OEM Summit Includes Discussion of Scan Tools, Collision Repair Training Costs

OEM Summit Includes Discussion of Scan Tools, Collision Repair Training Costs

The “OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit,” hosted in November by the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, gave representatives of the automakers an opportunity to weigh in on a variety of topics raised by collision repairers.

A panel of OEM trainers, for example, was asked what shops should look for in the technicians they choose to send to OEM training. Some of their answers were surprising.

“The main thing that I notice is technicians who come to training who don’t have basic computer skills,” Mike Kukavica of Porsche said. “They really need to be able to get to the workshop manuals. It’s not a paper book any more. They have to be able to use a computer. They need to be able to look things up.”

Shawn Hart, a trainer with Audi of America, said some students show up with little understanding of why they are even there.

“They’ll say, ‘My manager just said here’s your ticket, you’re going to training,’” Hart said. “That happens quite often.”

He said shops should make sure technicians are really interested in the particular training being offered; he recalled one student who was told by his employer he was going to training to become the shop’s aluminum technician even though that wasn’t the type of work the technician wanted to do.

“If they’re passionate about something, they’ll learn it,” agreed Rick Miller of Jaguar Land Rover. “They’ll really get engaged.”

The panel was also asked what the automakers are doing to curb the expense of OEM training for shops.

“It depends what your definition of ‘high cost of training’ is,” Kukavica said, noting that Porsche training is included in the company’s shop certification fee. “You just have to bring the people to us, and we have two different training locations where you can do that. So we really try to keep the burden both for equipment and training as low as we can. We’ve been charging the same fee for the nine years the program has been going on. We haven’t raised it. I don’t know if that’s going to change, but we’re really trying to do the best we can.”

Miller pointed out that Jaguar Land Rover has I-CAR conduct its training in the United States, and that the cost for that “went down, not up, after 13 years, which is very unusual.”

James Meyer, senior collision repair trainer for Toyota Motor Sales USA, said anyone who has been to one of his company’s training facilities has to recognize the automaker isn’t even recouping its investment in those centers from training fees. He said he thinks the real expense of training for shops is not class fees, but the lost productivity while technicians are away.

“That’s an expense of any training, OEM or otherwise, unless you’re training in your shop, and we’ve found that not to be a very good atmosphere for training,” Meyer said.

In-shop training, he said, can be hampered by limited equipment or by technicians interrupted for production-related issues.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the panelists raised some concerns about shops relying solely on third-party sources of OEM repair procedures and not checking OEM information directly.

Miller said a shop once called him trying to find rivets using an outdated part number from a third-party information source.

“It’s not up-to-date and sends them down rabbit-holes they might not need to go down, and wastes time,” Miller said.

Audi’s Hart agreed that “a lot of times there’s information, fairly important information, that may be missing,” in such third-party sources.

Kukavica said other sources of OEM information “are a god-send if you have no other access” to repair information.

“But at the same time, they’re trying to recreate a database that is updated continuously,” he said. “There’s always some time lag. It’s really important to have the latest information if you can.”

Meyer raised similar concerns. He said a collision repairer back in August was talking to him about some wording in a Toyota procedure that was helping the shop negotiate better.

“I said, ‘I don’t think we would have ever written that,’” Meyer said. “But he sent me the bulletin, from another information provider, and it was a bulletin of ours that was changed or edited, and [he had] the original one, not the revised version. So the information might not be up-to-date or accurate.”

Another panel of during the summit offered their views on the pros and cons of collision shops buying OEM versus aftermarket scan tools. John Hughes of Fiat Chrysler argued that OEM tools tend to be updated more frequently.

“We update it every week,” Hughes said of his company’s scan tool, noting that it could be months before such changes are incorporated into aftermarket tools, and that some minor changes that may only affect a few hundred vehicles might never be incorporated into those tools.

Jason Gabrenas, national diagnostics trainer for Snap-on, acknowledged his company does regular updates to its vehicle communication software app two times per year. But he and Bob Pattengale of Bosch both said that although an OEM tool may make sense for a brand of vehicle a shop is specializing in, a quality aftermarket tool is generally sufficient.

“Let’s say you get a particular late-model car and you just don’t have the feature [needed] in your [aftermarket] scan tool,” Pattengale said. “If you have a J-2534 (compatible) device, you go to a website, you download the diagnostic software that you need, paying for a 2-day or 3-day subscription for under $100, you solve the problem, you put your J-box away and move on. You don’t have to buy the whole [OEM] scan tool and own it for life.”

Gabrenas said the likely lifespan of any tool should also be a factor in a shop’s purchase decision; he said Snap-on generally supports its tools long after it stops selling any particular model.

Doug Kelly, CEO of Collision Diagnostic Services, agreed that “OEM tools change a lot more often,” and thus may have a shorter useful life than aftermarket tools. But “to keep up with the 2016 and 2017 vehicles with all this new technology, I honestly don’t know how a repair shop would start if they aren’t using factory tools,” he said.

He said his company’s remote scanning service via its “asTech” tool, however, prevents a shop from having to invest in either OEM tools that more quickly become outdated or in aftermarket tools that are not as comprehensive nor as frequently updated.

“By delivering the [scanning] service as opposed to the technology, we eliminate the need to have to worry about what version [of scan tool is needed],” Kelly said. “We sell a device that [remotely] connects [the vehicle in your shop] to our OEM scan tool and…our trained technicians.”

John Yoswick, a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988, is also the editor of the weekly CRASH Network bulletin (www.CrashNetwork.com). He can be contacted by email at john@CrashNetwork.com.

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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