For long as I can remember, those who areas seasoned in the collision industry could pretty much predict the future as (or even before) it unfolds. Well, let me tell you something: That is a thing of the past! With the drastic and dramatic changes to the way vehicles are made today, no one can even get close to predicting where things will go from here.
Looking back, who would have thought that collision shops would need to scan a vehicle before commencing repairs – and again after the repairs are completed? Who thought a vehicle would be able to automatically stop, without any help from the driver, to avoid an accident? With the creation of special electronic systems like Collision Avoidance/Pre-Crash System/Pre-Collision Assist, Driver Drowsiness Detection/Driver Monitoring Systems, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning Systems and so much more, a collision repair technician who has not kept up on training wouldn’t have a clue about how to repair such a vehicle.
The older repair technicians set in their ways are not going to change and go back to school to basically learn how to repair vehicles all over again. More and more of these seasoned types are throwing in the towel and retiring early. Some are leaving the industry and taking less complicated jobs like lawn care or maintenance work. The younger generation willing to go through the training process (and continue required training) is not willing to work for what the collision industry is able to pay them because of low labour rates.
In the past, we have seen and lived through changes in the industry, including when vehicles changed from body-over-frame to the more modern unibody-type vehicle. Many in the industry thought that was a dramatic change and that the industry would never be the same. However, here we are years later, and all is well. But this is different. The changes we are seeing today are nothing like anything we have seen in the past. If you speak to a veteran repair technician who was around back when the body-over-frame type vehicles were being repaired, it was not uncommon to put what was referred to as a “fishplate” on the frame to reinforce it after being severely bent and re-straightened. Today, such a procedure would be considered a bodge.
Today, there are guidelines and repair procedures that must be specifically followed in order to repair vehicles safely and properly. The process of researching correct repair procedures is commonly referred to as ‘blueprinting’. Part of the blueprinting process includes scanning the vehicle to identify any electronic system failures or electronic components that are no longer working (or not working properly as a result of a collision).
Scanning a vehicle multiple times and researching proper OEM repair procedures in order to create a safe and proper repair plan or blueprint can be a timely process. Of course, insurers often refuse to pay, or they attempt to limit payment to an amount not even close to covering the cost and allowing for a reasonable profit. That’s surely a subject for another day.
The bottom line is no one can accurately predict exactly where things are headed or what the collision industry might look like a few years from now. Will giant computers be able to scan a damaged vehicle and automatically generate a valid estimate on the cost to safely and properly and repair a damaged vehicle? If what is taking place in the industry right now with photo estimating is any indication of where things are headed, we are in deep trouble. One thing is for sure: What the collision industry will look like in a few years will be nothing like what we have previously seen. It will like more like a Star Wars movie. I urge everyone to continue to watch and keep up with the changes taking place and monitor them all closely.