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In the three years since "event data recorders" (often referred to as "black boxes") in vehicles really began to arise as an issue of interest for collision repairers, there has been significant activity related to EDRs on a number of fronts: 

Shop owners struggling to remain profitable say they are increasingly focusing on the paint side of the shop, looking for innovative ways to squeeze even more productivity out of paint booths, paint products and paint personnel. 

At first glance, it's hard to fathom what Eliyahu Goldratt, a 58-year-old Israel-born physicist, has to offer the collision industry. But more than 20 years after Goldratt authored (along with Jeff Cox) a "business novel" entitled "The Goal," his theory of process improvement is increasingly being discussed within many shop "20 groups" and implemented by a growing number of collision repair businesses. 

For anyone in this industry who started out hustling sales - whether that means collision repair jobs, cans of paint or tools and equipment - pulling back from a focus on growth in gross sales can be a challenge. Increasing the top line, after all, is often a key ingredient in increasing the bottom line. More sales equals more profit, right? 

If there was one key message at a recent gathering of auto recyclers from around the country it was that shops and insurers want an easy and reliable way to know exactly what to expect when sourcing used parts. 

Hiring a new employee can be tricky business. One West Coast shop owner found that out recently when within two days he suddenly found himself down three technicians. Before he could even get a 'help wanted' ad place, a man came in looking for work. 

Mark Cantrell, co-owner and general manager of McLeod Autobody in Kirkland, Washington, recommends that shop owners look for ways to save their employees just three-tenths of an hour each day. 

Here's your assignment: Pretend you have 45 seconds to talk about your business in front of a group of people you'd love to have as customers. Could you tell them something that's unique about your business, something that no other shop in your area could or is likely to tell them? 

Give some thoughtful people who are knowledgeable about the collision repair industry a chance to shine up a crystal ball and look into the future, and you're likely to hear some interesting things. 

During the 1980s and 1990s, association and seminar leaders frequently pointed to changes in vehicle technology that were putting a dent in the collision repair market. Daytime running lights, the third brake light and anti-lock braking systems (if drivers used them properly), they'd say, were among the key factors pulling accident frequency down.