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The administrative side of vehicle scanning

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - 07:00
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Scanning vehicles is the hottest topic in the industry today. Scanning is something that needs to be done and needs to be done with OEM scan tools following OEM service information. Scanning cars is good for the consumer and is creating brand new job positions in the collision industry. Many OEMs have published position statements regarding pre-repair/post-repair health scans. This is great! Information is power, and never before has the collision repair industry had so much power at its fingertips. Now, as a business owner you must decide how to follow these OEM position statements and procedures that require scanning. What I want to share with you is insight into the administrative side of scanning and how to address it effectively in your business.

The easiest method to begin scanning vehicles and the one with the least administrative work is to utilize a sublet vendor. There are three main options: use a dealer, a mobile scanning company, or a remote diagnostic company. The decision may depend on the total volume of scanning required, the shop’s geographic location, and access to high speed internet. Shops located near dealerships may be able to partner with the service departments to complete health scans and other calibrations. But, at what volume does it become unreasonable to transport the customer cars to and from the dealership?  Enter the second sublet option — utilizing a mobile scanning company. This approach has the advantages of not having to drive the customer’s vehicle offsite for the diagnostics. However, you will need to ensure that the mobile scanning company is using the proper OEM scan tools and procedures.  It will also be necessary to proactively schedule your scanning needs with the vendor to receive timely service. The final sublet option, and the approach that makes the most sense, is to use a remote diagnostics company. Remote diagnostic companies, such as Collision Diagnostic Services, are able to scan vehicles remotely over the internet, on demand. These relatively new to market companies are like having a flexible employee that is trained and proficient at running the factory scan tools, but are only there when you need them. Remote diagnostic companies have a leg up on the previous two sublet options because they are leveraging technology and not only eliminate the need to transport the customer’s vehicle offsite, but also present an almost on-demand availability that would be tough for a mobile scanning company to match. This reduces the administrative burden of scheduling present with the other sublet options.

There is another scanning option for those that choose a much more hands-on approach: scanning vehicles in-house. To do this requires more than may be apparent; investing in the equipment is just the beginning. There are several administrative items that will need addressing as well. The three largest administrative items that in house scanning demand are IT, staffing, and training.

To successfully manage the IT portion of in-house scanning, you will need to be prepared. OEM scan tools are generally composed of three basic parts: the vehicle interface module, the computer or tablet and the diagnostic software that is subscription based. Thorough research is necessary into each OEM brand before purchasing. Not all OEM scan tools come with a computer, but all OEM’s provide the basic hardware requirements to operate their diagnostic software. You will have to make the decision about whether you are comfortable setting up the computer, deciding if the computer will be on the company domain and installing the diagnostic software. Some of the diagnostic software can be pretty involved to install and setup, following a very lengthy and specific set of instructions. Some tools, such as the GM MDI2, only support a specific version of java to run the diagnostic software. If this doesn’t sound within your comfort zone to administer, then you may need to look at having a managed IT provider perform these actions for you. The IT administration continues after the initial setup is complete. OEM scan tools are constantly updating, and each tool updates in a different manner with a different frequency. It is important to have a centralized storage location for the scan tools. The area needs to be clean, have access to power for charging, and either a wifi or cabled connection for updating. Managing these updates is important to ensure you are using the latest software while scanning vehicles. Some scan tools, and all subscription-based OEM websites, require login credentials. Managing user names and passwords is a daunting task.  It is advisable to create and maintain a secure master list to minimize downtime trying to login. 

Staffing and training are two administrative items that go hand in hand with in-house scanning.  Depending on the volume of scanning required, you may be able to scan all the vehicles with your existing workforce. At a certain point, it may become cost effective to create a new position within your company for a technician that does nothing but scanning and diagnostics. This is where the training aspect comes into play. Operating OEM diagnostic software is a skill. Each user interface is different, the terminology is different, and the functionality varies. Think of it in terms of speaking a language.  Speaking your first language is natural. Speaking a second language is fairly easy. But is it reasonable to think that you can learn to speak six, seven, or even more languages to operate each OEM scan tool efficiently? This is where it may be necessary to divide and conquer the brands by splitting them amongst a couple of employees and focus their training on those specific brands. The training provided to these employees needs to encompass more than just the user interface of the diagnostic software. Their training needs to include accessing and utilizing OEM service information as well. Knowing both the user interface and the service information is critical to perform safe and effective vehicle scanning.

Effectively managing the administrative side of scanning requires thought and preparation. No matter which scanning method you choose, it is just important that you are scanning your customer’s vehicles to ensure a complete and safe repair.

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