Tuesday, 28 February 2006 09:00

An allegory on pleasing direct repair partners

Written by Lee Amaradio, Jr.

After attending a recent meeting with one of my largest direct repair accounts, I found myself totally stressed out. We discussed LKQ and aftermarket parts usage, as well as cycle time. Procedures now called for three alternate part searches for every part on the estimate - each of which had to be documented. Furthermore, going over their allotted four hour per day formula would force us to pay rental car ex-penses. 

You can't have it both ways. While we strive to work with-in their company guidelines, some requirements make it impossible. The actual condition of LKQ parts cannot be depended upon. How often is the wrong part delivered and must be returned - further delaying the repair process? Sometimes it ends up being replaced through a different vendor or you end up back with OEM parts.

Now three days to a week of cycle time have been lost, and you're forced to start all over at the parts ordering stage again only to get blamed for the delays - not to speak of the quality issues that can arise.

Let's imagine a "daily life" scenario. Although you tell your wife that you are on the same team, you consider yourself the head of the household - the team captain. Now, suspend disbelief, and imagine asking her for the weekly grocery list for your approval before she goes shopping. Taking out the red pencil, you begin to cross off items you don't think are necessary, then make notations to the side of each remaining item. The notes say things like bread is five cents a loaf cheaper at Store A, so make sure you buy the bread there because, as you know, our budget is tight. Then tell her she must purchase the milk at the dairy over on Fifth Street because if you buy five, you get one free.

You tell her to use the new butcher on Twenty-sixth Street for the hamburger, because it is on sale, but to buy the steaks from your regular butcher on Forty-sixth Street. She complains that the lines are always so long there and with all of this additional driving she'll never get done. You remind her of your budget and since you pay the bills, she needs to do as you ask. You then scold her and explain that the steaks are five cents a pound cheaper at your regular butcher - something she should be concerned about if you really are on the same team. You tell her you understand how she hates driving and standing in line but emphasize the money to be saved. To yourself, you admit "I'll soon be able to buy my new golf clubs."

As unbelievable as it sounds, your wife says okay, but then asks if she can have the items you crossed off the list - like salt, ketchup, mustard, and tomatoes. You explain to her why you don't see these as necessary items. She counters that she knows how to cook and these items are required to prepare quality meals. While you profess to understand, you calmly but firmly explain that she still must make a choice between the ketchup and the mustard. Reluctantly you agree to sanction the mustard purchase, but the ketchup is absolutely out of the question. Furthermore, if she were a smarter wife, she would figure out how to use the tomatoes to make the ketchup, like Sam's wife down the street. She hangs her head and politely agrees.

As ridiculous as this is so far, stick with me as we get to the good part. Toward the end of the day, you call your wife to check on her progress. She tells you she is way behind because the butcher across town was out of hamburger and the bread that was on sale was stale, but she bought it anyway. By the time she got to the second butcher shop, the line was out the door, and though it took the rest of the day, she did get your steaks.

She is on her way to the dairy to get the milk but by the time she gets home dinner may be about an hour late. You begin to chastise her and explain - in detail - how disappointed you are in her performance. All of the other wives you know could have accomplished these simple tasks by anticipating the contingencies and started a little earlier, driven a little faster, and run, if necessary. After all, she knows how important it is to have your dinner on time. Maybe she should have just gone to the grocery store in the first place. She wasted all this time and didn't save enough money to make a difference anyway!

She says she is really sorry and promises to try harder; you tell her that's not good enough because you've had enough wasted money and late dinners with stale bread. You tell her that there are plenty of women out there standing in line to take her place.

By now, you must be getting the picture. The whole scenario sounds so absurd, yet isn't this what collision repair shop owners go through - trying to perform impossible tasks day after day, with unrealistic formulas until we ultimately fail and are penalized for it. If we are bold enough to say we've had enough, the insurance company takes our account to the shop down the road.

So where is this going to end? After the meeting, I spent a sleepless night asking myself how the collision repair industry ever allowed itself to get to this point. The scary part is wondering if it even can be fixed. The situation will only continue to get worse as long as we as an industry allow it. We must stand together and send the clear message that "enough is enough!"

In business for 26 years, Lee Amaradio, Jr. is the president and owner of "Faith" Quality Auto Body Inc. in Murrieta, California. With 65 employees, he attributes his success to surrounding himself with good help, claiming to have some of the best office staff and techs in our industry. Amaradio has been in this industry long enough to see the handwriting on the wall. He feels that now is the time for us to unite as an industry before it's too late. He can be reached by e-mail at lee@faithqualityautobody.com.