Thursday, 23 August 2012 22:56

SCRS Director Learns from Geese and Declares PartsTrader Fowl

More than 100 body shop owners, personnel, vendors and friends were on hand at PPG’s San Francisco Business Development Center in Concord, CA on July 24 to enjoy a barbecue dinner and listen to a presentation by Aaron Schulenburg, the Executive Director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS).

Schulenburg kicked off his speech by discussing his take on the classic metaphor “Lessons from the Geese” from a book written in 1972 by Dr. Robert McLeish, which identifies migration habits of geese and applies the concepts to human behavior and teamwork. Schulenburg drew an analogy between geese acting cooperatively and how professional organizations like CAA and SCRS need members that will support and work together as a team to make the industry stronger as a whole. Instead of being for the birds, Schulenburg’s remarks served to separate the fowl from the foul.


“As each goose flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird following,” Schulenburg explained. “By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% more flying range than if each bird flew alone. Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going faster and easier because they are coasting on the thrust of one another.”

Still flying along with the geese analogy, Schulenburg asked the audience, what happens when we lose a member of our group, due to injury or illness? Do we step up and help them, like the geese do? “Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the “lifting power” of the bird immediately in front. Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we will align ourselves with people who are headed  in the same direction—where we want to go.”

“When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the point position,” Schulenburg said. “Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership—with people, as with geese, interdependent with one other.” Have you ever noticed that the same people all seem to hold all the leadership roles in any volunteer-based organization? We could learn a lot from geese.

Thinking about how even geese know the way to get it done should be a call to action to engage body shop owners to share leadership roles in organizations such as CAA and SCRS.

After his inspirational opening and some background information about the scope of SCRS, Schulenburg discussed a variety of current industry events such as OEM repair procedures and industry standards of repair; the usefulness of the SCRS Guide to Complete Repair Planning (www.scrs.com); an overview of the very helpful Database Enhancement Gateway (www.degweb.org), and led a rousing conversation on the topic that every body shop owner in the country is discussing—State Farm’s PartsTrader program which is being piloted in four U.S. cities.

PartsTrader is the online parts bidding system that was created for State Farm as they seek a refined solution for the parts locating and ordering process. In short, PartsTrader enables a shop to upload an estimate, giving both new and used parts vendors an opportunity to see all the parts on the estimate and offer a “bid” on the pricing they can offer for any part of the estimate. State Farm is sampling the system currently in 100+ shops within select cities, and awaiting their feedback, but the buzz from the industry so far has not been positive, Schulenburg said.

“This system has yet to demonstrate any real advantages or benefits for repair facilities or parts vendors, and has demonstrated the potential to lead to inefficiencies, greater costs to manage, and smaller profit margins based on the feedback we have heard from participants both in the U.S. and other markets,” Schulenburg said.
“Mandating the systems that are used and the processes in which they will be used, it certainly opens the door for insurers to exercise much greater control over the repair business and their purchasing decisions.”

PartsTrader is scary to many in the industry for a wide range of reasons, many of which stem from the concerns relative to how important parts profit is to the health of most collision repair businesses, Schulenburg said.

The rest of the discussion primarily consisted of a recap of industry reactions to the program from the discussions the week before at the Collision Industry Conference in San Antonio, TX. He highlighted some direct quotes and comments attributed to State Farm and PartsTrader representatives throughout the process. In addition, he presented introductory documents provided by both companies that demonstrate the lack of choice for both repairers and vendors in test markets. All of the information was presented in a manner that provided attendees with things to consider, but without ever directly soliciting them to agree one way or the other.

During the discussion part of the evening, Toby Chess, a collision veteran, Autobody News columnist and I-CAR trainer, made an interesting observation: “If the insurance companies can dictate where or how you buy your parts, wouldn’t the logical next thing be paint?” This got the attention of some of the top PPG managers in attendance.

At the end of the meeting while several CAA members were standing in the rear parking lot and making small talk, Schulenburg’s geese analogy became a little more concrete. As if on cue, a formation of geese appeared in the sky and flew directly above the PPG Business Development Center. Several CAA members as well as Schulenburg saw them, honking and flying in their famous ‘V’-formation.

“They wanted a curtain call and there it was!” Jim Boyle, Owner of Regal Collision Repair in Vallejo, exclaimed.

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