Here's a collection of some brief ideas and tips from those meetings that didn't make our earlier reports on the events.
Warning about air pressure sensors
During one of several dozen mini- clinics offered by automakers, equipment manufacturers and other vendors at the I-CAR annual meeting, Ray Coker of Mercedes-Benz cautioned that some of its 2006 and 2007 models include air pressure sensors. As part of the SRS control system, the sensors measure the volume of the air in all of the doors under normal operating condition. If one of these sensors detects a sudden increase in air pressure - generally caused by an impact - it serves as the first signal of a side impact.
"It doesn't deploy the air bags, but it sends a signal to the SRS control unit which is responsible for deploying the air bags," Coker said.
That means it's critical to put all the rubber plugs back in the car, putting the belt moldings on and ensure that door seals are intact, Coker said.
Such sensors are standard in the 2006 S-class (model 221) and ML (model 164), and will also be in the 2007 R-class (model 251).
No charge for GM repair info
At another OEM tech clinic this summer, a General Motors representative said he hopes that all of GM's collision-related repair information will be made available online at no charge by later this year. GM's Bob Hartman said more collision information is being shifted to the free "Goodwrench" web site (www.gmgoodwrench.com) rather than just being available on the subscription-based GM technical information web site www.GM-techinfo.com.
Hartman said the company is also working on a marking system to identify the various metals used in its vehicles. Right now GM doesn't use any boron steel in the structure of its vehicles, Hartman said, but it is coming.
"With new roll-over standards, definitely by 2009 model year vehicles," he said.
"So what we're working on is trying to do an ID stamp, similar to what they do for plastic parts. You'll see that stamp on the production part, so you'll be able to identify it."
Repairs more complicated
Jeff Kohut, a paint and body business development manager for BMW, says the company's 6-series vehicles includes 12 types of steel plus 8 types of aluminum and magnesium. The 5-series has 11 types of steel and 9 types of aluminum.
"Proper repair [of such vehicles] in the average body shop is no longer likely," Kohut said. "Possible, but no longer likely."
Thus the need, he said, for BMW's shop certification program. But BMW training at the company's three U.S. training centers is also open to any independent with a relationship with a BMW dealer. Starting that relationship may not be difficult, Kohut said.
"I know a lot of service managers, and I don't know any of them who doesn't like to eat," he said. "They'll all go out to lunch with you. You'll find that the majority of the shops they are working with now are jammed. They're hammered with cars. Take the overflow."
That dealer also has the ability to get you free access to BMW's technical repair information system (TIS); access to its publicly available web site (www.bmwtechinfo.com) currently costs $30 a day or $2,500 a year.
But wouldn't making more information available in the estimating systems about which metals are used where improve the odds of proper repairs?
"They all have access to TIS; whether they choose to use it or not," Kohut said of the Big Three estimating system providers.
Another thought Kohut shared: Only about 105 out of 349 BMW dealers nationwide own body shops, and in order to be a BMW-certified shop, the same entity that owns the dealership must own the body shop.
"The fact that 250-some dealers who don't own a body shop creates a tremendous opportunity for an impendent…to sell your shop to the dealer and let him retain you as a manager," Kohut said.
Also on the subject of OEM repair information, Dan Black of Daimler-Chrysler said his company is coming out by NACE with a complete sectioning guide to the company's vehicles. He also encouraged shops to visit the company's service/repair information web site (www.techauthority.com) where printed copies of many collision manuals and guides can be ordered for essentially the cost of shipping. Such documents may be copied, he said.
You've just found out that ex-employee has filed for unemployment. Going through the appeals process can be a time- consuming process. So how do you decide when it's a worthwhile endeavor?
Susan Crosby of Corporate Cost Control, Inc., in Dallas, Texas, which consults with companies to manage their unemployment costs, says one instance when an appeal is a good bet is when the employee and the state says the employee was fired for performance issues, but the employer fired the employee for misconduct.
Performance issues, Crosby said, are generally seen as a "green light" to pay the claim, but if it was actually a violation of rules that led to the firing, that can help the employer win an appeal.
• Don't appeal if the employee resigned after you gave him or her a choice to quit or be terminated, Crosby said. This type of resignation is generally viewed as a termination for unemployment purposes, she said.
• Do consider appealing, she said, if you did not have documentation or first-hand witness statements that support your side at the initial unemployment filing but subsequently obtan them.
At any such unemployment hearing, Crosby said, state the exact single reason the employee was fired. A laundry list of misconduct over years is not going to help support your case. If the employee was late yet again on the day you finally terminated him or her, state that as the cause, backed up by the written warnings you gave the employee about arriving late.
Be polite, not defensive, and state facts and specifics, not opinions or generalizations. If focusing on misconduct, avoid any statements about the ex-employee's inability to perform any job function.
Feather, edge, fill time study
Also this summer, the Automotive Service Association (ASA) recently shared the findings of its feather, edge and fill time study. ASA says based on a study of more than 100 vehicle repairs, those processes requires about 2.5 hours for an area of approximately 2.5 square feet. More information on the study is available at www.asashop.org or by calling ASA's Denise Casperson at (800) 272-7467.
ASA has also prepared a card comparing basic refinish procedures for a repaired panel (38 steps) versus a new panel (21 steps). Again, ASA members can assess the card via ASA's web site; non-members can call ASA Member Services at (800) 272-7467.
Quick start guides
ASA's Collision Division also has prepared what it calls "quick start" guides for each of the automaker's repair information web sites. Jerry Burns, a New Mexico shop owner and assistant director of ASA's Collision Division, said each guide provides the website address and access charges, a summary of the types of information available, a guide to the registration process (which can help users determine if they should work through this process prior to an instance of actually needing some information), hardware and software requirements, and whether a tutorial is available.
"Then we went through and looked for some of the common things we need in the collision repair industry, such as frame and unibody dimensions, frame and sectioning requirements, and told you where they're located so you can quickly go into the web site and get the information you need," Burns said.
John Yoswick is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988.