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Tapping Technology

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Greater efficiencies get it right the first time.

Anyone under the age of 30 likely doesn’t know a world without the Internet. To them, technology is just part of life.

In fact, young people crave technology. They don’t want to do the same job twice, and they don’t like to see waste. They want to do it right the first time and move on. Any of the software that’s out there helps to run the business that way.

When I started, I was hand-writing estimates on a piece of paper. Then we’d photocopy it to get the extra copy for the customer and maybe fax it to the insurance company.

But today, there’s so much more to do. You need photos, information, parts searches, scheduling systems, and it’s impossible to do it without technology.

One-time final bill

Insurers expect shops to be tech savvy. From an angle of risk or litigation, everyone’s so worried about what will happen down the road, they need to have everything documented. That way, if anything comes up in a lawsuit, you’ve got the documentation to prove what you’ve done.

At Craftsman, we developed our own proprietary system, the Craftsman Management System (CMS), that’s designed to do everything for us. We didn’t want to take a management system off the shelf because it doesn’t fit our needs as a multi-shop owner. We felt that building it internally was the way to go.

Our CMS has all our financial data, metrics and touch times in one system. We can produce reports that show us how our business is doing, which is beneficial to our internal performance groups. Now, we’ve got a bar coding system that makes it easier for our managers and production people. Every car has a stage listed on it, so that the bar coders go around and automatically update the system. At head office, I can see all the stores and where all the vehicles are. Eventually, we can do more customer updating based on bar coding, and tie in new customer service initiatives.

It is a bit more work for everyone, since there are so many screens that managers have to go through, compared to 10 years ago. But we’re closer to our goal of making a one-time final bill.

If we can do it one time versus two or three, we’ll save hours on each estimate. In the past, we used to have two or three supplements on every job. Our real focus is to look for efficiencies to get us down to one estimate sheet and one parts order.

Streamlined and integrated

Hopefully, as we move forward, all these systems will become more streamlined. In the future, systems should be more like an Apple model, where everything’s intuitive.

Manufacturers may end up having diagnostics over the air, eliminating all of the separate items we need to do. It won’t be surprising if over the next 10 years, a car comes in with an accident and it will already have an email or printout about exactly what’s wrong with it—before we even see it. The manufacturers already use telematics to contact the customer, so why not extend it to the next step?

OEMs may take some of it out of our hands, making it easier to do diagnostics. That will make it more integrated and make our jobs easier.

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