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Monday, 16 April 2018 17:28

In Reverse: Duke, Dunk and DuPont---Tales from the 1930s

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Duke Norman

Unless you happen to be a student of the collision repair industry, you’ve probably never heard of Duke Norman.  But if you are a shop owner, estimator or adjuster, you likely use or benefit every day from the product he helped create.  In 1938, Norman began his career in the body shop at Robertson Buick in Chicago.  He knew little about the business at the time, but became a fast study.  


At that time, the only reference for collision repair times were factory bulletins---times based on removing and replacing undamaged parts on undamaged cars---an operation performed with considerably more effort when the car was damaged.  Shop managers were making estimates based on common sense and their own experience.  When the insurance adjuster came in to review the car, the shop manager and estimator would both sit down and negotiate, in good faith, what was required to properly repair the car.  


Norman quickly saw that there was a need for some standardized times.  Others in the industry had the same idea---but Norman did something about it.  He began keeping track of the time it took to do a particular operation.  He also noted that some technicians took longer or shorter times to do the same operation.  After documenting the same operation 10 times, he calculated what the average time was to do that particular operation.  


At that time there were “a few” companies who began publishing repair data. National was one such company.  Periodically, someone from National would stop by the shop, take Norman to lunch and pick his brain about what he was doing … and how he was doing it.  Eventually, in 1950, National offered him a job and thus, Duke Norman, Body Man became Duke Norman, Editor.  


But coming up with proper times was not enough.  Norman had an idea that the books he produced needed exploding drawings.  National didn’t want to change---and Norman felt frustrated.  Then he met Glen Mitchell.  Mitchell had a competing product to Norman’s---and hired him.


In January 1958, Norman went to work for what would become Mitchell International.  The Mitchell estimating books at that time were sold regionally, and Mitchell wanted to go national.  Norman’s job was to build a sales force and figure out how to put illustrations in the manuals.


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