Panel & Paint
Social media has the power to sweep long established governments out of office. Or as we have just learned from watching the recent failed coup attempt in Turkey, bring out the populace to stare down well-armed soldiers complete with tanks and attack helicopters – now that’s what I call commitment!
However, in New Zealand’s collision repair industry it would seem that we have still yet to learn the pen can be mightier than the sword. Words have meaning and power; especially if committed to writing and stated often enough through social media as in the examples above. Last month I raised the issue of the skill shortages in not only this industry, but generally across most sectors.
The paradox that seems to exist is that everyone has an opinion, but it would seem as long as it’s only spoken, no one from an insurance company can use it against an individual. How do I know this? Years of hearing the same tired stories of how hard it is, and the absolute lack of positive ideas or action on how the industry can become more sustainable for all concerned.
Seducing school leavers
So just how do we seduce our school leavers into becoming automotive technicians, panel beaters, body builders, spray painters, or auto electricians? Are these trades too hard to learn, dirty, unpleasant, too poorly paid, uncool or what? Are our current tradesmen too busy or grumpy to train people? Is there a concern among our young that these skills are short dated and won’t survive the rise of the autonomous vehicle? Or heaven forbid, you guys are just way too busy to attract, recruit and train young people?
It wasn’t me, but…
Someone asked me about “my” article about autonomous vehicle. For the record I didn’t write the story “Autonomous cars will hit insurers – expert" as included on the Panel & Paint pages last month. Apparently by 2035 crashes will have reduced by 80 percent due to technological advances. However, our national motor fleet is an average of 12 years old, so anyone suggesting that in the next 19 years we won’t be needing Insurance companies is making a pretty bold statement.
The article seems to be quoting from the EU experience, but as we know not everyone drives a Volvo, and Euro trends seem to take a while before getting to our tiny place on the other side of the world.
Talking of trends – yes, there is a need to panic, for the vast majority of jobs as we know them will change dramatically or disappear due to advances in technology; and sooner than we think. All those in training to be accountants and lawyers will be replaced by smart databasedriven systems, and many others will be replaced with an upsurge in robotic systems. The one constant will be that you will still need to provide for yourself and any dependents.
My pick is that the way things are going, in a few short years the majority of guys in charge of today’s collision repair shops will have had enough of intensification, lack of quality staff, higher standards of repair and equipment; and will have sold out to property developers hungry to make a fast buck by converting commercial buildings into dwellings.
My other pick is that it will be quite some time before artificial intelligence will be able to drive a robot sufficiently well enough to do collision repairs – the task to devise it would be monumental, and way too expensive.
Fat-cat times a-coming
Those left operating will become the fat cats of old, and will be laughing about the days when collision repairers used to sell their time for less than $120 per hour. Anyone joining our industry and learning a trade will inherit the cars of today, classics to be restored or rebuilt to the exacting standards of the rebels with the cash to be able to follow their passion for white knuckle driving among the clones on the roads of tomorrow; without pesky onboard systems.
The great thing about learning a trade is the practical upside of gaining a diverse range of transferable skills that can readily be applied elsewhere, such as boat-building, house DIY, or project management. I even met a hairdresser who was once a trade qualified panel beater!
Feedback from CRA
I was delighted to receive an email from Neil Pritchard supporting the views expressed that indeed the industry is experiencing a severe skill shortage. Thanks, Neil, for outlining a few of the CRA’s initiatives: 1. CRA July Roadshow currently touring 11 venues nationwide features three speakers, one of which is One World Resourcing which offers services including labour hire and staff selection of panelbeaters and spraypainters from the Philippines. 2. We have an apprenticeship scholarship available for panel and paint which pays for apprentice fees and provides mentoring by Rick Lunn – I-CAR instructor and WorldSkills coach. 3. CRA has commissioned a video to promote the
industry to young potential entrants. 4. Additionally we have a mobile kit for use at careers expos and the like. This is constantly being refined and improved. For more information about the CRA or how to get started in a career with a future, you might like to check out www.collisionrepair.co.nz/careers-video – and even better, why not seek approval from Neil to link it to your own websites?
Is this your new career?
The video mentioned in point 3 above is a great insight into a very challenging industry. Someone seeing it today for the first time could be in three or four years’ time be rebuilding a mangled mess to a standard and tolerance specified by the manufacturer, utilising an extensive array of equipment.
Or perhaps they may be putting the final touches to an airbrushed mural on the custom paint finish they have just applied. If they weren’t fully into this, how about becoming an estimator responsible for preparing quotes and project managing collision repair work. Running an office as an administrator requires huge attention to detail and juggling the many aspects of purchasing, staff, courtesy cars, and customers.
Recently I prepared a process map for a client outlining the various aspects of managing a panel shop. When you see it in this format the complexities of running a modern collision repair shop are revealed. As you know it must by necessity must be done very efficiently and cost effectively – there are many hidden places where leakage can and will occur if not identified and properly managed or monitored.
About last month
Last month I suggested we all have responsibility for succession planning, and this extends to introducing new people to a career they may not have otherwise thought of. I mentioned that I would do a follow up and include some of the more interesting responses you emailed me.
There were a few calls agreeing with my views, and one shop owner who spotted me fueling up came over to say he mostly agreed with the views expressed here! But strangely, apart from Neil’s email, which I have quoted from above, I had nothing serious from insurance companies or anyone else for that matter offering wads of cash to incentivise recruiting as I had proposed.
Trends are always intriguing, and there is a worrying one I’ve noticed from a customer perspective. It’s the length of time it now takes from accident damage through to repair. Although we collect all sorts of stats I have yet to analysis this data to determine how this has changed over the last year or two. However, at a guess I would suggest the average is quite possibly as much as seven to 10 days overall, mostly because of intensification – fewer network repairers doing more work and having longer waiting lists as a result.
And finally, it would seem there are more new parts on order from overseas for common models… an example I keep tripping over is frontal stuff for late model Corollas having to be ordered from Japan. Come on Toyota – it’s probably the most common car on the road – is this the best you can do for your customers? As always you can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to tell me why I’ve got it wrong… or share your vision for a positive future of the industry.