The Future Is Here
By Jason Bertellotti
Evolutionary changes in software have resulted in shop management systems that help facilities manage an entire operation more effectively.
Over the past 20 years, doing business in the collision repair industry has become increasingly complex. Long gone are the days when shop owners gave hand-written or verbal estimates, and office procedures were created on the fly and executed by hand.
While vehicles are becoming increasingly "high tech," requiring specialized materials and extensive expertise to repair them, the repair business model has also become a complicated maze to navigate. In addition to being experts in automotive repair, shop owners must also be savvy business professionals. To survive in the current market, they have come to rely on robust, full-featured management systems to help streamline their daily operations and automate strategic business processes so they can focus more of their valuable energy on long-range business decisions.
Today's most advanced systems help shops manage all aspects of their business - the repair process, the customer experience, and financial and administrative tasks (such as accounting, payroll, reporting, etc.) - rather than just production management. These systems are evolving into a single, user-friendly platform - a shop workspace - that integrates all aspects of the business to help improve efficiencies, profitability and growth for the long term.
Early management systems started out as an extension of the estimating system, bolting features on to functionality mandated by their insurance partners. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but over the years the limitations of this approach have become clear.
For instance, what happens when the shop acquires a new direct repair program (DRP) partner that mandates a different estimating system? What happens if a DRP partner opens up their program? Shops that choose the estimating bolt-on route risk locking themselves into a single estimating platform that restricts their choice of management tools. Management systems should adapt with the business as it grows and make life easier for a shop owner.
There is a misconception that some insurance carriers that require DRP shops to use a particular estimating system are also requiring them to use the management system from the same software provider. This is absolutely not the case; shops have the freedom to choose their management system. This is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that it allows shops to take advantage of the latest management system technology on the market.
More evolved management tools are centered around the repair order - not the estimate - recognizing that shops are in the business of repairing vehicles, not writing estimates. These repair-centric management tools are comprehensive, providing a wide variety of functionality that allows shops of any size to choose the exact tools they need for their business. This includes everything from tools that manage each stage of production, improve customer experience, and manage the work force, to delivering the most up-to-date repair procedure information, streamlining photo documentation and creating a paperless shop environment.
In the future, leading management systems will have estimating capability embedded as an option; so the real question is how well their tools organically integrate with the more complex workflow of managing the shop.
When making technology decisions, shops must think carefully about how well a solution meets their needs today and how it can grow with them in the future as their needs change. Making a good choice in a technology partner will help shops drive growth and revenue for the long term, provide the best possible repair experience for their customers and position themselves to meet the challenges of the next 20 years.
||Jason Bertellotti is vice president of repair solutions at Mitchell International where he currently oversees Mitchell's collision repair segment. The Repair Solutions group encompasses all products and services directed specifically to vehicle collision repair facilities. He holds an MBA from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California and a bachelor's degree from UCLA. He may be reached at Jason.Bertellotti@mitchell.com.
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