Estimate Management Standard (EMS) is the open, non-proprietary system for electronic communication that was first deployed in 1994, and is now the non-proprietary estimate format used by the three major estimating systems. EMS is analogous to the old dial-up modem communication, and is obsolete.
The newer Business Messaging Specifications (BMS) standard is poised to replace the over-extended EMS. It can communicate massive amounts of data in a secure and efficient manner. BMS offers collision businesses the ability to control what data is made available to the recipients. BMS utilizes the very flexible XML (markup language), which provides a consistent internet communication standard, vs. the more limited scope of EMS.
As Fred Iantorno, Executive Director of CIECA, has said in the past: “Implementing the BMS will make everyone more efficient and will save the industry money.”
BMS offers shops three primary benefits to the Collision Repair industry, according to Michael Lloyd, CIECA’s Vice Chairman:
Security—BMS allows users to control data exchanged between its trading partners. Businesses can transmit only the data needed by its suppliers, thereby retaining the confidentiality and security of the data that is in their possession.
Scalability—In the same way that the internet was designed to support the communication needs of all users, BMS simultaneously supports the needs of both small and large businesses. As a result, BMS allows all businesses to exchange data using common data fields or definitions. Regardless of size, BMS can meet the needs of any business.
Efficiency—Since BMS follows the XML standard, BMS can operate in any environment—server, mainframe, Microsoft Windows, MAC, etc. BMS eliminates the expense and inefficiencies associated with re-keying data. Once data is part of the BMS record, it does not need to be re-entered. All transaction history is retained, which allows the re-creation of an estimate from a prior time period, according to Fred Iantorno. BMS is “backward and forward” compatible, meaning that new releases and maintenance are easily implemented, providing a lower cost of operation.
Participants at the April Collision Industry Conference (CIC) expressed a clear opinion that it’s time for information providers and others accessing shop estimate data to convert from the EMS standard to the BMS standard.
A poll of more than 200 CIC attendees at the Phoenix meeting found that 84% supported such a move, however a similar poll at the CIC meeting in January found only one in three CIC attendees said they actually understood the key difference between the two standards.
Education participants about the two standards has been led by Data Privacy Committee chairman Tony Passwater, who said the change could have significant impact for shops, insurers, parts suppliers and other industry vendors.
Passwater noted that while the older EMS standard transfers all data from the estimate—including customer, vehicle, parts and labor information—the BMS standard provides shops with more control over what data gets shared, thus making it easier for them to protect the privacy of data for customers, business partners and themselves.
The current EMS standard can only transmit all the estimate data at once, no matter how little information is wanted or needed. The new BMS standard has the ability to transmit only the specific data necessary to get the particular task accomplished, such as order a part, or notify a car rental company. The BMS is also a more secure message which provides a confidential data exchange.
A parts vendor, for example, can be sent just the vehicle information and parts list—not the customer’s name, address and phone number. A rental car company or CSI provider doesn’t need every line item of the estimate.
Passwater said of the industry’s continued use of EMS, “There’s just unnecessary personal and business data that is being transmitted and captured by other parties that’s not necessary.”
He pointed out that EMS, which was developed in 1994 and not updated in over a decade, lacks standardized transfer of email addresses or cell phone numbers, which weren’t as ubiquitous back then.
While some information providers have moved to BMS for some or all data transfer, the vast majority of transactions are still handled through EMS, Passwater said. By the end of Passwater’s presentation, 84 percent of CIC attendees said they had a better understanding of the key differences between EMS and BMS and that same percentage said information providers should move to BMS and eliminate EMS.
That change, and the elimination of EMS entirely should happen quickly, according to CIC attendees; one-third said it should happen in the next six months, another third said it should happen in a year, and 22% said within two years seems reasonable. Only 10% said EMS should never be eliminated.