Collision Repair: Looking Ahead

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Solid repair planning is critical to ensure the process goes smoothly. Photo Huw Evans

Today, a comprehensive approach to repair planning is essential.

Collision repair, by its very nature, is an unpredictable business. We don’t know when collisions are going to happen, nor can we predict when parts to fix the vehicle will arrive. Nor can we predict other external influencing factors such as economic uncertainty, supply chain disruptions, and global pandemics.

What we can do, however, is create processes and goals that are department centric toward repair planning. By doing so, the shop and its staff can develop a creative strategy that will allow the business to adapt and pivot in the face of unpredictability. According to Domenic Prochilo, Vice President, Simplicity Car Care, some of the metrics that can be used to do this range from looking at supplements as a percentage of sales, to the number of vehicles monthly/weekly that have supplements (hard counts); repair versus replace as a percentage, as well as parts to labour ratios. “When beginning a goal-directed journey on improving a shop repair planning,” says Prochilo, “a shop will find that these metrics will help them become more creative in managing the repair planning process.”

Parts shortages

A key issue still facing many collision centres today is parts shortages—often as a result of global supply chain disruptions and logistical challenges. As a result, many shops are looking at ways to expedite the repair process to ensure vehicles are completed. According to Stu Klein, Technical Trainer at Fix Network, this has resulted in an emphasis on repairing versus replacing panels, though, in order to execute this strategy effectively, shops and technicians need to ensure they fully understand the OEM requirements for a specific repair to ensure the panel or material in question can actually be repaired.

Ultimately it comes down to whether the shop is able to fix the vehicle in a timely manner and perform the repairs properly. At CARSTAR, Zone Director Andrew Northrup emphasizes the need to think outside the box. While assessing the repairability of particular panels or components is one thing, another is looking at alternative methods in obtaining the right parts required. “Can you consider a used part for this particular repair, or can you reach out to another vendor?”

Another trend we’ve been seeing as a result of parts shortages is shops working with the customers to perform temporary repairs to ensure the vehicle is drivable, though in these kinds of situations, there needs to be a clear understanding of what is acceptable in terms of functionality and safety. This also becomes particularly important when it comes to the length of rental (LOR) since it’s in the best interests of both the shop and the customer to ensure their vehicle is repaired and returned to service as soon as possible. For drivable vehicles, it is therefore critical to ensure repair scheduling is planned appropriately. “We don’t want to schedule a repair if a part is backordered, and it can be driven,” explains Northrup.

Non-drivable vehicles

For non-drivable vehicles, while the repair planning process is still the same at the initial appraisal stage, once the dismantling process begins, a decision needs to be made as to whether the vehicle can be made drivable while parts are back-ordered. Northrup says it’s important ask questions such as “can we get the mechanical repairs done? Are some parts available or do we need to wait until every part has been delivered? No matter the circumstance, we need to take the time to educate the customer on the repair process as well as any supply chain delays, to keep our customers happy,” he says.

The importance of accuracy

Accurate repair planning is essential to ensure the process of returning the vehicle to pre-collision condition goes as smoothly as possible. And it starts with research. Donald Hall, Field Operations Manager, Alberta/Saskatchewan for CSN Collision Centres notes that by not only performing the required pre-scans on the vehicle but also coupling them with OEM repair procedures, the shop is able to quickly identify any potential delays due to ADAS calibrations or other specific requirements.

Furthermore, it’s also important to note whether the customer’s insurance carrier has any specific endorsements and whether it will permit the use of aftermarket or used parts for the repair, or whether OEM parts must be used. Vehicle mapping is also a very effective method for improving repair planning accuracy. “By drawing out the required repairs on the vehicle,” explains Hall, “you help give your technicians a road map at a glance and also help tell your story to the insurance company image desk when requiring repair approvals.”



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