BMW April 2022

Lago Maggiore was the backdrop for this year’s IBIS Global Summit conference that hosted almost 400 guests from across the globe to discuss collision repair specific issues along with OEM, coatings, equipment and other market suppliers connected to the industry.

The first evening saw an opportunity to network over an informal supper which had a highlight of not just the gelato, but an enormous hail storm, that had all the body shop people abuzz looking for work opportunity. We’re a strange old bunch if you think of it, but we definitely see the silver lining in the thick of a storm.

Jason Moseley, CEO of IBIS welcomed all the attendants before introducing Dr Annette Winkler, former head of the Smart product division, Daimler AG. She is well known for being able to harness the best from her team. She gave some sound advice when she said that in a day and age when everyone is uncertain with a constant change in strategy when it comes to vehicles and the future, that you need to create common goals and targets for your team. You need courage to follow your decisions, listen, encourage creativity from your employees and create common rules and values in this environment. Get back to basics by making sure your team interacts in a polite manner, ban mobile phones from meetings and make sure to get complete commitment from your group.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the next topic of discussion. Hod Lipson, professor of engineering and data science, Columbia University spoke about the large-scale influence of AI in the realm of vehicles. He explained in layman’s terms some of the background of the two different theories behind AI. The first has been rule based and reliant on algorithms and programme development. The second is probability AI where you show computers the examples, such as millions of photographs and it learns by association and eventually you reach a stage where it can determine what is a dog, cat, person etc. The increased amount of learning with this second influence is simply mind-blowing and the makings of a real horror movie. However, there are also amazing things to be accomplished and is in super quick time compared to generations of computers and people before. You now have an app that can be hovered over your skin to determine if it is cancerous, drones fly to a specific leaf in fields to spray insecticide and not the whole field, but just the one plant that may be affected. However, the best news is that however smart our computers get they will never be able to replace skills in the workplace, so a skilled job is a job with great long-term prospects.

After a short coffee break where guests had the opportunity to network, the first panellists took to the stage, including Ian Pugh, director, Fix Auto UK; Bill Lopez, vice president, general manager collision and OEM programmes, OE Connection; Dave Shepherd, regional managing director, Audatex UK and Africa; and Kevern Thompson, commercial manager, CAPS Consortium, to discuss the challenges of managing data in a changing auto claims environment.

For the first part of the session, Kevern set the precedent and understanding of what data is and how it affects the industry with emphasis on storage, safeguarding and GDPR. The panel then addressed a multitude of topics surrounding data, for example GDPR training, data criminality, and data ownership. Ian rounded off the session perfectly when he said, ‘We have a massive change we are going through. It is a behavioural change where education is key.’

The next three sessions of the day specifically explored body shops, where the objectives were to deliver practical takeaways for body shop owners to share with their employees, and for those in the supply chain to discover how better to serve the customers of their business.

First up was Jeff Smith, ‘The KPI Guy’ and international best-selling author to reveal to delegates how to make more profit and keep it. Jeff explained the biggest reasons why businesses fail are, in his opinion, inertia (reluctance or refusing to change), procrastination, and paradigm shifts. Furthermore, he said that, ‘the key rules to a successful business is return on investment, net profit before interest, and circulation investment. Being profitable is not about making more profit but the relationship between these three.’

David Luehr, founder of Elite body shops and author of The Secret of America’s greatest body shops, gave some inside tips on how to be the best of the bunch. After suffering burnout early on in his life and certainly suffering from overachieving, he has learnt to fail brilliantly and as such gathered valuable knowledge along the road to success once again. He says to keep the right mindset and believe in your own ability to figure things out.

Get rid of old mindsets and see the opportunity. Overcome challenges of family operated business. Have those crucial conversations and create sustainable business models.  Your biggest sell as a body shop is trust, so look closely at how you are offering this valuable entity. David had great practical ideas on which I will expand for our readers in further articles.

The final session regarding body shops was a panel made up of Steve Leal, president and CEO, Fix Network World; Theo Theodosiou, technical director, Solus Accident Repair Centres; Lucy Cater, marketing support specialist, global accounts vehicle refinishes, AkzoNobel; and Farzam Afshar CEO, president, and co-founder VeriFacts Automotive, LLC, who explored the customer of the future. The esteemed panel discussed millennials’ view and complaints about the industry, how to obtain adaptability, if change is achievable, staying relevant to customers, and auditing expectations and experiences.

After another short networking opportunity in the form of a coffee break, the next session commenced, titled ‘Improving a motor claims journey,’ with presenter James Grant, vice president, business development, Verisk Insurance Solutions. James covered topics like the lack of money in repairs, how to leverage expertise and advanced technologies, photos and videos usage, data and telematics and combating fraud. ‘Who benefits from changes?’ asked James as he closed the session. ‘The customer, OEs and insurers.’

For the last session of the day, delegates heard from Jennifer Boyer, global collision business and strategy manager, Ford Motor Company and Jim Azzouz, marketing director for aftersales, Ford of Europe, who spoke about a ‘collision repair strategy within a global OEM.’ Using Ford’s collision strategy as a case study, the two speakers discussed the progress the OEM has made over the past 18 months, current successes, and the progress it will make in the future – including reinventing hybrids and electric vehicles and providing training related to repair.

Day two

Mary Mahoney, vice president insurance replacement, Enterprise Rent-A-Car was the first speaker of the second morning and she discussed how there is opportunity in disruption. She highlighted the basics of how a person wants to speak to another real voice on the other side of a telephone once they’ve been in an accident and that mobile updates are great thereafter. Invest in your customer experience. Perhaps looks at exposing the client to the latest models in a rental car option or even a hybrid or electric experience to make it a more personal and memorable experience and not just collision repair all the way.

A huge global crisis exists in our skilled workers. Mirko Cutri, WorldSkills gave some insight to this problem by showing how WorldSkills is trying to raise awareness and respect that goes along with a person who chooses to follow a skills trade. He was then part of a panel to discuss this further. The panel also included Dave Gunderson, VP AAD, 3M; Ase Brekke Roe, 2014 WorldSkills paint champion; Georg Profanter, WorldSkills body repair champion; Steven Waite, paint technician, Devonshire Motors ARC; and Nicholaus Owen, panel technician, DLG Auto Services Orpington.

Problems of railroading learners into university and not allowing for a skills development path were raised. We need to be aware that whoever is fixing our car is doing it to the best of their ability and not any person off the street who isn’t trained properly. It certainly is a life or death situation. Mirko also asked those gathered, who might have encouraged their own children to follow a trade? Only two people raised their hands. It’s one thing to talk about getting youngsters involved but we also have to walk the walk to create awareness and get the ball rolling. Wages was another touchy subject when it was said that an apprentice in the UK at a medium-sized body shop could earn more stacking shelves at the local co-op than learning a trade – this makes no sense at all and pertains to SA too, where an apprentice can’t make ends meet on such a small salary. Ase Brekke had been exposed to the collision repair business by her step-father who is a spray painter. She now has aspirations to open her own body shop.

The day ended with Jason closing the event with thanks to the sponsors, delegates and the IBIS team. He also announced that the Global Summit 2020 will take place in Monaco to celebrate the 20th anniversary of IBIS too.