IBIS Africa

If you keep up with major developments affecting this industry, you’re at least aware of the movement towards OEM certification as a method of growing and maintaining work in collision repair. In order to achieve these certifications and take advantage of the perks that go along with them, repair facilities need to abide by certain OEM procedures. Clearly, pre-and post repair scanning is the OEM procedure gaining the most traction these days, but jigging is just one of the many other recommended practises that repairers need to know and follow now.

To help shops understand what is expected of them, manufacturers regularly issue position statements on the operations necessary to bring their vehicles back to pre-accident condition. Lexus offers insights into its standing on the jigging issue:

“Lexus acknowledges many types and brands of equipment that can be used to repair our vehicles, therefore we take an unbiased approach regarding equipment types or brands. A body and frame alignment rack with dedicated or universal fixtures, also referred to as “jigging” is one of many methods of body and frame alignment that is an acceptable method of realigning Lexus body frames. There are many other types of body and frame alignment equipment, such as electronics measuring and pulling systems equipment, that are also acceptable. Lexus has a dedicated tool and equipment programme that provides a list of approved body and frame alignment equipment for repairing our vehicles.

Audi makes its philosophy on jigging clear in the following position statement:

“All Audi vehicles are manufactured using body jigs in the production process to ensure exact structural body alignment and body panel fit. Collision repairs for correction of body alignment or structural body panel replacement should only be conducted on Audi of America approved equipment. Audi of America and Audi AG work directly with approved equipment manufacturers to ensure that Audi vehicles are mounted to the body alignment machines by the strongest areas of the vehicle body structure to prevent collateral damage caused by the alignment process and to validate the body dimensional values. Audi vehicles should never be affixed to a body alignment machine for structural body alignment by pinch weld clamps or chains as a primary means of mounting/holding the body to (the) alignment machine.”

Currently there are a few manufacturers by Audi for jigging – Celette, Car-o-Liner (with the Evo 1.2.3 systems) and Spanesi and Globaljig. These specific products have undergone extensive testing by Audi to ensure that they can adequately handle the demands of its vehicles.

“There have been a few American machines and a couple of European ones that have gone for our approval, but they’re not able to hold their dimensional correctness,” explains Audi collision programmes and workshop equipment specialist Mark Allen. “To give you an idea of  how tight it is, it’s three millimetres in a cross dimension, front to rear. Some of the other, non-approved equipment companies will go out and rent a couple of cars around the country. They’ll measure the cars with their system, once they average it out, they’ll throw a production tolerance on their dimension. Typically, that’s three millimetres. Then, they’ll call it good. The problem is that they’re measuring a production vehicle that may have a production tolerance; you’re going to come up with a tolerance and then throw a three millimetre plus or minus on top. You can be off anywhere from six to nine millimetres on your measurement.” Allen says that Geico, State Farm, Allstate and Farmers are among the insurers that have received corporate-level information of Audi’s jigging requirement, while he is quick to add that Progressive has been one notable holdout from these discussions. They’ve never even talked to us,” he states.

“Part of the overhead is having the appropriate frame machine and pulling equipment and the cost that’s involved in doing it. Also, there’s a cost in not doing it the right way and causing an issue for a customer. It’s not only a customer issue for us, it’s a customer issue for the insurance company and the body shop.”

Although automakers are working hard to provide the appropriate information to the collision repair industry, it has become a regular, and growing, occurrence for the Hammer & Dolly offices to receive calls from repairer.

“Insurers are kind of schizophrenic. We’ll have one come out here and pay to scan a car, and then the next week they won’t. It’s the same for jig rentals and jigging. It’s definitely difficult to get any insurer to pay real frame setup. There’s one insurer in particular that will pay for a strict period of time no matter what the car is and what you have to do to set it up on a machine.”

Current industry figures reveal that only around 20% of the technicians in this industry are actually consulting the repair procedures available to them.

Appraisers often come up with different ways to cover a shop’s charges for jigging, scanning or other controversial procedures rather than pay for them as an actual line item. A jigging charge might show up as a towing charge that the shop did not ask for, and the facility accepts this because it closely mirrors the amount they were charging the insurer in the first place. While this practice may keep a repair business happy, after all, the shops gets its money, it does very little to help facilities specifically charge for OEM recommended items.

“Insurers have this ‘prevailing competitive’ statement they like to use, so once they pay for something once or twice, they become the trend. On the ground floor, onsite appraisers realise the procedure needs to be done, but if they send up something with additional time for jigging and not their insurer’s pre-determined time for setup and measure, there’s a problem for them.”

“We always have the customer involved in what we’re asking for,” Scaech says. “When customers don’t want t be involved we ususally let them go.” Insurers are often slow to embrace a unique procedure and its associated charges, the fact remains that carriers would have little ground to stand on if the majority of shops in a given market strictly followed the exact repair and equipment recommendations established by the automakers. If people know there are repair procedures and specific tool guidelines, but will not follow them because they claim they’re not getting paid for them, it could be argued that they are empowering the people who have made zero investments and don’t care to do it the right way. When shops follow the OEM repair procedures and actually charge for them straightforward, the more likely they’ll get paid for being the professionals they are.