Vehicle electronics: avoid wash bay diagnostics
The changes taking place in the auto body repair industry are many and daunting. I can only imagine what the coming years will bring. For this reason, many of us who have worked in the industry for a long time find themselves out of our comfort zone.
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The changes in metal and welding were accepted because we understood the structure of the vehicle and its relationship and were familiar with the concept. Full frame in a monohull took a while, but we all adjusted. Aluminum has challenged the industry and the repair industry has adapted. Interestingly, we have had time to adapt our methods and deal with this change. Then the electronics flooded the repair process in no time. People like me who are still trying to learn to use their smartphones have found themselves out of their comfort zone. We did not grow up in the electronic age. We still remember the flashing light on a green screen. Asteroids was a major technological leap in arcade games, and Pong is still remembered.
This has led many people, including me, to learn about vehicle electronics. At first it was hard and complex. Then it has never been easier. More electronics and systems kept coming. We had to learn where the sensors were and what was affecting them. We had to learn how to fix the wires and unplug the connectors and plugs.
Now we need to learn about the connectivity and communication codes of the sensors and modules as well as the computers. DTCs have become an important part of our lives in troubleshooting problems during repairs. Then there was the calibration, the level floors, and the confusion over how and when to calibrate. Add to the mix what is the right and wrong way to calibrate and how to get paid. Some of you may have had a background or the ability to grasp knowledge more easily than most. As an industry, the struggle is real.
Wash bay diagnostics
I am really impressed with the people who took up the challenge and who dug and learned. It took time, effort and money. Many people in the industry I have seen have not pursued any of these three elements or pursued any of them to understand the industry’s focus on electronics and their repair procedures. This has led many people to subscribe to the philosophy of “Ignore it and it will be gone.”
Some have the attitude, “I’ll take care of it later.” This attitude gave birth to the term “wash berry diagnosis”. The wash bay diagnostic occurs when the search for what will need to be initialized, scheduled, or calibrated is ignored during the process of creating plans, estimating, or dismantling. Now, in the washing area, just before the vehicle is delivered, you find yourself in a bad situation. Something is wrong or a code is still active in the repair scan. From now on, you are no longer a production manager or a manager but a firefighter.
Five alarm fire
I’m not talking about a real firefighter from a fire department but talking metaphorically, of course. A fire is a problem in a store that requires someone’s attention to be resolved quickly. I find it disturbing to have to clarify this difference.
Electricity from vehicles puts people like me who are still trying to learn to use their smartphones out of their comfort zone.
The firefighter is the consecrated position in the workshop occupied by the person who can understand and do it – the problem solver and the hero of the workshop who runs to solve the problems we all call fires. Needless to say, it is a very stressful job as they often work long hours solving everyone else’s problems and therefore cannot complete their own projects or jobs during the day. They live by the “let’s just do it” or “I’ll do it for you” philosophy.
A store that has a great problem solver or a firefighter also has the greatest enabler. A facilitator is someone who continues to face problems rather than trying to prevent them from happening. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t avoid every problem, but you can reduce the number of times you deal with the same and similar problems over and over again. This requires planning and research on what needs to be done and should be added to the repair process early on in relation to the wash bay.
Preventing wash bay diagnostics
I can’t tell you the magic formula or the process for dealing with all of your store’s challenges, but I can help you find resources that can help reduce some of these challenges in the electronics world.
The first thing to consider is what kind of solution you need. The second is to understand:
- Do you want to do it yourself?
- Do you want a solution?
- Do you want a combination of the two?
All three options will present challenges. If you decide to do it in-house, the first item on the agenda is to train your employees on what they are looking for. This is nothing new, as it is “Estimating Basics 101”. The challenge is to learn all the novelties in vehicles and their relation to the damage: to learn all the new systems and gadgets and how to identify which systems or electronics will be involved in the repair process. It takes time and effort, but has many benefits for the customer. Knowing the vehicles builds consumer confidence in your store. When one of your employees says “I’m not sure” or “I’ll check it for you,” it usually makes the customer wonder if you know what you’re doing.
Knowing what you are working with gets all the procedures out of the initial estimate and allows you to plan what will need to be done and avoid the wash bay diagnostic scenario. Managing the wash bay diagnostic process allows you to realize that additional training is required.
Managing the wash bay diagnostic process allows you to realize that additional training is required.
Next, your employees will need to know where to look for the components. Automakers are adding more sensors, radars and cameras to vehicles. Knowing where they are located is critical to a store’s success. It also takes teamwork and strong communication between the technician and the estimator. A sensor may not be replaced or involved in the collision, but during repairs it may need to be disconnected. This could trigger a need for initialization or calibration. The estimator and technician should be in sync to ensure that no procedures are missed or processed before the wash bay. It will also require the estimator to become a research analyst to research and find the necessary procedures for disconnected, R&I, or replaced parts. Documentation will need to be provided for the estimates, which takes time and a lot of effort. It’s a tough call for stores as the industry has become so transient with people moving from store to store. You may find yourself constantly retraining yourself.
There are companies that can guide, assist or take all the necessary steps for you. To write a good estimate, you need to identify what is in the vehicle and what is damaged. There are companies that will connect to the vehicle’s OBD port and identify what the vehicle has through the internet and bring in a technician. There are also companies that will revise your quote to alert you to the necessary steps. In addition, there are companies that will come and help you write the quote and put in place the required repairs and procedures and complete those procedures after the repairs are complete. I call it a concierge service because they literally do everything – almost like having an employee on call when needed. You will need to weigh the pros, cons and costs of these services and rely on them to present you in a timely manner.
Without a plan, your store’s reputation literally diminishes
Other artificial intelligence systems are being developed based on years of data mining and data aggregation of repairs that have been made nationwide. In addition, the likelihood that the necessary procedures will be performed for the type of damage listed. Even rating systems are getting better – if you run the XYZ procedure, the rating system will know that part XYZ will be disconnected or replaced and will trigger a note for a calibration.
I see many facilities that use both practices to get accurate estimates and information. It takes a coordinated effort on the part of everyone to ensure that no procedure is skipped. Communication and recognition of a store’s capabilities become the key to success. Without communication, you are destined to feel stress from all directions and to everyone in the store. Procedures will be missed or skipped, resulting in repairs that will not be done properly. The statistics circulating in the repair industry about missed procedures on vehicles that have been repaired are improving but still not optimal, to say the least.
Wash bay diagnostics take a toll on your store’s cycle time and CSI, as well as car rental fees and surcharges – if you can get paid. It also impacts shop morale and adds stress to the firefighter in the shop. Having a solid plan in place in advance will reduce the amount of wash station diagnostics performed in the workshops. There’s a reason it’s called electronic design.
A definitive plan and goal will improve your store’s performance, but nothing is 100% guaranteed. How many less problems and how much more efficiency do you want in your store? How much time and attitude to get it right are you willing to invest? Without a plan, your store’s reputation literally collapses. Maybe this is a bad joke. Where is it?