The Gap: Feather, Fill and Block
Three members of ASA's Refinish Subcommittee weigh in on feather, fill and block.
Editor's Note: For purposes of this article, the term "feather, fill and block" refers to the same process as "feather, prime and block." The two terms are commonly accepted in the collision repair industry and are used interchangeably in this article.
In collision repair, the term that has become known as "The Gap" refers to the part of the repair process that exists from the time the repair ends and where the refinish process begins. The repair area is finished up to150 grit and void of any surface imperfections. Once this stage is reached, the panel is handed off to the painter, who will work the area more to get the panel to accept the paint.
Central to the feather, fill and block issue is compensation. Because of the "gap" that exists between repair and refinish, there has been some question as to compensation issues in regard to overlooked steps that are necessary to complete a quality repair.
AutoInc. recently asked members of ASA's Refinish Subcommittee questions regarding the issue to see how various members interpreted this complex topic. Committee members Ron Nagy, Dan Stander and Mike West weighed in on the issue in this question-and-answer format:
Question: Two years ago, ASA's Collision Division Refinish Subcomittee released a study, which was based on 100 time studies recorded and tabulated by the subcommittee to collect the data provided by various committee members. Participants of the time studies were asked to record the amount of time involved in the feather, fill and block procedure. The study results indicated the required times to be slightly more than an hour for approximately a 2.5-square-foot area. This is based on the average amount of time spent to feather, edge and block a repaired panel to return it to the condition of a new undamaged part and ready for the refinish process.
Based on the study, how did the findings affect your work as a collision repairer (if any)? Are the findings a good average for estimating feather/prime/block?
Ron Nagy: Like anything new, everything needs to be tweaked. But, this was a great way to get the ball rolling on a topic that essentially meant insurance companies were getting work done free from the collision industry.
Dan Stander: The ASA Refinish Subcommittee's findings are a good average for this "not included" operation. This is a procedure shops must complete for repairing damaged panels.
Mike West: Actually, based on our own time studies (at our shop), we found that the time to feather, fill and block one square foot was 1.1 hrs. We based our study on an average of 10 examples. Are we slow? I don't think so, but we are accurate.
Question: Central to the feather/prime/block issue is compensation. Some experts in the industry suggest that the best way to get compensated for feather/ prime/block is to have an itemized list of steps involved in the process for insurers. Would you agree with this suggestion? Also, are there additional steps you would recommend? What steps do you take to be compensated for the "gap" work of feather/prime/block?
Ron Nagy: I feel it must be a line item on the estimate just to show the process was charged and done. It also shows the insurance industry and customer a step that must be taken to do quality repairs so that there is no misunderstanding.
Dan Stander: Industry experts have suggested that the way for repairers to get compensated for feather, prime and block is to come up with a list of steps involved for this procedure. ASA's Refinish Subcommittee did just that and the "Refinish Fliers" were created (go to www.ASAshop.org or call (800) 272-7467 for more information). These simple-to-use fliers compare and explain the additional steps necessary for refinishing a new vs. a repaired panel. The additional procedures on a repaired panel in the flier simply explain the "gap." I suggest shops give a copy to every adjuster and insurer who walks into their shop to help educate them to understand this is a necessary operation and shops should be compensated for time and materials. In addition, shops need to utilize the P-Pages as additional documentation on feather, prime and block.
Mike West: I agree that showing insurers our itemized "calculator" is the best way, but the reality is that getting insurers to pay is often difficult. If we can't get it, we usually estimate the size of the area in square feet and then add that on top of the metal straightening time.
Question: Have you found the issue surrounding feather/prime/ block to be more of a negotiation issue rather than a technical issue? If yes [it's more of a negotiation issue], how have you as a collision repairer negotiated this issue to get compensated for your time?
Ron Nagy: We put it on as a line item and then inform the customer and/or insurance company of the process it takes.
Dan Stander: I believe many insurance companies understand this is a necessary procedure; however, it is a cost-saving measure for them not to compensate repairers for this operation or to state it is "included" in another operation. Then it becomes a negotiation issue. We utilize the ASA fliers and the P-Pages.
We as an industry need to do a better job of getting professional training to our employees on how to deal with these issues. How many of you have sent your employees to any type of professional sales, training, negotiation seminars or classes? I bet not too many and I am just as guilty. Ask the next adjuster who walks in your door when he was last required to go to a training class.
Mike West: Well, it's both. Technically, I believe that many repairers just overlook this issue and remain uncompensated for the operation; that's one reason we have difficulty collecting for it. I've told the insurers that more repairers would be willing to repair parts rather than replace if they were properly compensated for feather, fill and block.
Question: Do you have any direct repair program (DRP) relationships where the issue of feather/prime /block is recognized and addressed by insurers?
Ron Nagy: Yes. So much of getting this issue recognized and addressed is the personality of the adjuster and region of the insurance company. It's even different between locations of three of our shops.
Dan Stander: We do work with some insurers who are starting to recognize this issue, and we work with many others who will have nothing to do with it. A few will allow a line item while others understand this is a necessary operation we must do, but will still have to deny it. Some who deny it will then cost shift this into another category.
Mike West: No, and I have four DRPs.
Question: Realizing that different markets exist in different regions of the country, how have you seen the issue of feather/prime/ block addressed in your area over the past year?
Ron Nagy: It's very different depending on the location, adjuster, insurance company and you can even mix and match these.
Dan Stander: No, it hasn't been addressed by insurers.
Mike West: Generally, it's ignored.
Question: Anything else that you would like to share with fellow ASA members on this issue?
Ron Nagy: Just that it is a process that is done and we must charge for every process we do. There is no other business or profession out there that works free.
Dan Stander: Get involved.
Mike West: I encourage all repairers to document the steps and the actual time it takes to do this procedure to become aware of what they're not being compensated for. We should no longer accept this procedure as a not-compensated-for operation.
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