By Angie Wilson
"Blend Within Panel" was one of three discussion group meetings this morning as NACE presented its first Early-Bird Roundtable sessions prior to the Town Hall Breakfast featuring Total Loss issues.
The session was led by Mike West, a longtime ASA member, I-CAR instructor and owner of Southtowne Auto Rebuild in Tukwila, Wash. "We're in a declining market whether we like it or not. With twice as many vehicles on the road these days, it has become an over-capacity situation and the insurance companies are aware of this," said West. "It's a negotiation situation that we have to work through.
The session consisted of audience feedback and exchanges on topics such as lack of agreement on definition of a blend; being paid for labor and refinish time and materials; and the additional skill required to perform the blend.
Attendees at the 7 a.m. session came from businesses across the nation, but all similar issues of concern. "It's a hot issue," said one shop owner, and the majority of attendees agreed the industry must pull together to address it.
Education and documentation were consistent elements in the hour-long discussion. Shops must continue to do their best to educate insurer representatives and estimators. "We're losing money in this type of procedure," said West. "It isn't right. It isn't fair. But [estimators] may in all actuality not know about this procedure or situation and may be following company policy." West added, "Documentation and proof in why it isn't right, and why it isn't fair, is a necessity."
"We have to stand up as an industry and say, 'This is what it costs!'" said one attendee. "In my opinion, the people writing these estimates are not from this industry. The industry itself is going to have to tell the insurance industry." Another attendee who said he had lowered his direct repair program volume significantly during the past several years agreed, adding, "Increased capacity is an issue. If you're going to work for nothing, I'd rather someone else get the job."
West offered attendees three specific steps to address the blend within panel issue.
"First, you must use documentation that states it takes longer to do these types of procedures. Second, Get the information for the Automotive Service Association and it Collision Division Operations Committee documenting the procedures for Blend vs. New Panels. And third, get the Toby Chess time study on blend
(which shows additional units of time are needed for blend operations). Then you can communicate with documentation and facts," said West.
The Blend vs. New refinish flier, the third in a series of fliers from ASA addressing refinish times, is a free document available in a PDF version on ASA's Web site, www.ASAshop.org. ASA members may access the flier in the Members Only section of the site by entering their ASA member number. Nonmembers may request the flier free of charge by contacting ASA's membership department at (800) 272-7467, ext. 295. ASA's "New vs. Used Panel" and "LKQ vs. New" refinish fliers area also available free of charge.
Responding to ASA's new trio of refinish fliers, a shop owner from Ohio said, "I'm going to get those out to the paint supplier and make sure he gets those out to all shops." Hard-copy samples of each flier were distributed to attendees of the Blend Within Panel session. The fliers were also distributed from ASA's booth during NACE Expo hours each day of the show.
Additional tips from the audience included writing your state insurance commissioner, senator and representatives; and take time to communicate with your information providers. Bruce Burrows, a collision industry educator and AMI-approved instructor, reminded the group to examine the true definition of a blend, emphasizing it's an "incremental panel." "We've got to get this settled," said Burrows. "We need to have rules that apply to the way we do business today."
"Is there a Silver Bullet out here that will solve all our problems? No," said West. "But all our tools we can use to attack this problem."