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Simple steps shops can take to help estimators improve

Friday, May 4, 2018 - 06:00
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Think about paint labor operations as well that are legitimate charges when they are performed. What about refinishing the backsides of panels or the trunk area? The refinish times in all three estimating platforms are for exterior panels only; those times do not include backsides. This step requires materials as well, so that’s a double-whammy if you’re not being compensated for it.  

Moving and set-back of wiring is another labor operation that often isn’t charged out. Many estimators (and others not regularly working on vehicles) have little understanding of how fragile wiring is today. At a recent class I taught, no one realized that on late-model vehicles, even a minor kink in the wiring can send a resistance signal that sets a fault code. That’s how smart and sensitive wiring is today, so estimators need to understand when movement of wiring will be necessary so they can bill accordingly. 

One approach I suggest is choosing a few of these types of items to focus on for the coming two or three months, to get in the habit of including them on estimates when appropriate, and to gain experience negotiating for them successfully when necessary. 

But many of these items aren’t particularly new. The reason recent training is so critical for estimators is because vehicle electronics, computers, sensors, calibrations and scanning have become such a key component of estimating. In my recent estimating classes, I’ve been predicting that in the very near future, 60 percent of collision repair will be related to these types of items. I was taken aback when a representative from Honda who attended one of these classes stood up and interrupted to say that 60 percent number was exactly the number the collision group at the automaker had come up with in a recent meeting. 

Shops can no longer expect technicians to keep up with all this without help from estimators. The estimator’s role now includes doing the research necessary to get the OEM information technicians need. Proper calibrations, resets and road tests all are vital in order to restore a vehicle’s crashworthiness, including functionality of all safety systems. The repair standard can’t be based on just pre-accident appearance. 

Shops need to give their estimators the tools – including recent training – to serve this critical and ever-changing job function.

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