Monday, 24 November 2014 00:00

Enterprise’s ARMS Application Helps Shops Track Cycle Time and Benchmark Performance

A website application developed by Enterprise Rent-A-Car 15 years ago has evolved to become an industry standard to help shops track their cycle time and benchmark their performance against others in the collision repair business.

Enterprise’s Automated Rental Management System (ARMS) tracks length-of-rental (LOR) data, which Frank LaViola, Assistant Vice President of Collision Industry Relations, said can improve a shop’s performance by increasing operating efficiencies, enhancing customer service and streamlining communications with insurance companies and customers.

With more than 13,000 users, ARMS was originally built in 1999 as a communication tool for auto body shops to report to Enterprise on the repair status of a vehicle. The information was then passed on to the insurance company. Prior to the introduction of ARMS, Enterprise would typically call the collision repair center for an update.

“As the number of claims and customers in need of rental cars grew, it became more burdensome for the body shops and the insurance companies to manage the communication,” said LaViola. “When we launched ARMS, we were ahead of the time. Now, ARMS has become a mainstream tool for the majority of collision repairers out there.”

Enterprise began sharing LOR information with collision shops five years ago in response to requests from the industry. LaViola, who has worked at Enterprise since 1992, said they sat down with their business partners, individual collision repairers and MSOs and came up with a variety of ARMS reports. After tracking the data for more than a year, he said they have found the cycle time is actually going up. The U.S. average length of replacement rental increased to 11 days in the third quarter of 2014, which was a slight increase over the average third quarter LOR for the last five years.

“I think a lot of us would think it would be going down because there is more awareness,” said LaViola.

He attributes the increase to several factors, including severe weather conditions. In addition, the number of shops in operation is declining, which he said has been an ongoing process. He said there were approximately 80,000 shops in the country in 1980 and now there are about 34,000.

The complexity of vehicles is also a big factor.

“It isn’t like five years ago when you could just pound out a dent, and send a car on its way,” he said. “Now you’ve got sensors on vehicles that require you to only use so much paint. Too much paint can cause the sensors not to work because of the mil thickness."

The free application can be integrated with more than 20 body shop management systems, including Mitchell Repair Center, ProfitNet, Rome Management Software and Summit Software Solutions. LaViola estimated that 30 percent of shops currently have a management system that tracks cycle time. Although he said this is a great mechanism to measure productivity internally, the challenge has always been the interpretation of when the cycle time begins.

“Three different shops using the same management system can actually have different interpretations of when cycle time starts and ends. Enterprise’s ARMS length-of-rental data helps give shops a more consistent measurement of cycle time.”

Enterprise’s LOR has become such an important part of the industry, according to LaViola, because it’s based on the bill dates of the rental, which includes the open date of the rental contract to the last date they bill an insurance company. Using ARMS, shops are able to upload the date into their management system and it will automatically feed the repair status and estimated completion dates to Enterprise and the insurance company.

They’ve received positive feedback from shops regarding the reporting, said LaViola. Not only has this decreased the number of phone calls made, it has also taken away a lot of the double keying that is done by shops across the country. Chris Pohanka, Vice President of Operations for Pohanka Collision Centers of Virginia and Maryland, said ARMS has helped him shave off more than two days of his shop’s cycle time.

With 12 locations, Pohanka said they have been using ARMS since it was first introduced.

“Currently, we utilize it to manage our cycle time by way of the LOR report,” he said. “With it, we can identify opportunities to reduce cycle time. We find it a tremendous tool.”He stressed how critical it is to have the target dates entered correctly in a shop’s management system so it is seamlessly transferred into ARMS. “This gives a good indication of the forecasted cycle time and shows what vehicles and files are pending and which ones are closed,” he said.

One of Enterprise’s goals next quarter is to input the year, make and model of the car into the ARMS application. Since luxury vehicles often take more time to fix than domestic vehicles, shops will be able to track cycle time based on their mix of vehicles.“

You can’t improve what you don’t measure,” said LaViola. “When I show collision repair centers what their cycle time is, and they start evaluating their processes within the shop to reduce that cycle time, that’s when the homerun hits. “That’s when they’re able to drive themselves to hit those numbers and achieve those goals.”

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