With the current abundance of models, platforms, and optional equipment, everyone in the collision industry must now have an increased knowledge of vehicle design and construction, material repairability, systems operation, and diagnosis and repair procedures.
As a result, there is an increase in the number and type of repair decisions that those in the collision industry must make on a daily basis, beginning at the time the estimate and repair plan are created and continuing until the vehicle is returned to its owner.
I have the opportunity to visit many insurance companies and collision repair facilities. With the intent of improving the efficiency of their businesses, many have, or are developing new procedures and processes, as well as the KPIs they are being measured against. These procedures and processes vary greatly from business to business, with some being more successful than others.
One consideration that is not commonly incorporated throughout the entire process is the utilization of technical information. Some businesses are stronger in using it at the front end the repair process – some are stronger in using it at the back end.
While each position in a collision shop may have a different use and need for technical information, everyone involved in the repair process can either positively or negatively affect the process and the quality of the repair.
For example, a collision repair business that utilizes one or more apprentice technicians can improve their efficiency by providing diagrams and procedures outlining the removal and installation of vehicle parts and assemblies. Most likely, the apprentices will be able to perform these tasks at a faster rate, and they may also damage fewer parts, which causes delays while replacement parts are ordered.
Estimators and appraisers will be able to improve communication with their insurance / repair partners by documenting the required procedures and processes. These can range from the proper location of a sectioning procedure to materials that need to be ordered (e.g., replacement fasteners, foams, adhesives, etc.), to identifying other systems on the vehicle that need to be inspected and or repaired due to the type of damage it sustained.
In instances where the estimator is customer-facing, technical information can be used to explain the repair process and convince the customer that their vehicle will obtain a better repair at that business rather than taking it elsewhere. Depending on the type of damage the vehicle has received, access to information may be valuable for identifying component locations and determining the probability of damage (e.g., component locations in flood damaged vehicles) or for inspecting vital systems (e.g., head restraints or whiplash protection systems).
Technicians today are faced with a variety of materials, including plastics, mild steels, laminated steels, advanced high strength steels, aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber. Each has its own repair characteristics, which may also vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, recommendations for the type of sectioning joint, welding equipment, welding electrode, use of weld-through primers, and adhesives – with or without welding, can vary greatly.
While these are just a few examples, access to technical information from the front-end to the back-end of the repair process creates change in the process. Implementing a system that provides access to technical information can result in a more efficient repair, and more importantly, a higher repair quality.
Just like every collision is not the same, every vehicle and its repair procedures are not the same.
Prior to joining ALLDATA as the Collision National Accounts Manager, Tom McGee was on the I-CAR® staff for more than 18 years holding the positions of I-CAR President & CEO, Director of Industry Relations and Product Operations, and Technical Director.
Tom is an ASE® certified Master Collision Repair/Refinish Technician and also has the ASE Damage Analysis and estimating certification. An Automotive Collision Repair graduate of Ferris State College in Big Rapids, Michigan, Tom has a wide range of experience in the collision industry, including operating a collision repair facility. He also has experience as a career and technical school instructor, training manager and instructional designer.