Wednesday, 21 January 2015 00:00

AudaExplore Technology Driving Performance in Collision Repair Shops

With more collision repair shops adopting technology and becoming digitized, the result has been increased efficiency, higher productivity and greater customer satisfaction.

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Brian Greenley, a Maaco franchise owner in Littleton, CO has found his business has become more streamlined since implementing software and a customized application called One Maaco from the company AudaExplore. He said this has increased his shop’s cycle time and improved the way they measure performance.

“Managers now have more control over day-to-day operations, allowing our technicians to work on more repairs per day, which increases the overall profitability of our shop,” said Greenley, who runs the most successful Maaco franchise in the chain.

Growing from $400,000 in revenue in 1991 to over $5 million in 2014, he projects his franchise will break the $6 million mark this year.

For more than 40 years, AudaExplore, a U.S. business unit of Solera Holdings, has offered a variety of technology options to auto repair facilities for the various stages of the repair process.

The company offers five different technology platforms for the collision repair industry: Estimating, Parts Management, Repair Management, Driver Experience and Decision Sciences.

“Our goal in developing these platforms is to provide the tools that help repair shops and insurers run profitable and productive businesses as they move toward a more digitized environment, while providing top-notch customer service every step of the way,” said Gordon Henderson, Vice President of Collision Repair Solutions at AudaExplore.

Estimating & Parts Management

Henderson said most collision repair shops are probably familiar with Audatex Estimating. This estimating solution provides repairers and insurers the ability to quickly access and visualize data in order to write a more accurate repair plan for a damaged vehicle.

“We collect information on thousands of parts that go into a car along with the associated labor time that it takes to remove, repair and re-install those parts and put it in one place, allowing for a quick calculation of what the cost of repair to be for that vehicle,” said Henderson.

Used since the 1980s, he said that a recent enhancement to their estimating solution is the integration of APU, which allows shops to check for inventory on alternative parts. (Read more about APU and other parts ordering platforms in the next issue of Autobody News.)

In September 2014, the company launched a new version of estimate check, which includes an advanced analytics model to provide enhanced decision support. Henderson said this allows shops to conduct a more robust check of the estimate to ensure compliance with insurance guidelines and identify any missed operations. With more sophisticated data and analytics, the technology provides analysis for guidance regarding repair or replacement of parts such as bumper covers, door panels, trunk lids and hoods.

“We’ve also done things a little different in terms of how our estimating software works,” said Henderson. “We approach it not just as a computerized estimating tool but as a truly automated, intelligent tool that understands how a vehicle needs to be repaired and helps to ensure that the estimator and repairer make the best decisions possible while minimizing the need for manual intervention.”

When a part is selected for replacement, Henderson said the shop is able to view a 3D model that is linked to the database itself.

“We understand that in order to replace any given part, there are other parts that may have to be removed or replaced and that additional labor operations may be required to ensure a proper repair,” he said. “AudaExplore automatically includes required operations so the estimator doesn’t waste time digging through P-Pages in order to find out what they have to manually add to the estimate. This eliminates errors and increases speed, accuracy and consistency.”

Henderson said this unique approach allows shops to spend less time researching the related operations and improves cycle time.

“Fewer supplements means that you are more efficient and saves time,” he said.

Repair Management

The company’s repair management platform includes the Autofocus management software installed at body shops. In the case of Maaco, AudaExplore undertook some fairly extensive customization.

Maaco had been using its own software program Polaris, which became outdated. Greenley said they sat down with AudaExplore to develop a management system that would help measure profitability through their performance.

“A successful business owner should measure every component of his business,” said Greenley, who was one of the first franchises to implement the software in January 2014. “This tool gives us the capability to measure performance within the business.”

Approximately 100 Maaco franchises are now using the software and the plan is for the entire chain to adopt it over the next two years. The Autofocus management software is also integrated with AudaExplore’s estimating so customers are able to receive a quote on the spot for all of the work they want completed.

“A customer’s attention span is short,” said Henderson. “You basically want to get the information to them quickly, help them make a decision and ultimately try to get the keys to the vehicle on the spot.”

He said by streamlining the process and making it more consistent across the franchise, it allows Maaco to increase their ability to capture the keys to the vehicle.

“Obviously the more jobs captured means more revenue and more profit at the end of the day.”Because Maaco has a very unique workflow, Henderson said, “…as a franchise model you want to have things work homogenously across the entire network. We’ve customized our solution to help support that goal.”

Greenley said this has lead to gains in efficiency and more consistency from location to location.

Driver Experience

In regards to AudaExplore’s driver experience technology platform, the company offers collision repair shops the Go Time Driver application. Go Time Driver allows a vehicle owner to download an app capable of giving them a 3D representation of their vehicle and the ability to communicate with their auto body shop.

“They can request a specific day and time, select the shop and request an appointment,” said Henderson. “We’ve had tremendous success with this.”

Maaco adopted the Go Time Driver application and customized it for their franchises to better communicate with customers and make it easier for them to understand an estimate.

“That’s not done easily through a standard estimate in the industry,” said Greenley. Known as One Maaco, there have been nearly 12,000 downloads of the app since it was first launched during the summer of 2014. Another component of Go Time Driver is the AutoWatch solution that allows a vehicle owner to view the progress of their vehicle and receive updated repair status information through an interactive website.“

What we’ve found is that it creates a level of transparency that consumers don’t always associate with repair shops,” said Henderson.

“The key to that part of the platform is that by keeping consumers informed, they’re directly tied to a higher overall satisfaction on a claim.”

Decision Sciences

The company’s Decision Sciences platform aims to improve a company’s performance by using visualization tools that make it easier to spot trends. Henderson said the company’s Visual Insight brings analytics to the claims process and allows insurers and repairers to visually represent the data collected to make more informed decisions.

“Our decision sciences is really all about creating a set of decision tools that allow the estimator or shop owner, and the insurance client, to make better business decisions moving forward,” said Henderson.

A Consultant Approach

Henderson said that AudaExplore approaches each body shop in terms of their unique needs to determine the technology that will be most beneficial to their business. In December, AudaExplore announced it signed an agreement to extend its services to all ABRA Auto Body & Glass locations in the U.S. for two more years. Working with the company since 2010, AudaExplore provides its Estimating, Central Review and Consolidator Dispatch solutions.

“Our mission is to repair damaged vehicles right the first time, on time,” said Tim Adelmann, ABRA’s Executive Vice President of Business Development. “As we grow, AudaExplore’s state-of-the-art technology will continue to help us provide superior service seamlessly to each of our clients through our extensive network of auto body repair shops across the nation.”  

“Our goal is to make the complicated process of handling a claim much simpler for all parties involved,” said Henderson. “By providing a system that’s highly accurate and connected, we can greatly reduce waste in claims processing activities and help increase overall profitability for our customers such as ABRA.”  

Henderson said big and small shops, MSOs, insurance companies and independent appraisers are currently utilizing AudaExplore’s various technology solutions.

“I think this industry is realizing that consumers are having higher and higher expectations,” said Henderson. “Study after study shows that better communication is directly tied to overall consumer satisfaction, which is directly tied to whether or not an insurance company retains a policy holder or a shop gets repeat referral business.”

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