Mitchell Joins CCC, Audatex in Giving Users Flexibility with Blend Formula

The discussion at the latest CIC also covered the disappointing results of a recent technician survey, and ADAS-related paint issues.

Ryan Brown of AkzoNobel, left, and Jeff Wildman of BASF, center, discussed ADAS-related refinish issues during a panel discussion moderated by Aaron Schulenburg, right.

Mitchell International said the company’s cloud estimating system will now allow users to set up at the profile level their own default settings for clear coat, three-stage, two-tone, blend, finish sand and buff, de-nib and finesse, and refinish adjustments.

“Being at the profile level, you can set up one for walk-ins, and a different one for each insurer, so giving a ton of flexibility to our customers,” Jack Rozint of Mitchell International said in making the announcement at the latest Collision Industry Conference (CIC), held in Palm Springs.

Rozint was asked if any of its formulas for those items will be changed.

“Our defaults have not changed at this time,” Rozint said.

Mitchell becomes the third of the Big 3 estimating system providers to provide greater flexibility to users on establishing blend times that differ from the default 50% of full refinish. The Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) has been among those calling on the information providers for a blend formula change since the association conducted a study in 2022 that showed blending takes more time than a complete panel refinish.

OEM to Check on Certified Shops

In another announcement at CIC, a Nissan Motor Company representative said this spring, the OEM will begin doing repair quality audits at its certified body shops.

“In April, we’re going to start doing inspections to make sure that our shops are doing what they’re told to do per our processes,” said Dan Dent, who oversees the certified collision repair network for Nissan. “We’re going to put our money where our mouth is in that sense because it is important.”

Dent’s announcement followed a CIC committee presentation about the committee’s study of 26 vehicles---not connected to any particular automaker nor type of shop---for which significant repair problems were found during a post-repair inspection.

“About 50% of them had moderate to severe frame issues that were unaddressed,” said Daniel Rosenberger of BASF, a committee member.

Dent said the committee’s presentation highlighted the cost of bad repairs to everyone---shops, consumers, insurers and automakers---and demonstrates the need for all segments of the industry to work together on the problem.

“I think insurers and the OEMs probably should take this as an opportunity to get engaged to try to solve this,” he said. “I know that I want to have that conversation for sure. If there are insurers who’d like to share in that, I’d love to have it.”

ADAS-Related Refinish Issues

Another panel discussion at CIC focused on some of the cautions related to refinishing bumper covers or other parts installed over ADAS-related radar sensors. Jeff Wildman of BASF and Ryan Brown of AkzoNobel noted “radar-approved” colors must not be tinted---doing so can impact the ability of the radar to perform as designed through the finish---and therefore more blending around such parts may be required. Film thickness must be consistent over the radar area---so no blending of base or clear coat can occur over these areas---and total film build must be within the range provided by the automaker and paint manufacturer.

“If it says two coats of base coat, it’s two coats of base coat, not a third coat because I have some paint left in the gun,” Wildman said. “It’s two coats because that third coat could make the radar not work.”

Brown and Wildman agreed the total film build should be measured after refinishing.

“Painters have kind of like a fingerprint or a DNA of how they spray,” Brown said. “And so they’re generally fairly consistent. But across a field of different technicians, they’re all going to be vastly different [from one another]. And whether a part is painted lying out flat or standing up can influence the amount of the paint layer that is on there.”

Another reason for the measurement: It can help document what was done to the vehicle since shops cannot rely solely on a successful calibration of the system as an indication that all refinish procedures were followed.

“If I don’t put it back to the condition that’s asked for by the OEM [and paint manufacturer], it can still pass calibration but not actually read correctly,” Brown said. “So we need to make sure we obtain the repair procedures, and we actually get them [applied] to all cars involved.”

The back of the bumper cover needs to be masked or protected during refinish, Wildman said. “You don’t want lot of overspray on the back of that bumper because that’s adding more material between the radar and whatever is out there that it’s bouncing off of,” he said.

Brown said all of this points to the need to make sure the refinish department has easy access in the paint shop to OEM and paint manufacturer refinish procedures related to underlying radar sensors.

“We really haven’t had a time in years past where the responsibility for refinish technicians has been the safety of the people driving the car,” Brown said.

Make the Industry a Better Place to Work

Also during CIC in Palm Springs, Andrew Batenhorst, manager of Pacific BMW Collision Center in Glendale, CA, said he personally was “extremely embarrassed and disappointed” at what a survey of collision repair technicians found last year. The survey, commissioned by I-CAR and SCRS, found that among more than 800 responding technicians, only about 7 in 10 said they were satisfied with their career, and as a group they have a negative “net promoter score,” meaning the majority would not recommend the career to friends or family. Only about 15% said their benefits included health insurance, paid time off or a retirement plan, and about a similar percentage said compensation plans lead to skipped steps during repairs.

“We have only one group of people, in my opinion, to blame for the technician shortage, and that’s us right here,” said Batenhorst, who serves on the SCRS Board of Directors. “We have not made this an attractive industry to work in. My food for thought would be: As a CIC body, we may want to consider how we develop leaders and the type of skills that are needed for the current influx of people that are getting into managing shops. Because that to me is the lowest-hanging fruit that’s out there. If you want to see people start coming into our industry, we ought to make it a lovely place to work. And that’s not just pay. It’s not just benefits. It’s how we as leaders make ourselves available, to be involved with quality control, with process, with repairs, with all aspects of running a shop. And to me, it was disappointing to see that kind of feedback come through on that survey.”

Batenhorst urged shops---whether at CIC or not---to take the issue seriously.

“The answers are out there. It’s just up to us if we’re going to make a difference or not,” he said, drawing applause from CIC attendees.

John Yoswick

John Yoswick is a freelance writer and Autobody News columnist who has been covering the collision industry since 1988, and the editor of the CRASH Network... Read More

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