BMW April 2022

The sell-out CRA-Automotive Refinisher conference once again showed why it’s become the place to be at Automechanika. Close to 160 industry movers and shakers were in attendance at the breakfast venue to take in the latest technical developments in the motor business and also to use the opportunity to integrate with the many and varied key role players in body shop repair in South Africa. 

Claire Macfie, Editor of Automotive Refinisher magazine, opened the conference with her welcome address and commented on the partnership developed in the media with the Collision Repair Association (CRA), which has shown major benefits in cross industry terms as both motor manufacturers and key automotive insurance personnel were in attendance. 

The packed sessions were opened by Busi Maile of C3 Auto Body Repair Academy. She spoke about future of artisan training, where skills levels developed right now are in many ways woefully inadequate to keep apace with the fourth industrial revolution, coping with artificial intelligence, the internet of things and integrated technologies now to be seen in the repair cycle. It is now no longer a question of when because the future is here. In a world where many sectors are beyond our control it is delivering unbelievable pressure to just keep up in the workplace. We are going to have to adjust with a new perspective on skills development and recruitment in a bid to stay-up-to-date in areas of expertise needed with applied systems learning. Busi concluded that getting the basics right by gathering ultimate skills internally and by upskilling workers as future staff and workers should become co-creators of a knowledge bank and competency because development and training is a culture, not an event.

Sean Pheiffer of Old Mutual Insure (OMI) took the spotlight for a talk about the right first time initiative in the repair space. By implementing a new and faster agreed work repair method on all scale of repairs, the company were keeping pace with the changing environment. The company apply body shop audits and customer centric investigations to ensure that their clients have had a good experience throughout the damaged vehicle repair cycle. The challenge to reduce cycle time of total time lost was often due to the inability to obtain repair spares timeously from major brands. 

This has also become a major headache because of different model proliferation. The company had already diverted up to 22% of its spend on BEE business operations and by keeping their eye on cost ratios to claim they were able to maintain their client base. The close association with the CRA is also very rewarding from an insurer provider perspective.

CRA RALPH MEISTRYRalph Meistry of BETAG Innovation and Systems is someone who features heavily in training with many new systems of body repairs by using the latest effective training methods. He explained how body panel repair workers can quickly master the advanced equipment now being used across the world. The new systems, in general terms, are a big step forward, but only 30% of the world’s repairers bother to put the new procedures in place and only 523 online enquiries were made for the 2018 year being seen for various new process repair methodology. This is literally knowledge at your fingertips not being utilised.

Changing times have now seen a typical repair OEM procedure rise from 5 000 pages of 1965 up to 500 000 pages on today’s model data sheets and there are many gaps on OEM websites to compound the problem of methods repair. Delving into blind spot warning precautions, repairs of plastic bumpers with fillers and radar sensors, many of these repair issues are keeping OEM’s awake at night with multiple conversations on glass for radar and other body locations. All prospects of a post repair scan to determine related and unrelated fault codes is rapidly on the increase especially with radar faults in mind. 

Marius Nel, Regional Technical Manager for BASF went on to talk ‘green’ with environmentally friendly, Eco Balance approach from the Glasurit brand. A big focus of our attention has always been in efficiency by delivering quality products that reduce overall cost to the paint shop business. Eco Balance looks at reducing CO2 from the manufacturing process right the way through to the end of use life cycle of the product. Sustainability has become more than a buzz word, it’s now a way of life for any business and each individual to do something about. Colour is still one of the key focus areas for all paint manufacturers. This keeps a body shop’s key-to-key time to an absolute minimum, maintaining profits and long-term sustainability on another side.

Andrew Marsh of Automotive Industry Consulting was the keynote speaker on changes to new vehicles. Andrew jetted in from the Frankfurt Motor Show and was back by popular demand explaining his role as a vehicle futurist. He quickly delved into the latest ADAS trends with their multiple radar sensors in LIDAR, laser scanners and new 360º degree vehicles management fitments to new cars. The way cars are returned to pre-accident dimensions with a tool room approach came next. ADAS static and ADAS dynamic self-run diagnostics where final fault runs would clear restart systems, the current two-year cycle of evolution was being adhered to by developers with a third single dynamic package of self-calibration being seen some 10 years ahead of time right now with OEM warranty. Many repair centres right now will need to go and get their expertise to affect an efficient repair to ADAS equipped vehicles. 

Electrification then came under the microscope with hybrid, PHE and EV developments seen where he showed an all-new ID.3 MEB platform released by Volkswagen at Frankfurt. There is plenty of hot air surrounding hydrogen fuel cells. These are coupled to real challenges to be faced on changing body materials as platform build technologies are ever-changing. Andrew works day and night to keep pace with these changes works at EZI Methods in the United Kingdom and it’s in that job that Andrew has become a world authority on technical changes that lie ahead, coupled to a life-time of motor research and development at technical institutions. 

Steve Kessel, CRA Operations Director then dealt with a raft of matters concerning the synergy for a sustainable future by ensuring better repair processes and up-skilling staff. Breaking bad habits was key to all this and to reduce the cycle of repair times as well as keeping promises made on delivery to our customers. The demand for respect for our collision repair partners remains a given and their rates on Abuntex Ram outwork and write-off thresholds are key considerations on increasing gross profit margins from the current profit levels being received across the country The market for body repair remains one of roughly 41% of parts per job and further 52% of labour sales.  On average a full demographic of actual costs and perceived profit levels was then dealt with by Steve, where over 80% of body shops surveyed said that they were constantly losing work by insurance work steering. 

The balancing act for charge out hours, which was seldom achieved, was a critical profitability point under the microscope. Body shops were left in an invidious position of being constantly told to upgrade their facilities to keep pace with the tsunami of technology in repair that lies ahead with new vehicles, while insurers seem to place great effort on trying to cap the cost of their client’s repair bills to previous levels of expenditure. 

Given that the motor repair business has an approximate annual increase of in excess of 15% of inflation, much of this belief was not sustainable for CRA members to comply with or achieve in the long run. So, a degree of long-term sustainability has to be brought home to major insurance concerns. It all adds up to a step change in the way the body shops and insurers interface in the accident management cycle of repair for the future.

Story by Ian Groat