Ten years ago, when a new automobile was introduced to the market, the repair of that vehicle was essentially the same as the previous year’s model.
“That’s no longer the case,” explained Jack Rozint, vice president of sales and service at Mitchell International. “New model vehicles are now likely to include computers and electronic systems that weren’t previously offered, and this means that new repair procedures are required. With the overriding challenge of the complexity of vehicles, at Mitchell we recognized the need to provide our customers with the latest vehicle information to help them deliver proper and safe repairs. It is our number one focus.”
As a result, the company has introduced a variety of products over the last year, particularly focusing on OEM repair procedures and how these are integrated into Mitchell’s suite of products. Concurrently, the company is moving its product suite to the cloud.
“With applications in the cloud, we give customers a greater level of flexibility that is much easier to work with than any desktop-based application---while we find greater scalability and an integration capability,” he said.
Autobody News talked to Rozint about Mitchell’s latest initiatives and how the company is helping body shops deliver proper and safe repairs.
Q: What are some of the new products Mitchell has introduced over the last year?
Rozint: We had three industry firsts this year. In addition to the Mitchell Diagnostics system and Mitchell Cloud Estimating, we had what I believe is the first artificial intelligence platform for the industry---Mitchell WorkCenter™ Assisted Review.
With Assisted Review, we use artificial intelligence---machine learning---to review photos of damage and give advice and guidance to humans to help them with claim reviews. It’s pretty interesting and exciting, although it’s a little scary for some people to think that a machine is going to be evaluating the images. What I ask people is, ‘Would you prefer a machine that has actually been proven to be more accurate in photo-based image processing and has been trained on 500,000 similar types of damage, or a human that may be new to the industry and has never seen a damaged panel exactly like the one you are submitting?’
We have been working with a company called Tractable. The project grew out of that company looking for good applications to apply artificial intelligence, especially with photo analysis, and how that might relate to the automotive claims process. The first iteration came out in the form of reviewing damaged panels and helping decide whether the panels should be repaired or replaced.
There are pros and cons to it, but I think that overall, it’s going to help [facilitate] more efficient processing of claims, which ultimately benefits everybody.
Q: With the changes in digital technology and using the cloud, what is the learning curve for shops?
Rozint: At Mitchell, we see that as our challenge: How do we build more powerful applications that are easier for our customers to use? That is really the ultimate goal of any good technology company. You want to make something that is intuitive and easy to learn, but you want it also to be very powerful, flexible, scalable and extensible, so that’s our design principle in everything we are doing.
Mitchell Diagnostics is a perfect example because it helps customers address repair issues with complicated vehicles. Because the application is in the cloud, it allows us to share data and information. We can enable a process that is more efficient for those repairing cars and processing claims. It’s so easy to use that virtually anybody with just five minutes of training can go out and do a pre-scan or a post-scan on a vehicle. You can do it without even opening the hood and without getting dirty. It’s a very simple and easy-to-use product. If you have the training and the willingness, it has the capabilities to do some amazing things---such as the recalibration of a Ford F-150’s lane departure system.
With Mitchell Cloud Estimating, we show users a four-minute training video, and we’ve seen them watch two minutes of that video and then start writing estimates. Then we come back a couple hours later, and they have written three or four estimates and are having a great time. There is literally no formal training required because anybody who is familiar with any estimating system can sit down with the new cloud product and get up to speed quickly. That’s a big deal, because there are people coming into the industry who don’t have 20 years of experience writing estimates.
Our goal is to put together the solutions that have depth and features underneath, and at the same time include a user interface that is intuitive, easy to understand and use and doesn’t require a lot of training.