Panel & Paint
Last month I challenged a panel shop owner of many years’ experience to tell me what was “on top of his mind”. The result was not unexpected as I had heard many similar versions from all over the country. However, it did provoke some thinking. What if you were given a very large blank piece of paper and were asked to redesign the entire New Zealand collision repair and insurance industries.
So I ask you, how would you do it? What ideas would you commit to the page that would shape these two very vital and significant parts that need each other to work in a sustainable manner?
Now you have considered this, what if you were invited to participate in a high-powered group tasked with rationalising every facet of how collision damaged vehicles were to be repaired?
Would it take hours, days, or months to come up with a practical solution designed by your task force representative of: insurers, parts suppliers (new and used), vehicle importers, and you?
Would you regulate the panel shops and make it that you must have a practising certificate – and only for certain types of repair in some kind of rationalisation – or just allow market forces to act in an evolutionary fashion so only the strong survived?
How many insurance companies would be allowed to sell motor insurance policies – would there be one, or should central government be involved in such a way as to allow many? Now that we have introduced government, should there be certain rules and requirements, and would there be a watchdog to ensure that everyone played nicely in the sandpit?
Would you let insurance companies say who can be in their repair networks, or who can supply parts and under what terms? How should insurers interact with repairers – through real people called insurance assessors, or should there just be some sort of fixed price digital mechanism that knows every aspect of what everyone does, so you could simply just get on with the job and get paid according to a complex algorithm that produces a result depending on your location.
Could one price (an average) be paid out regardless of location/job complexity/make and model?
By now you will notice you have probably run out of paper or run out of the room; as there are literally hundreds of combinations of how things could be done, and your task force died of old age before consensus had been reached. Most readers will recognise there are very few correct answers that wouldn’t result in an unfair practise for one side or the other.
Sometimes it takes years to manifest that every element changed has an implication to many others, because everything is connected.
However, when you consider the dramatically reduced numbers of smaller workshops to repair a growing number of vehicles with fewer qualified tradesmen; then factor in the loss of many dismantlers available to sell parts to a very small pool of insurers, you begin to realise there is much to be considered – and learned
If one day a finely balanced magic formula was developed; you can bet human nature (or accountants driven by shareholders) would want to do something to get an advantage so last year’s results were improved by a nice margin!
In short, regardless of which side of the table you are on, ambition will ensure the playing field will always have a steady stream of casualties leave on stretchers. Yes, competition is a bitch and nothing stays the same – so you may as well ditch the piece of paper and go fishing!
The rise of the EV
Our sister publication Company Vehicle, was recently involved as co-sponsors of a very interesting Drive Electric Day in Auckland during early May. It was a fascinating event that attracted a wide cross-section of the automotive industry and many fleet operators. The performance of the Audi, BMW, Nissan and Mitsubishi electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles available to be driven was somewhat amazing with100 percent of torque being immediately available on touching the accelerator.
We heard from several commentators of the benefits of this sustainable technology, including that the total cost of ownership was hugely less than equivalent conventional vehicles. Chris Binns of Sydney City, told us of his experience introducing EVs into the council pool fleet. Firstly no one wanted to drive them. Then they became the first choice, and there would rarely be one sitting in the car park – unless it was being charged up.
If you wonder why electric vehicles (EVs) are being mentioned this month; it’s because the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association (IMVIA) members recognise the significance of this new sector and they will soon be bringing numbers of used EVs into the country. You need to know they have some pretty specific needs when it comes to crash repair.
It can reasonably be expected that sooner or later one is going to turn up at your workshop. From what we heard from manufacturers’ representatives there are some special needs around even basic repairs, so it would be wise to check with them before you write the estimate and unleash the team… which leads us to the next topic.
Health and safety
Health and safety in the workplace is soon to get a makeover. No big deal you might think, but you might like to jump on http://www.business.govt. nz/worksafe/about/reform This reform has massive implications to anyone in a position of control of a workplace.
It has been mentioned in a previous issue, but just in case you missed it – if someone is fatally or seriously injured in your workplace, responsibility will shift to those found negligent. This could be the team leader, foreman, manager or director of the organisation, and you could face a massive fine or a jail term depending on the degree of irresponsibly.
You might like to review all your systems and processes to ensure staff are suitably trained and qualified, all hazardous materials are suitably used or stored, and nothing can fall, slip, or fly off and hit someone within range.
Visitors and customers often don’t understand the hazards you may take for granted; so it’s best to be safe than in jail simply because you allowed an idiot to walk around the chain attached to a two kg clamp under a five ton strain while pulling out the side of their car.
Just in case you don’t think this applies to you, best you read section 5: “The inclusion of health and safety duties of workers and other persons at a workplace ensures that every workplace participant has a statutory duty for health and safety and must take reasonable care to fulfil that duty. This underlines the idea that health and safety at work is the responsibility of everyone who is there.”
This month… To summarise, a higher perspective involving the complete revitalisation of the insurance and collision repair sectors has hopefully assisted an understanding your dream of becoming the Queen is probably even more realistic than trying to resolve this very complex business environment.
My apologies if I’ve inadvertently cast a shadow of doubt on the petrol head fantasy that your hot machine is always going to drag off every electric vehicle.
The bright side is at least your V8 has a glorious sound that will alert any pedestrian – unlike the very quietness of electric vehicles. It can be expected there will be many fleet and private owners queuing up to enjoy the savings of the equivalent of 30c/litre, so it might be a good time to find out how they should be repaired.
The workplace safety reforms coming at you later this year could see you in jail for letting an idiot wander around the workshop without holding your hand. Silly as that may sound, it’s well past time individual responsibility became a serious topic.
A good place to start might be to round up the team and get them to work together to identify the hazards then develop a set of guidelines for your new health and safety manual.
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