Those who have been in the collision industry for a long time remember the 1980s as the advent of automotive unibody construction.
New equipment purchases would reach a frenzied pitch and industry shows would blossom to accommodate the equipment purchases, but it was a lot more than that. Industry veteran Tony Passwater called the 1980s, “A Time of Awakening” for the collision industry.
Enter the Computer
Today, computers come second-nature to us. Everyone has a laptop or a tablet or some portable device. We use them for everything; but, in the early 1980s, computers were a new “unknown” to most of us. Computerization affected the lives of practically everyone on the planet – the collision industry included. More specifically, 1982 will be marked as the beginning of the collision industry’s “information age” with the advent of electronic estimating systems, shop data management systems and trade publications.
In a 1998 industry trade magazine, Passwater noted that the mid-1980s was a “… time of awakening for our industry. Shop owners wanted to not only learn the computer program in and of itself, but how to be better business people. As such, some shop owners began to rise to the top of the industry, others struggled, and some just could not keep up and fell by the wayside.”
A couple of trade magazine articles appearing in early 1984 discussed the pros and cons of computerizing a body shop and what to look for in a small business computer. One of the shop owners interviewed for the articles noted, “A good manager runs a shop by the seat of his pants. The manager in the future will manage numbers rather than manage people.” At the end of the piece was a handy “Glossary of Computer Terms” which included now-quaint terms such as: backup, cathode ray tube, central processing unit, cursor, hard disc, kilobyte, megabyte, menu, menu-driven, and modem.
In a trade magazine article, industry veteran Chuck Sulkala notes that it is important to know your own market in terms of customer demographics. This would include male/female, type of car driven, insurance carrier, etc.