Switching from working in a brick and mortar mechanical shop to going to work for Mobile Auto Solutions (MAS) — which services nearly 1,300 shops in a four-state radius — a little over five years ago was a real eye opener to auto repair. With insurance companies and consumers demanding shorter cycle times in this on-demand world, shops are trying to figure out ways to meet these goals while maintaining quality repairs.
What got me started down the road to writing this article was a conversation I had with a shop manager after I’d completed a Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) calibration. He asked me if we were starting to do more of these type calibrations. I told him that as a company, we have done upwards of 10 in a day. He commented that this is going to be the new normal; but it was his next comment that really got my brain churning. He felt that we, as a company, may have to station a technician at his shop almost full time to accomplish all the calibrations along with the pre-repair and post-repair scans needed. To me, his concern was cycle time. I will get back to this shortly.
|Here is a Toyota Techstream scan tool and the target for an Adaptive Cruise Control aiming procedure. ACC and BSM tool are the same for some Toyotas.|
Let’s take a step back and look at how the collision repair business has changed in the last five years. I pick five years because this is the timeframe I can personally attest to. Five years ago shops had to deal with dashboard lights. Most of the time, it was the airbag light, but the reality is it could be any light on the dash that we needed to make to go away. You can’t deliver a car to a customer with the instrument cluster lit up like a Christmas tree. For me, this could mean a simple code clear or delving further into diagnostics and programming. As the company owner of MAS, Kevin DiVito believes that the only way to service vehicles correctly is to use OEM service information (SI) exclusively. Many people fail to realize that price should not determine the repair, the end result should. I often tell our guys that we under promise and over deliver. What shops understood is we shortened cycle time.
Over the last five years, MAS has grown to 11 trucks in four states. How did we accomplish this? Kevin was associated with iATN (International Automotive Technician Network) when I met him. With the network of friends and colleagues I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with, I introduced Kevin to people around the country, and along with people he knew, finding the top talent available was much easier. We read articles in ABRN. We go to training and continue to network. As a company, we hire top talent regardless if we have enough work. Work finds top talent.
The reality is that some businesses want to rely on under skilled people to control wages, but top talent controls problems. These guys get the job done more efficiently, their comeback ratio is much lower and customer retention is much higher. And when you give that talent 19 factory scan tools with interfaces that give coverage from 1996 forward — which are needed to do the job right — there’s a recipe for shortening cycle time.
I’m often asked how we learn about all the cars and systems we service. The reality is there is no direct training available for what we do. We typically work on new model year vehicles within weeks after they are released. So how do you learn? In March 2017, all of the technicians went to VISION in Kansas for a weekend of classes and networking. In July 2017, some of us attended classes at NACE Automechanika in Chicago. We also read trade magazines and OE service information. Recently, MAS leased a 6,000 square-foot facility for in-house training to fine tune our skills. We are also planning on contacting I-CAR and other trainers who may need a location to perform seminars.
|This is a multipurpose camera calibration target setup for performing a LKAS (lane keep assist system) on a Honda Pilot.|
So now that you know where I’m coming from, let’s pull this back a bit. Before going right back into calibrations, I’d like to talk about pre-repair and post- repair scans. Is your shop having scans performed or is the shop performing them in-house? With the recent position statements being released by the manufactures, scanning is the latest buzz. How do the insurance companies handle these scans? Sadly, the answer to that depends on the company, and worse the individual representative the shop deals with. Insurance companies are about controlling costs. Some like to jump over $100 bills to save a nickel. The smart ones understand that a quality pre-repair scan can shorten cycle time since the chance of missed parts has just dropped. I wonder if I polled shops and insurance companies on how many would report Ford-deployed steering columns that had been missed. The number would be staggering. This would never happen with a quality pre-repair scan. Pre-repair scans are a great way to control cycle time.