Explore the innovation behind asTech Driven by Repairify’s patented Rules Engine in a conversation with Cris Hollingsworth.
Diagnostics and scanning are becoming an ever more important part of both collision and mechanical repairs. Plus, as vehicles become more complex, there is a greater need than ever to determine which tools can perform accurate scans, enabling technicians to get to the heart of the problem faster and more efficiently.
To help them, asTech Driven by Repairify has developed its patented Rules Engine which recommends the most accurate and cost-effective scan tool option for technicians. This can include an authentic, remote OEM diagnostic scan through asTech’s patented technology, or a certified OEM-Compatible aftermarket scan—one that is certified and warrantied to provide results equivalent to using an authentic OEM scan tool.
Since diagnostics and ADAS calibration is a fluid and constantly evolving field, asTech has and continues to research and create case studies, that illustrate the ability for shops and technicians to choose the best scan solutions for their specific needs and the vehicle they are working on.
To gain more insight into the Rules Engine, how it works and what it offers, we sat down with Cris Hollingsworth, President of Repairify Global Holdings.
Autosphere: What do shops need to consider today in order to perform accurate and successful scans/calibrations/diagnostics on late-model vehicles for both collision and mechanical repairs?
Cris Hollingsworth: In our business, we focus on what we call the “Three T’s”—a triangle of what gets to the most accurate and safest repair based upon OE standards—namely Tools, Technology, and Technician. First, you need to have the right tool to perform a diagnostic, calibration or programming event on the vehicle. If you don’t have a tool that can do that, then you can’t do the job properly. That’s why having the right tool is the foundation for the Rules Engine, because you need a scan tool that can communicate with all the different modules and sensors on the vehicle.
Then there’s the technology aspect. There are different ways in which you can use a tool for a specific job on a vehicle and you want to make sure you can leverage technology to make the job you do more efficient.Additionally, with technology, you can guarantee you’re getting the most accurate repair done based on OE standards. The catch is that if as a shop, you want to perform OE scans and diagnostics, using OE tools exclusively, it can get very expensive, very quickly, since you need to factor in the cost of all the OE tools required to service different vehicle brands, plus the subscription fees and updates. So, you must decide, are you only going to conduct scans locally or are you going to use a mobile provider that will come to your facility and bring their tools with them, or are you going to do those scans remotely?
The latter approach is essentially the foundation of our business, because, through one tool, we provide the ability to access all those authentic OE scan tools. With this approach, you can not only save costs via a fixed asset investment but also be in the position of being able to take your costs and make them variable, related to the work you’re performing.
AS: What other advantages do you see to doing this in the real world, service/repair shop environment?
CH: We all know that our industry is currently grappling with a major shortage of skilled technicians. Competition for techs is fierce and coupled with that, vehicles are becoming more complex. This means having the right technician who is either an expert on a specific OE brand of vehicle and/or is an expert in service, diagnostics and calibration of the programming on a specific vehicle, is essential to ensure the tool is being applied properly.
In our case, the value proposition comes from providing remote service to the shop in which we have an experienced ASE or I-CAR-certified technician running the process. And in almost every case you have ready access to somebody who is an expert with that OEM vehicle brand. Effectively, what we’re doing is providing an expert technician to you via the cloud, which goes back to the Three-T concept of Tool, Technology, and Technician.
AS: From your perspective, what does the Rules Engine represent for the diagnostic/programming/calibration aspect of automotive repair for independent shops that may not have access to all OEM repair information?
CH: For independent shops, going through the Rules Engine enables us to certify, warranty and indemnify, all of our remote scanning and diagnostic work, and that warranty covers the time from when the vehicle is in the shop, until the next time it is brought in for repairs. The indemnity factor is also a key point since we carry insurance identification that we extend to our customers. With this indemnity, our customers are bound to that insurance policy based on the work we do, so when a customer is using our remote services, and for some reason there’s a concern or issue on the other side that might lead to a lawsuit or some type of litigation, we have insurance that protects the repair shop. That’s how we stand behind our services.
What the Rules Engine does, is take advantage of research we have done to validate the different types of tools out there because in our technology solution, you always have the authentic OE tool available, but at the same time, we also realize there is a significant role for aftermarket tools to play in the industry.
AS: Can you expand on this a little bit more?
CH: Many aftermarket service and collision shops have budgetary considerations and with aftermarket tools, it often costs less to perform a scan than using an OE tool, whether it’s done locally or via a remote scan. What we wanted to do, was make sure that by using aftermarket tools, our customers could still be guaranteed a scan that met authentic OE standards. So, what we did, was to scan tens of thousands of vehicles with the nine leading aftermarket scan tools and do a direct comparison to the authentic OE scan tool. The results showed that the aftermarket tool would match its OE equivalent between 80 and 84% of the time.
There was still however, a significant percentage where the aftermarket tool did not match the OE scan tool. From this, we created three distinct nomenclatures. The first was essentially the OE scan that’s done via an authentic OE tool, to which you are connected remotely. The second was OEM compatible, where the technician connects to an aftermarket tool that asTech by Repairify has tested and validated. This matches the OE tool down to the Diagnostic Trouble Code and the number of modules or sensors on the vehicle.
The third term is where a customer uses anything off our asTech by Repairify tool that comes from the local data set of our new all-in-one tool. In this case, we have a term that says the scan is unverified in effectively matching that from the genuine OE tool. By doing this we are giving our customers options, while at the same time continuing to research every day. We go through tens of thousands of vehicles each year—testing the entire vehicle fleet because things change, and, as software and databases are being continuously updated, we’re able to harvest that information which essentially drives the Rules Engine.
AS: So how does the Rules Engine work?
CH: We provide the Rules Engine to the customer as a multi-tiered matrix. It allows the customer to systemically establish the process flow of how their shop and work operate. Because it has multiple tiers, it allows a customer to set up different rules. For example, rule number one could be that the business is a Honda OE-certified collision shop. In this case, the customer hits that flag on rule number one, so if a technician is working on a Honda vehicle, it will always route to an authentic Honda scan tool. If the second rule is that the shop does a lot of work for a certain insurance carrier, the Rules Engine can say that if a certain vehicle belongs to this insurance carrier, a specific set of rules that need to be followed are automatically loaded, and so it goes through a tiered matrix. So, if you set up six rules for a particular scan, the Rules Engine will go through those six rules to see if it needs to trigger any of them and that those rules are always followed in sequential order.
What’s really valuable about this, is number one, you remain compliant with those third-party programs and secondly, that it takes away technician bias so that you know you’re getting the same process performed every single time. Therefore, if you own and operate multiple shops, with multiple technicians, you mitigate any bias they might have when it comes to performing diagnostic scans.
AS: Given ongoing issues relating to cyber security and the right to repair, how do you see the Rules Engine continuing to evolve to provide shops with optimal solutions for diagnostics/calibration/programming?
CH: These concerns can be broken down separately, but they are also complementary. From a cybersecurity standpoint, Repairify works with some of the top-tier cybersecurity companies in the world. We also have regular third-party audits conducted on our network and take steps to ensure our architecture and cybersecurity are extremely secure.
We provide that knowledge to shops because, at the end of the day, we are in the data transfer business—a lot of information goes back and forth between Repairify and our customers (the collision and service shops). Having top security protocols and processes in place and the fact we have a global insurance policy from a carrier that has stress-tested us for cybersecurity provides strong validation and peace of mind for our customers.
Regarding the Right to Repair, it becomes very important for the Rules Engine to have access to a vehicle’s data in a consumable manner because we need to be able to test and validate across the entire car fleet. The right to repair is critical for us to be able to do that, plus it needs to be applied to all players in the industry in an equitable manner to ensure data is not weaponized. At the end of the day, the right to repair is fundamentally about the person that owns the vehicle and yet it’s being battled between OEMs, industry associations and aftermarket players, often leading to the question—so what about the person who owns the vehicle? Right to repair by its nature, is very democratic because the person who bought the vehicle is the one generating the data. They drive it and their behaviour impacts the information being generated by that car or truck.
Data is ultimately, about behaviour, therefore the person generating that data and that behaviour should be the one who has the right to say to a shop whether they can access the data being generated by that vehicle. In that context, the right to repair is essentially a fundamental freedom granted to the vehicle owner.
AS: Is there anything else you’d like to mention related to diagnostic repairs/scanning/calibrations?
CH: I think one point we should touch on is the fact that our industry could do a better job around technician opportunities, as well as getting more people to understand the benefits of being a technician. If the data is right, within five years, we’re going to be more than 120,000 technicians short and that is in the U.S. alone. For the consumer, it is likely that, going forward, they will be waiting longer for their vehicle to be repaired. While technology can help, it only goes so far and at the end of the day, it is still the technician that is touching the steel and fixing the car. So, while you can have tools and solutions that compress the repair process and make workflow more efficient, like the Rules Engine, you still need somebody to physically take a part off and repair and install it on the vehicle. That’s why it’s important for us to market what this industry offers to those looking for careers and show them there is a very rewarding career path of being a technician, both in compensation and accomplishment.
Additionally, there’s also the opportunity for good technicians to become shop and business owners and it’s something we don’t share enough and something we will need to do if we hope to attract people to fill the vacancies we’re currently experiencing.
A final point I’d like to discuss is the coming tsunami around scanning and calibrations. If you’re not aware of the implications ADAS has for your work and your business, you will very quickly become marginalized and miss out on a huge opportunity to grow your business and profitability. That’s why you need to be having conversations around ADAS and how to ensure scanning, diagnostics and ADAS calibrations are an integral part of your business operations since vehicles are only going to become more complex and connected. And if you’re not able to fix them, there is somebody else that will.