Sunday, 30 September 2007 17:00

Frame Systems: Measuring systems lead to better repairs and higher profits

Written by Robert Holland
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There’s no doubt about it – the collision repair industry has officially entered the high-tech age. As vehicles have become more complex and insurance companies more demanding in their need for verification and documentation, information has quickly become as important as welding equipment to any collision repair center that hopes to successfully compete in the 21st century.

An accident – even a minor one – can affect an entire vehicle – especially on newer models. And sometimes frame damage isn’t readily apparent to the eye and often isn’t discovered until after repairs have begun, forcing delays and added costs due to supplements, friction expenses and impatient, unhappy customers. These types of structural problems are becoming more and more common, and have begun to seriously affect the collision industry’s ability to turn a reasonable profit from their labors. 

But fortunately, help has arrived in the form of computerized measuring. Gone are the days when customers or insurance companies were content with repairs based on plum bobs, tape measures or mechanical gauges. Instead, these antiquated methods are now being replaced with sophisticated computerized laser measuring systems which offer pinpoint accuracy; can see hidden damage visual inspections miss; and provide full-color documentation of the vehicle’s condition before, during and after repairs have been made. 

That being said, computerized measuring is revolutionizing the way vehicle damage is analyzed and repaired. But like all tools, these systems are only as effective as the people who operate them and analyze the information they generate. And because the cost of these systems can be a hard pill to swallow for many small- and medium-size shops, (typically in the $15,000 – $30,000 range), comprehensive training is essential to maximize the benefits these systems offer while generating a substantial return on investment. 

Although some collision repair equipment companies provide detailed training on how to read and understand the reports their systems generate, these reports will make little sense to someone who doesn’t have an understanding of collision dynamics and basic repair planning. Doing so would be akin to teaching someone to read an x-ray who has never attended medical school – you’re just not going to get the job done right. 

Training requires background

In recent years, companies such as Chief Automotive have expanded its training to address the needs of both body shop estimators and insurance appraisers as well, and has trained over 10,000 of these professionals on proper collision repair theories and techniques. These courses have been certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), and Chief is a charter member of I-CAR’s Industry Training Alliance. 

Persons who successfully complete such certified courses will be able to not only recognize the dynamics that took place during a collision, but the repair procedures needed to correctly repair that vehicle.

Shops that embrace this technology will reap substantial benefits. For estimators, computerized measuring systems allows them to see hidden frame damage even the most thorough visual inspections would likely miss. As a result, initial estimates are far more comprehensive and reduce supplements and friction costs. Additionally, a more accurate diagnosis allows work to be scheduled more efficiently, while final print-out documentation provides the customer and their insurance company with indisputable evidence that the vehicle’s safe to operate and has been returned to its pre-accident condition.


For technicians, computerized measuring allows them to significantly improve repair quality while substantially reducing repair time. As lasers precisely measure the damaged sections of the vehicle, a computer compares these measurements to the vehicle’s correct specifications.

Damage – even hidden damage – is precisely identified which enables technicians to plan and execute repair plans more effectively. And the best systems will actually display measurements while repairs are being made. This unique feature allows them to monitor these changes as they occur to quickly and accurately return the vehicle to factory-like condition. 

Insurer’s benefit

And while there’s little argument that computerized measuring yields multiple benefits to the collision repair industry, insurance companies are some of the most vocal supporters of this new repair technology. As more and more insurance providers see the benefits of computerized measuring, they either strongly recommend or require shops they do business with to have computerized measuring as part of their repair process. 

A large part of this enthusiasm centers around the printed documentation these systems provide. By being able to read and analyze a detailed print-out of the vehicle frame before repairs are initiated, insurance companies have come to realize that frame supplements and friction costs can be virtually eliminated. Additionally, printed documentation of a vehicle’s “road-worthiness” after repairs drastically reduces future liability should that vehicle ever be involved in an accident again. 

Shops and insurance companies that have invested in this training traditionally realize an amazingly fast return on their investment in a number of areas: 

        •Repairs are completed more quickly and efficiently, resulting in greater profits

        •Reduced comebacks

        •Sharp reduction in supplements and friction costs

        •Increased business from both customer word-of-mouth and insurance company DRP volume

        •Higher retention of their skilled workers 

Successful companies are those that stay abreast of new technologies and continue to seek ways to improve the quality of their products and services. Computerized measuring has proven its effectiveness to the point that body shops and insurance companies are now faced with two basic choices – they can either climb aboard this train to increased profitability – or face the possibility of getting run over by it! And without a doubt, proper training in the use and understanding of computerized measuring technology is the engine driving the train.


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