Thursday, 21 October 2010 17:19

A Reader Unpacks his Baggage on the Industry

Written by Toby Chess

Hey Toby—I have never written a letter to a magazine or newspaper until now. I’ve read many of your columns and I want to thank you for the work that you do for the collision industry. I am a second generation shop owner and I am so frustrated that I don’t know what to do.

My father taught me the business. The first thing he instilled on me is to give the customer the best job possible. He taught me honesty and integrity and when a person dropped off his or her car, they would get the best repairs possible. We repaired cars and we were very successful. 

In the mid 90’s we got caught up in the DRP movement. We were told that the insurance company would send us work in exchange for some minor concessions. We gave them a discount on labor and parts. We still gave our customers the repairs that they deserved.

My dad retired from the business in the early 2000’s and by the time he left, I was giving more and more concessions. Everything that I used to charge for was now included. Free storage was next. More threats if I did not follow the rules. I had to hire extra people in the front office to cover all of the new administrative tasks.

I asked for a raise in the door rate, but that never happened. I begged for more cars, but they added more shops. More concessions. They said maybe their DRP program was not for me.

I have lost my ability to sell my shop’s service and its quality (all my fault) repairs. More concessions.

I was told that my repair-to-replace ratio was out of whack. I started to repair everything, even though I knew that it was not the best for my customers.

Then they started to cut my times on the repairs. No prime and featheredge was allowed. I showed them in the procedure pages that it was a non-included item. I was told that no one else was asking for it. More concessions.

To add insult to injury, my rental car company wanted data on my customers. Next thing I know they are telling me how to manage my company. More concessions.

I now have to use a different CSI company, which is more money with less service. More concessions.

I was told my alternative parts usage was too low.

Listen to this one. I needed a right quarter panel for a Dodge Caravan. I got 2½ hours (another concession) for cut and trim. Where in God’s creation did they get that number from?

To add insult, the wrecking yard sent me the entire van (it had major front end damage). How was I going to get rid of the donor van when I was finished with it (I don’t have a fork lift)? I refused the part, bought a new one and ate the difference. I also purchased a front clip (I need the core support, hood, fenders, lights and bumper). The part arrived at the shop a couple of days later. Every part was aftermarket except the core support. I sent it back. I could have ordered my own aftermarket parts.

The wrecking company told me not to call anymore because I was too picky. Give me a break.

Talking about aftermarket parts, I was told to use CAPA only A/M parts, but there are only a limited amount of CAPA-certified parts. My coordinator told me to use any aftermarket parts, certified or not. I asked him to put it in writing to protect my shop, but he looked at me and I realized I was in big trouble. I made a joke of it, but I came real close to getting kicked off the program.

Next my new “consultant” (my DRP adjuster’s new title) tells me that I need to look at going lean. How can he call himself a consultant and tell me how to run my business? He has never worked in a body shop. Where does he get off at telling me how I should run my business?

Oh, I forgot, he works for an insurance company that controls my business. I will admit that once we as a company embraced lean, things at the shop are better, but again, it should be my decision and mine alone. Just the other day, my insurance consultant insinuated that I need to send everyone at the shop to the new I-CAR quality-control class. Another worthless I-CAR class that I have to take. Even if I go to the class, will the insurance company pay for the additional time that is needed for the better quality repairs? Hell no. More concessions, or I am off the program.

I am really tired of the crap. I am really considering closing the shop and getting a job at WalMart as a greeter or TSA inspector. You know what? If I get at job with TSA, I can order people around and be rude and all anyone can say is ‘thank you.’ WOW. The TSA and adjusters sound like the same type of people.

Maybe a requirement to become a TSA inspector is to work as adjuster for an insurance company? Thanks for listening to me ramble on.

Hey Frustrated—I really feel your pain. I see and hear repairers’ frustrations on a daily basis. Times are tough for everyone. I would hate to see you give up.

When you decided to look at the lean process, did you not see an improvement in your shop’s performance? Just maybe the insurance company did you a favor and you didn’t even know it.

Lean can make you and your company more profitable. I realize that you place all of the blame on the insurance company, but you—like many other owners—took the easy way out. You mentioned that you built your business on quality and customer loyalty, but you got away from your core business and the skills to drive that core business.

I hear your frustrations and I totally understand how you fell under the DRP myth. I had the same belief as you, and countless other shop owners, and I would probably have made the same decisions, but the fact of the matter is that there is hope.

You need to work with your state and national organizations. Gentlemen like Lee Amaradio of Faith Quality Collision and Allen Wood of the Collision Repair Association of California did not give up on California SB 427. They worked to get the governor of California to veto the bill and he did. The badly-worded bill would have put aftermarket parts, used parts, OEM parts and rebuilt parts under one category called ‘crash parts,’ and the governor decided most of it was duplicative of existing law.

Embrace the lean concepts and become more efficient in the repair process. If you can get out more vehicles through efficiency in the same time period and with less personnel, wouldn’t it be a whole lot better?

Have you ever made an inquiry to the DEG (www.degweb.org)? We all assume that the times provided by the information providers are accurate, but guess what, they are not. The DEG researches all our inquires and gets results (increase times). If something is not right let them know. If you and everyone else in the repair industry do nothing, nothing will ever change.

Lastly, your comments on I-CAR. I am an I-CAR instructor for live classes as well as all of the welding qualification tests. For the last 5½ years I have taught over 13,000 students and I think I can speak with a little bit of authority about I-CAR. It is not a perfect organization by a long shot. There are excellent, above-average and average classes. I don’t care what class that you or your people attend, you will always come away with more knowledge than you started with.

Vehicles have changed drastically the last 5 years and the repairs have followed suit. There is no way you can keep up with the changes without training and I-CAR is one of a few sources that can give you the knowledge to repair today’s vehicles.

When I-CAR went to the repair industry to find out what was needed, only a few people stepped forward to voice their opinions. Everyone likes to bitch about it, but again, only a few stood up to be counted. I am always complaining about things I see wrong with I-CAR and I have sometimes been branded as a malcontent. I wear that as badge of honor because that is only way I can effect change. I-CAR is a vital part of the repair industry and you and the rest of the industry need to get involved (through your local committees). Let them hear what you think is wrong and what is right. Lastly, I would like to comment on your statement about the Quality Control Class.

The QUA 01 class was just released and I have taught it five times to date. You need to realize that it is an overview of the entire collision process and demonstrates where things can go wrong.

The lean process is about eliminating waste. If you need to redo a repair, think about the cost and the waste. Redos happen through the entire process and after a vehicle has been delivered. Having the advance knowledge of where a glitch can occur, you can take steps to reduce or even eliminate that potential problem. That saves time and money and reduces waste.

We as an industry can deliver three things: time, price and quality. The insurance industry wants a cheap price in the shortest amount of time, without loss of quality.

I hear from shops all the time about how great their cycle time is, but what they consider a quality repair and what I consider a quality repair can be completely different.

What we need is quality repairs and that only comes from a higher price than what is being paid for by the insurance industry. If the insurance industry is so concerned about quality and not just a repair that gets by, they need to work with repairers and set standards and reimburse the repairers accordingly.

Our world is changing and both sides need to come together to give the consumer the best possible repair that pay for and deserve.

Hang in there. It will get better.

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