and the entire claims department, is judged by the amount of money paid out; lower claim costs are viewed as a good thing and the in-depth quality of repairs is not yet measured.

John  Huetter of Repairer Driven  News goes into this discussion in more depth  http://www.repairerdrivennews.com/2016/11/11/iihs-top-safety-pick-criteria-and-what-it-really-means-for-collision-repair/ and importantly attributes the blame for  the current inadequate repair model equally to both  repairers and insurers.

In the unregulated world that we work in the insurance companies are probably the best positioned to insist on a proper repair but the huge emphasis on cost is preventing them from doing this.

The first company to honestly address the issue of rating and insuring 5 Star cars and then accepting and paying for repairs that leave the car at a 3 Star level has yet to step forward. It is a big problem, but there are lots of very smart people on staff at insurance companies. They will figure it out but it will take time.  There’s that 5 year timeline again

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Regulation and the Collision Repair Industry

In November I posted a discussion about the money in the collision repair industry; just as in every other industry money is what makes it all go around. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, it is a very big part of what our society is based on. But as we all know, if there are no checks on the behavior motivated by money the system gets very out of balance. This is where government regulation steps in to control behavior.

Very Little Regulation to Date

The collision repair industry has to date largely avoided attracting the attention of regulators. The main reason why this lack of regulation exists is the public has not needed the protection. On the cost side, a very fragmented industry meant that competition kept the prices down and on the safety side cars evolved in a manageable way for 50 years. This manageable evolution meant that learned skills and work habits could be used for many years with minor tweaks and updated versions of familiar equipment.  Every now and then something quite new came along, but it was all manageable without a need for a real change in operating methods. Problems were created, but as I have mentioned before (Nov 23, 2016 Standards and Regulation for Vehicle Repair) these were more anecdotal than systemic.

Why We May Not Have Needed Regulation in the Past

Poor repairs did compromise the car, but two significant factors kept these compromised cars from being very real problems. Considering post repair safety, or Next Accident Readiness, a car made primarily from mild steel did not change too much in strength and safety after that metal was repaired with heat or pulling. Looked at more darkly, that car wasn’t very safe as designed so the bar was not high.

On the causing accidents side; the control system of the car was 98% the driver and the driver was not affected by the repair.

Why We May Need It Soon

Today’s cars are much safer but their sophisticated design and structural materials demand very specific and accurate repair or replacement methods, otherwise their strength and safety are very much affected.

We are well on our way to the control system being 100% built into the car with the ‘driver’ just along for the ride. Repairs with these cars will have a direct effect on the control system and have to be absolutely accurate, every time. Remember that we will not get from 2% to 100% on a specific date in the future, we will get there on a curve and we are further along this curve now than the industry recognizes.

The changes of the last 5 years and those coming at us rapidly are significant more for their wide application than for their technology. Many of the features which are seen as ‘new’ were being used by manufacturers such as Mercedes Benz in the mid to late 2000s. But with only a few manufacturers using this advanced technology on a very small percentage of the overall vehicle fleet, it was possible for these manufacturers to control the repair process and ensure that the technicians working on the cars were properly trained.

The people who bought these cars were higher income more often than not and had an expectation that if they had purchased an expensive asset that they would get top level service in the repair and maintenance of that asset. If the MB sanctioned repair facility told them that these parts and these procedures were needed then that was what they wanted and they let the insurance companies know that. The insurance companies knew that they could not easily fight a determined owner armed with the logic of a proper repair (and also a lawyer) and with so few of these cars on the road the additional costs of these repairs could be made to fit into their business model.

We are now in 2017 and we have a problem. Every manufacturer is using very sophisticated technology and materials in even their least expensive cars and with so many of these cars on the road they are not yet able to control the repair process in the same way that MB could. They are working hard to find a way, but with the very large number of vehicles involved the problems are far more complex than they were for MB 10 or 15 years ago.

MB had to train maybe several hundred or at most a few thousand technicians and facility managers to work in their rigorous system. The industry was large enough that this relatively small number of motivated people could be found despite the stubborn industry culture of resistance to learning and training. Without doing any background research, it is easy to imagine that if only Honda, Toyota, Ford and GM wanted to get to this level (and they do along with all of the other manufacturers) they would have a very difficult (impossible) task to find and train the people needed. The current insurance company model is also not designed for MB level repairs on every car on the road.

or Why We May Not

The repair side industry could reorganize itself to be able to properly repair the cars of today, with truly qualified technicians working with appropriate equipment and to standards that are accepted and expected across the industry. The insurance side of the industry could also restructure to accept and expect only correct repairs. It is possible that the manufacturers will have enough control over the repair of their vehicles that they will be strong influencers of these needed changes. If these things can be seen to be starting to happen then only a very light regulatory framework may be needed.

If the coming year or two do not show signs of real change then regulators may need to be much more involved in the needed transition.

My guess is that the current regulation in the aircraft industry will become the model for the advanced collision repair industry of the near future.