Thursday, 22 September 2011 16:06

CIC Participants Tell Information Providers to Take the Lead in Chicken-or-Egg Dilemma

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What may have seemed to some at the most recent Collision Industry Conference (CIC) as a debate about esoteric computer jargon was actually a discussion about who gets access to all the information in a shop’s estimates.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Fred Iantorno of the Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA) said the way a shop’s estimating data currently flows through any of the current electronic connections in the industry—to the shop’s management system, to insurers, to parts suppliers, to rental car companies or CSI providers—can be compared to repairing a car without applying the needed corrosion protection.

“You can’t see what’s inside of these systems to see if the corrosion protection has been put there or not,” Iantorno said. “But over time, it’s like a time bomb waiting to happen. The rust will show up, because essentially the corrosion protection hasn’t been changed since 1999.”

Iantorno, along with a number of collision repair trade associations and organizations, has been lobbying for a shift by the information providers away from using the older “EMS” standard for transferring estimate data to using the news “BMS” standard. Understanding what those acronyms stand for is less important, he said, than understanding the key difference between the two.

The EMS file includes every scrap of data included in an estimate: the customer’s information, the vehicle information, the parts and labor information. So if a shop, for example, orders parts electronically, the parts vendor receiving the parts list via the EMS file gets not only what parts are needed but information about the customer and his or her insurance. A rental car company  also might be getting all this information even if all it really needs is information on when a customer’s car will be repaired and the rental returned.

Because the newer BMS standard provides shops with more control over what data gets shared—thus making it easier to protect the privacy of data for customers, business partners and themselves—collision repair organizations have for years been calling for the information providers to enable shops to use BMS rather than EMS. And EMS was created a full decade before BMS, Iantorno points out, it’s based on older technology, making it akin, he said, to using a 1990s cell phone rather than one sold today.

Asked again about BMS at the CIC meeting held this summer in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jack Rozint of CCC Information Services said his company has implemented BMS in some limited instances.

“There are some large collision groups that are using it to consolidate data, and there’s a couple paint company value-added programs that are using our implementation of BMS to get repairer data to support their 20 groups,” Rozint said. “To be frank, the majority of our customers are using applications on the other end—receiving the data from the shop—that are still using EMS, so all our systems still support EMS.”

But Aaron Schulenburg of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists was among those at CIC who pointed out that it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation; those receiving data from shops, he said, can’t switch from EMS to BMS until the information providers enable shops to use BMS.

“Unless somebody turns the switch first, it will never happen,” Iantorno told Rozint.

“Right now, the list of applications that are BMS-capable to receive that format is a very short one,” Rozint said. “So we need the people who have the applications that are going to take in the EMS to come to us and say, ‘We want BMS implemented to replace the EMS interface,’ and we need our customers to tell us that that application is important.”

But Tony Passwater, chairman of CIC’s Data Privacy Committee said CCC, Mitchell International and Audatex just need to do what companies in other industries have done to push for a shift to new, better technologies.

“They just need to say that as of a certain date, the EMS standard will be sunsetted,” Passwater said. “Starting on that date, only the BMS standard will be supported. Then the application developers aren’t going to have to make (their) systems import EMS files. And believe me, it’s a lot easier for them to use BMS.  But you have to tell the application developers you won’t use it anymore. That’s as simple as it is. It is a chicken-and-egg syndrome. The information providers have got to set that sunset.”

Another CIC participant, speaking privately after the meeting, said he may hand out buttons for shop owners to wear at this fall’s trade shows saying, “No BMS now? No thanks.”

In other news and discussion at CIC in Salt Lake City:

● Representatives of several of the paint companies say that testing of waterborne clearcoats continues, but that several challenges remain. “It looks odd when it goes on—almost white—but dries super-clear,” Bob Burgess of PPG said. “It looks really good, but it’s not as fast (as solvent-based clearcoats).” Paul Maiersperger of DuPont concurred based on his company’s development of waterborne clears. “The durability has always been an issue, and the productivity, because everyone wants faster and faster clears,” he said. “That’s something we need to address.”

● The CIC Definitions Committee said it is doing its regular review of CIC’s definition of a “Class A” collision repair facility, considering how to address issues, for example, as whether or not a shop chooses to be equipped to do aluminum repairs.

● Jordan Hendler, executive director of the Washington (D.C.) Metropolitan Auto Body Association, was honored for her efforts earlier this year that helped prevent a teenage girl from jumping off an I-95 freeway overpass in a suicide attempt. Hendler called 9-1-1 as she approached the girl on the edge of the overpass, then kept talking to her, pleading with her not to jump. She kept talking to the girl as another by-passer approached from the other end of the overpass and was able to grab the girl and pull her back off the barrier she had climbed over. Hendler said it took both of them to hold the hysterical girl down until emergency responders arrived about four minutes after the call to 9-1-1.

John Yoswick, a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988, is also the editor of the weekly CRASH Network (for a free 4-week trial subscription, visit www.CrashNetwork.com). He can be contacted by email at jyoswick@SpiritOne.com.

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