FenderBender - July 2024

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The I-CAR Academy curriculum is designed to prepare entry-level technicians for a promising career in collision repair. Combining an intuitive online experience with guided hands-on learning, I-CAR Academy empowers technicians with the skills they need to become productive members of a shop team.



The I-CAR Academy curriculum is made up of five foundational learning areas geared toward helping students and new technicians learn the essentials of collision repair, from reviewing basic tools and safety information to specific entry-level skills that contribute to a complete, safe and quality repair.



runs his operations with one eye on the future PAGE 30 Sights Set on Expansion A future-focused mindset has allowed this western North Carolina operator to grow from one location to three in the span of only six years.

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3 July 2024 fenderbender.com PROFILE 30 PLAYING THE LONG GAME Joe LaBruno runs his operations with one eye on the future.
with OEM certification programs can provide a path to DRP-independence.
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4 July 2024 fenderbender.com 14 38 STARTER QUICK FIX 07 DRIVER’S SEAT
Tough, the Tough Turn Pro 08 PAST THE PAGE
When the Going Gets
11 BREAKDOWN Is climate change impacting collision repair? 14 ON THE SCENE
a look at the AkzoNobel
latest stories from around the industry 18 NUMBERS How many DRPs do you have? 20 Q&A This tech can limit data pumps at your shop 36 THE SOP Are you prepared for a shop inspection? 38 FINANCE+ OPERATIONS Implement shifts for more gross profit BY STEVE TRAPP 41 TECHNOLOGY +TOOLS
track work intuitively COLUMNS 22 SHOP PROFITS
training and
I-CAR introduces new early career technical program
Collision Industry
Here’s how one shop owner developed
to help
Lower your cycle times to turn your customers into raving fans
Here’s how I’ve developed
career paths in a
Our collective knowledge can ultimately benefit everyone involved
t → Extensive network of major industr y partners: NAPA, AutoZone, Motor Supply Co, Imperial, NTB, and more. → YOU TO O CAN LEVEL UP YOUR SHOP. → The most comprehensive program and support network, backed by ROI results guarantee. Scan the bar or visit www.autotraining.net/level-up *These figures are calculated by taking the average performance achieved by all ATI shops as tracked from their financial statements S avings, rebates and profit lift vary by ATI shop. Profit lift requires minimum 12 months in ATI re-engineering program. Results may vary. $ * AVG SHOP LIFT PER YEAR $ 0 AVG PARTNER REBATE/SAVINGS $ 0 ANNUAL SAVINGS $ 0 FOUR-YEAR SAVINGS * Does not include total loss HOW ATI COLLISION SHOPS PERFORM*



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6 July 2024 fenderbender.com
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Have you taken a step back to look at how to make your business better?

ONE OF MY FAVORITE Saturday Night Live sketches in the late ‘80s was “First Citiwide Change Bank.” “At First Citiwide, our business is making change.” That was the premise of the business, not to extend loans, but rather just to make change. “If you come to us with a $20 bill, we can give you two tens. We can give you four fives. We can give you a ten and two fives. We will work with you,” deadpanned SNL producer and sometimes actor James Downey portraying a bank service representative during the spot that was interspersed with customer testimonials of how the “change bank” got them out of a tight spot when they needed the correct change for bus fare or needed to make their money fold, not jiggle. (You might recall Downey as the principal judging the “academic decathlon” in the movie Billy Madison.) In the second spot later in the show, Downey answered the question we were all wondering. “All the time, our customers ask us: ‘How do you make money doing this?’ The answer is simple: volume.”

The dry delivery belies the absurdity of the zero-gross-profit business model. And yet, as some shops have found, the direct repair program promise of delivering volume comes at the expense of slim margins, greater administrative headaches, and more stress.

In my feature article this month, “Dumping Your DRPs,” Mohawk Collision Center General Manager Gerry Rosenbarker, one of two body shop managers I interviewed for the story, recalls how he simultaneously grew the business through DRP relationships while following OEM certification-prescribed repairs, growing his book of satisfied customers who returned on their own.

“Grow your business quickly with DRPs and use them like they're using you, and then cut them loose as soon as you can.”

We've recently heard from collision repair industry consultants and other leaders that shops have slowed. To name just a couple factors, car insurance rates, which went up an average of 20% (mine included) this year because of rising repair costs and more disaster-related claims, may have caused policyholders to be reluctant to file a claim and risk having their policy canceled. A mild winter in many places hasn’t helped demand, either. That said, we have been featuring best practices of how to gain more revenue through marketing or increasing operational efficiency. “When the going gets tough, the tough turn pro,” was a favorite saying of my late mentor, Lance Buchner. If you have implemented some changes in your business you’d like to share with our readers, please drop me a line. We’d love to talk with you about them.

7 July 2024 fenderbender.com DRIVER’S SEAT


THE INTER-INDUSTRY CONFERENCE on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) announced the launch of the I-CAR Academy, a pioneering program aimed at educating and recognizing entrylevel technicians, as well as the schools and repair centers that train them, according to a news release.

It’s the first industry-neutral, comprehensive early career program of its kind, according to I-CAR.

The I-CAR Academy offers a consistent entry-level curriculum across schools and shops and facilitates a smoother transition to the workforce while supporting both onboarding and retention efforts. The program is now available for the 2024-2025 academic year and is set to replace the existing education edition curriculum (PDP-EE). A similar curriculum tailored for shops will be released in August, complete with additional tools to improve shop culture and enhance leadership and mentorship experiences.

John Van Alstyne, CEO and president of I-CAR, stated, “For over 45 years, I-CAR has been setting the training standard and providing edu-

cation programming that meets modern accepted standards. The I-CAR Academy represents the next step in our commitment to the industry, ensuring new technicians are well-prepared from day one.”

The I-CAR Academy curriculum is designed to provide a solid foundation for technicians, leading into I-CAR’s Professional level (ProLevel) curriculum and Platinum Technician certification, as well as OEM and supplier certified programs. It integrates online knowledge with hands-on skills training in a gamified environment, awarding badges for competencies.

Dara Goroff, I-CAR vice president of planning and industry talent programming, described the I-CAR Academy as a “game-changer” for the industry, following the launch of last year’s Collision Careers talent attraction platform. The curriculum covers collision repair fundamentals and provides foundational knowledge for roles such as Estimator/ Repair Planner, Non-Structural, Structural, and Refinish Technician.

Schools and shops interested in the I-CAR Academy program can find more information at I-CAR’s website.

8 July 2024 fenderbender.com VIDEOS | PODCASTS | WEBINARS | NEWS Visit FenderBender.com/news for daily updates from around the collision repair industry. PAST THE PAGE @fenderbendermag fenderbender.com/linkedin fenderbender.com
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Can we handle more hail dents to fix?

WEATHER CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE when it comes to many professions such as agriculture, transportation, construction, and so on. Collision repair falls on that list too, especially for hail.

Due to climate change, there is a possibility that hail will be more widespread in the U.S. and occur with higher frequency, and possibly even bigger sizes. Are repairers prepared for such a reality?

FenderBender sought out the answer from paintless dent/hail repairers across the country in mid-May 2024. Mo Kayeni of Elevated Auto Hail Repair, a new venture in paintless dent repair based in Centennial, Colorado, that services the whole state, helped FenderBender get an answer. Although his business opened this year, Kayani’s experience spans four years in the industry.

Before we dive into the answer to this industry question, we should get the science right.

What is Hail?

Hailstones are formed when raindrops are carried upward by thunderstorm updrafts into extremely cold areas of the atmosphere and freeze.

Hailstones then grow by colliding with liquid water drops that freeze onto the hailstone’s surface. If the water freezes instan-

taneously when colliding with the hailstone, cloudy ice will form as air bubbles will be trapped in the newly formed ice.

However, if the water freezes slowly, the air bubbles can escape, and the new ice will be clear. The hail falls when the thunderstorm’s updraft can no longer support the weight of the hailstone, which can occur if the stone becomes large enough or the updraft weakens.

“It’s a depreciating asset, but it’s an asset nonetheless”

Although Florida has the most thunderstorms, Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming usually have the most hailstorms. The area where these three states meet – “hail alley” – averages seven to nine hail days per year.

Now, just because it’s rare doesn’t mean the damage is minimal.

“A 15-minute storm, depending on how large the area that it’s covering can potentially cause hundreds of thousands of vehicles to be damaged,” Kayeni explained.

Kayeni said he has a huge back order of customers who are looking for their dents to be repaired, whether it be individual car owners or shop owners subletting his services. Often people wait months, and some might not even notice the damage right away after a hailstorm.

“A lot of my clients don’t really care about the appearance of the car, but that’s not what you should be focused on, really,” Kayeni said. “I try to explain that it’s an asset. It’s a depreciating asset, but it’s an asset nonetheless and that’s why you have insurance on it to try to mitigate any kind of value loss caused by damage like hail.”

Predicting Hail Under Climate Change

It’s easy to assume that as the climate gets warmer, there will be less ice, right? Wrong! The updrafts, as mentioned before, are generated by warm air.

An article, by the Scientific American, suggests that climate change could intensify hailstorms due to its effects on atmospheric conditions. As the climate warms, the air can hold more moisture and the atmosphere can become more unstable, both of which can promote storm formation. Additionally, climate change can fuel strong updrafts, therefore larger hailstones, which are crucial for hail formation.

According to the National Weather Service, the largest hailstone recovered in the United States fell in Vivian, South Dakota, on June 23, 2010, with a diameter of 8 inches and a circumference of 18.62 inches. It weighed 1 lb 15 oz.

11 July 2024 fenderbender.com QUICK FIX NEWS | IDEAS | PEOPLE | TRENDS

However, not every scientist agrees. Yale Climate Connections Writer and Meteorologist, Bob Henson, told FenderBender in an email, “Warmer thunderstorms will produce less hail overall, but the strongest ones, called supercells, can still produce very large hail.”

He explains that the most destructive hailstorms are typically supercell thunderstorms that depend on a complex blend of weather ingredients—not just warm temperatures at the surface, but also cold air aloft, and winds that vary with height—so they aren’t a straightforward consequence of a warmer atmosphere.

“There is some recent research suggesting that supercell storms may become about 10 to 20 percent more likely by the end of this century, and these storms may also be extending their usual range eastward from the Great Plains into the Mississippi Valley more often,” Henson said.

“We’ve already seen very dramatic jumps in hail damage expenses to homes and cars over the last 30 years,” he added. “One major factor in the recent hail damage spikes seems to be the big increase in the footprints of our structures and vehicles, especially in the largest hail-vulnerable metro areas of the Great Plains, such as Dallas-Fort Worth and Denver. These are also some of the fastestgrowing parts of the country. Cars and houses are both getting bigger, and of course, inflation is at work too. Basically, we’ve put a lot more stuff in hail-prone parts of the country for hailstones to strike and damage.”

Although there isn’t much agreement on what the future of hail will look like, this article would be a lot shorter if we just settled on there being less hail in the future.

If It Gets Worse

Hail has become more devastating for collision repairers lately as the flow of parts

and equipment has slowed due to the UAW strikes that occurred in late 2023. There are various examples from across the U.S. of auto body shops blaming the strikes for a lack of parts, contributing to extended return times, especially with an influx of customers after hailstorms.

As mentioned in our 2024 Industry Outlook, David Harkey, the owner of H&S Paint and Body Shop in Kilgore, Texas, told FenderBender that a representative from GM explained the delay in parts is due to the UAW strikes. He said H&S is expecting a three-week timeline to deliver a car that needs no replacement parts and a longer wait for those that do.

David Hobbs, owner of StormWise Automotive Hail Repair, told reporters from Denver7 that UAW strikes are among the contributing factors causing a backlog in orders, which has led to a customer filing a lawsuit against his business.

12 July 2024 fenderbender.com QUICK FIX

Kayeni of Elevated Auto Hail Repair also experienced this last year as he explained in an interview with FenderBender. “Last summer, there were parts that were on back order because of the strikes and occasionally we would have to let customers know,” Kayeni said.

At one point in the interview, he recalled it took about eight months for a Nissan Rogue to get fixed for a roof molding.

Despite all these factors impacting hail repair, Kayeni still has hope for the future of the industry if hail becomes a more common reality.

“There’s a lot more training going on, definitely than there used to be in the past,” Kayeni said. “New technicians coming into the business. Different parts of the world are stepping into industry.”

He added, “I don’t think we’re really planned for it per se, but I can see the industry getting it together and being able to step it up.”

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More Than 400 Attend AkzoNobel Collision Industry Experts Event

AKZONOBEL’S COLLISION INDUSTRY Experts Event May 9 at the Hotel Fera Anaheim in Orange, California, was an event for attendees who are committed to continuous improvement, said Dan Carranza, AkzoNobel’s national sales director, Vehicle Refinishes USA-Mexico.

14 July 2024 fenderbender.com QUICK FIX

“This is where the separation happens in all of your businesses,” he said. “You guys are here working on your business, not in it. It’s a commitment just to get out and get better at your craft.”

More than 400 AkzoNobel customers representing 280 shops from the United States, Canada, and Mexico posting $950 million in gross revenue—plus distribution partners—were at the event. AkzoNobel business services consultants were many of the subject matter experts for the nine 75-minute breakout session topics attendees could choose from for the three time slots.

“We don’t just sell you a can of paint; we actually want to help you run more successful business,” said John Griffin, regional commercial director for automotive and specialty coatings for North and South

America. Of course, he noted, a successful shop will sell more paint by repairing more cars, including through expansion, so it’s a symbiotic relationship.

“That’s the investment for us, but we first and foremost will make sure you are a successful business and you’re improving that business every day, every week, and every month. This is what we want to help you do; this is how we want to be your partner.”

The breakout sessions ranged from small business HR practices to new vehicle technology refinishing. During registration and between sessions, attendees could stop by the booths of one of about 20 distribution partners.

Collision Advice President Mike Anderson closed out the day in speaking on the state of the industry, including some

headwinds facing collision repairers such as a slowdown in business, with backlogs having recently shrunk from weeks to days, attributed in part to a mild winter. And with rate increases up to 20%, consumers are reluctant to make a claim, fearful their rates will rise again. ADAS features are also reducing the number of vehicle crashes, he said.

“Focus on capture rates, sales and follow up on scheduled estimates,” he said.

“Get back to the basics.”

Additionally, four-day work weeks (one of the topics covered in the breakout sessions) have been shown to increase sales and be an effective recruiting tool.

“The shops I see that are successful today recruit, retain, and train to keep their best talent. And they understand that culture is everything.”

15 July 2024 fenderbender.com
John Griffin, regional commercial director, Automotive and Specialty Coatings, North and South America, talks about the number of business services available to shops.



As used EV costs have declined, more of them are being declared a total loss, according to a new Mitchell International report on electric vehicle (EV) collisions (https://tinyurl.com/ytdas9py).

According to Mitchell, EV repairable claims frequency in the first quarter of 2024 spiked 40% in the U.S. compared to the first quarter of 2023, to 2.26%. EV total loss rates were 9.93% in Q1 2024, up 30% from the third quarter of 2023 and 8% from the fourth quarter.

The report notes that EVs were not declared total losses more often than vehicles with an internal combustion engine. The total loss frequency for 2021 and newer ICE vehicles was similar to that of EVs, reaching 9.51% in the U.S.

But prices for used EVs have dropped 30% year-over-year compared to used ICE vehicles’ decline of 3.6%. Repair and claims costs have yet to equalize, with EVs in the United States having an average severity of $6,066, compared to ICE vehicles’ average of $4,703, a difference of 29%.


The CARSTAR Colorado business group participated in the sixth annual Denver Great Strides event, raising over $1,300 to support cystic fibrosis (CF) research and patient care, according to a news release.

The event was well-attended with 27 team members from CARSTAR West Auto Body, CARSTAR Alpine Auto Body, CARSTAR Supreme Auto Body, and CARSTAR Jordan Road Collision coming together for a great cause.

“Our team’s commitment to supporting the CF community is stronger than ever,” said Kelly Domer, owner of CARSTAR Jordan Road Collision. “Participating in the Denver Great Strides event for the sixth consecutive year is a testament to our dedication to this important cause.”

“The Cystic Fibrosis Great Strides Walk showcases the strength of unity and a sense of community for all involved,” Domer said. “Our favorite part of being involved is the incredible feeling of giving back and doing it as a group, which has helped us build a team culture that we’re proud of. Participating every year has strengthened our bonds outside of the workplace, creating a stronger, more cohesive team.”

Looking ahead, the CARSTAR Colorado business group is gearing up for its annual CF golf tournament, scheduled for Friday, August 23. This event promises to bring together community members, supporters, and golf enthusiasts for fun and fundraising.


Two police officers were transported to a hospital following a shooting at an auto body shop, according to a news release from the East Hartford, Connecticut, Police Department.

On Sunday, May 19, around 3:30 p.m., officers responded to a disturbance at Governor’s Auto Body in East Hartford. During the incident, a shooting involving officers occurred. The officers involved have been transported to the hospital for evaluation.

The East Hartford Police are conducting an investigation in cooperation with the Connecticut Inspector General’s Office, Hartford Judicial District Office, and Connecticut State Police Central District Major Crime Squad.

The police department assured in the release there is no threat to public safety.

WFSB, a local TV news outlet, reported that the suspect, who is reportedly male, fled the scene on Sunday, and police found the car he used in Hartford. The vehicle had an infant and two adults in it. The crew for the outlet stated that they found six bullet holes in the police cruiser’s windshield.


The Women’s Industry Network (WIN) announced a record 30 new recipients of its 2024 WIN College Student Tuition and Conference Scholarship Awards, where selected recipients receive extensive tool kits and/or scholarship funds. DREAMSTIME_173996421

16 July 2024 fenderbender.com

2024 also saw a record number of student applications as WIN partnered with CREF (Collision Repair Education Foundation) to expand its reach to those looking for a career in collision repair. These scholarships are presented annually to deserving students enrolled in post-secondary collision repair technology programs.

As part of the application process, each WIN Scholarship applicant registered for, and received, a complimentary WIN Student Membership. WIN also supports collision repair instructors with access to free WIN memberships through the Pay It Forward campaign.

According to Laura Kottschade, the 2024 chair of the WIN Student Relations Committee, “The once again expanded program offers the College Student Tuition and Scholarship Awards on two financial levels, ranging from $500 up to $2,500 based on the selection team’s evaluation of their application and the review process. Recipients can also receive well-stocked new tool kits, which include four additional tools per set, and are valued at more than $500.”

“Those scholarship recipients receiving tuition monies and tools were acknowledged in either the Champions or Stars levels,” Kottschade said. “But, because we had so many applicants, two new scholarship categories, Trailblazers

and Legends, were added this year where additional recipients were awarded either a financial stipend or a full tool kit.”

All award recipients and applicants will be eligible to partake in WIN’s monthly mentoring program, where they participate in student engagement group calls and share best practices with collision industry professionals as well as their peers.

“WIN student members will connect with other members who are in a similar stage in their careers. The mentoring program also provides a connection with women in the industry who can share relevant experiences from their success,” said Kottschade. “These networking groups will support new female entrants to the collision repair field and hopefully create lifetime friendships that further WIN goals for longer-term career advancement and retention.”

Funds to support the scholarship program come from various sponsors and WIN’s general fund, as well as its recent scholarship walk at its Annual Conference. “This year we have separated the Scholarship Walk and the Scholarship Fundraiser to simplify it for participant involvement, but there is still the opportunity to donate to the scholarship cause,” April Keim and Christina Sepulveda, WIN Scholarship Fundraising Co-Chairs, both said. “Fundraising is still

open through May 31, 2024 as we have partnered with RallyUp and created the WIN Scholarship Fundraiser which allows those inspired to support our future women technicians of collision repair to still contribute to this important cause.”


The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has launched a comprehensive series of videos and documents aimed at aiding employers and service professionals in the creation, configuration, and utilization of their myASE accounts.

The resources, available on the ASE website, provide step-by-step guides for employers to become company account managers on myASE. This allows them to track their employees’ ASE certifications, register employees for tests, and cover the cost of these tests.

Service professionals are not left out, with videos detailing how to create a myASE account and register for ASE tests through myASE.com. Downloadable PDFs on these subjects are also available, providing a handy reference for users.

The myASE profiles serve as a tool for both employers and service professionals, ensuring they receive the latest information from ASE. This is achieved by maintaining up-to-date contact and employer information. In addition, information about ASE’s weekly technical webinars is sent directly to the email associated with the myASE account.

“The myASE videos and printable PDFs are useful tools for employers, helping them maximize the use of their company’s myASE account,” Dave Johnson, president and CEO of ASE, said.

He added that the ASE website offers a wealth of information to assist service professionals in navigating their accounts, signing up for tests, and exploring the various options available for recertification.

17 July 2024 fenderbender.com



THIS MONTH’S FEATURE STORY includes two collision repair shop managers who have eliminated their direct repair program agreements in favor of original equipment manufacturer certification programs.

The reliance on DRPs has become increasingly uncommon for collision repairers, as evidenced by results of the annual FenderBender Industry Survey. This year’s survey respondents did report a slight uptick both in percentage of sales and the number of DRP agreements in place.

When our survey respondents were asked what percentage of total sales resulted from direct repair programs, 39% reported zero. This figure peaked in 2023 at 44%.

These statistics are from the 2024 Industry Survey, which was completed by shop owners and operators.

Percentage of total sales that are a result of DRPs:

Number of DRPs per shop surveyed

18 July 2024 fenderbender.com
0%: 39%* 1-29%: 20% 90% or more: 3% 10 : 4 * % 30-59%: 21% 60-89%: 16% 0: 41% 1-3: 33% 4-6: 17% 7-9: 6%
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DataTouch’s Pete Tagliapietra chats with us about how to protect estimate repair information from being sold by thirdparty companies.

Photos Courtsey PETE TAGLIAPIETRA / ADOBE STOCK 242163870

IN APRIL, DATATOUCH ANNOUNCED the commercial release of the Data Pump Manager, a new technology that provides control over software data pumps installed on shop computer systems.

Some might be surprised to learn that there is valuable data to be gathered in shops, which leads to questions. That’s why FenderBender was pleased to speak with Pete Tagliapietra, the managing director of DataTouch, who also founded the company in 2022, to discuss data pumps and what his new venture is doing to combat them.


“Data pumps are software controls that typically reside on a collision repair shop’s computer system. The purpose of

these data pumps is to copy the export routine from an estimating system,” he explained. “They can work with any one of the three major systems out there and then seamlessly transfer that information to the recipient.”

It’s noteworthy to mention that he doesn’t want to identify these systems by name, but he trusts collision repairers to know which ones he’s referring to.


“In the supply chain, the typical collision repair shop will interact with several vendors. Many of these vendors have data pumps installed on the shops’ computer systems, which automatically take a copy of an estimate when it is created,”

20 July 2024 fenderbender.com

Tagliapietra said. “The downside to this is that, as we got into doing our research and learning more about data pump functionality, we learned that typically the installed data pump won’t just take a copy of the estimate that it needs to complete the business transaction. It takes a copy of every estimate that’s on the shop’s computer system, and we believe, in the best interest of protecting the shops’ information, that this is a major fundamental flaw.”


“Imagine if I’m in a collision repair business and all of my information about who my partners are, who I’m buying parts from, what parts discount

I get, what I charge, what my labor rates are, all of that information with these data pumps is being shared today and we fundamentally disagree with that information sharing. We want to help facilitate shops to not share it.”

“Can you imagine understanding, for a parts manufacturer, to know exactly what the price of every part is from the manufacturer so they can manufacture an alternate part and price it more effectively in a certain area of the country?” Tagliapietra asked hypothetically. “I’d know, as a company, exactly what vehicles are most likely to be repaired in a ZIP code, and then I can market my products to that ZIP code.”

He picked the rural Illinois market as an example. “I’m not going to be focused on Teslas as far as marketing my parts information. But in Southern California, where Teslas are so dominant, I’m certainly going to want to market and have parts availability for Teslas in those marketplaces,” he explained.

“So, I as a manufacturer can control my manufacturing and as a supplier, I can manage my inventory more successfully or in the case of an insurance company, with all of the underwriting information that’s needed.”


“The Data Pump Manager is all about having sufficient intelligence to understand the transaction between the shop and the supplier and restrict the estimate flow only to the transaction that’s relevant to the supplier,” said Tagliapietra. “So instead of, in summary, the supplier receiving every estimate that’s on the shop’s computer system, they only receive the estimate that’s relevant. For example,

if I am affiliated with an OEM collision repair network and I am a provider to that, what we refer to as OEM CRN today, with many of those data pumps, the information technology company that’s providing the service for the vehicle manufacturer is getting a copy of every estimate. Well, when we install the Data Pump Manager at a collision shop, that IT provider will only get a copy of the estimate that’s relevant for that manufacturer.”


“One of our main focus points is not to disrupt the workflow,” Pete Tagliapietra said. “Typically, when companies add technology, it also creates an administrative burden. We designed our applications so that wouldn’t happen. So we can administer the program and allow the shop to decide through an administrator or what I would call a filter screen that says ‘OK, for this particular company in the supply chain, this is the information that I only want to send them’ and once that’s configured, the system takes over and then automatically does it for the end user. So the end user doesn’t have to be burdened with repeatedly making decisions on what information is being restricted and what information gets sent. So we don’t want to disrupt the workflow that exists in a collision repair shop today. We want to integrate into it and then use technology to automate the process.”


Tagliapietra directs readers to datatouch. us for more information. “All the product announcements are on that website,” he said. “We’re very committed to collision shops and continuing to help them.”

21 July 2024 fenderbender.com

Cycle Time, the Long-Forgotten KPI

As business slows, it’s time to create raving fans of your customers.

At the time of this writing, I am hearing of some metro-area shops having near-Covid levels of customer demand, with some technicians even going home early. There is one KPI (key performance indicator) we used to hear about a lot but since the gold rush of high collision repair demand the last three years has gone silent. That KPI is cycle time, and most independent shops couldn’t care less whether a repaired car leaves within five days or 35 days of arrival. But if you want customers to leave as raving fans, you had better start caring!

Let’s look at just one company and what effect their “cycle time” has had on our society and the growth and profits for their business. Jeff Bezos is one of the top three richest men on the planet, with a net worth of over $200,000,000,000 ($200 billion). For those who aren’t aware, Mr. Bezos created Amazon. Over 80% of the U.S. population uses Amazon, including myself.

What makes Amazon so special? Well, several things do. 1. Fast delivery 2. We get what we ordered. 3. Returns are not a huge hassle. 4. A fair price. Let’s say everything went well when ordering an Amazon product, but instead of an average of a 4–5-day delivery time, it took 21-days. Would Amazon still be used by 80% of the Americans? Well, that depends on the delivery times of the same products from Amazon’s competitors. If other online retailers could have the same products to us in, say, 10 days on average, at a similar price and correctness of order rather than the 21-day scenario, Amazon would have literally no competitive advantage.

Changing Our Mindset

Let’s look at this from the perspective of a vehicle owner who has just backed into a pole. For them, their “cycle time” of getting their car fixed started as soon as they hit the pole. Unfortunately, most shops look at cycle time starting when we get the customers keys to their vehicle. With customer demand currently dropping and very likely a new norm, we will need to change our mindset from the past three years of work abundance.

In the world of lean manufacturing, there are seven types of waste. Without diving in deep here, one of the seven biggest wastes is inventory. Some shop owners will revel when looking at their parking lot when it's stacked full of customers vehicles.

Well, the only way that can be a good thing for our business is if they are all total losses collecting storage. If most of the vehicles are to be repaired, then it’s a very bad thing! Look at this way: let’s say your shop produces three cars per day, or 15 cars per week. If you have 45 cars onsite, that means the next car dropped off will have a 21-day cycle time, or three weeks until the car leaves repaired. If you have 60 cars onsite, that’s a four-week inventory of cars, or a four-week cycle time.

With a high inventory of cars onsite, we often are blinded to just how much chaos and work this creates. Every one of those customers wants updated whether their car is being worked on or not. There always seems to be a car in front of the one you need to get out, keys need to be located, multiple parts carts are everywhere, cash is tied up in labor of blueprinted vehicles and any parts that have been invoiced. Cash flow is tight, and everyone is just stressed out, especially the owner of the business.

Ways to Lower Cycle Times

Many reading this will say they have to wait sometimes weeks on end for the insurer to give approvals. For my shop, rarely do we wait for approval to move forward after a blueprint. "Isn't that risky?” you ask. Well, let’s say an insurer calls and gets upset that we have moved forward on a $50,000 vehicle with a $6,000 repair cost. How should we respond? Here is what I was taught. “Mr. Insurer, I have a signed authorization to repair the vehicle from the owner, and I am not sure who you are.” Granted, we keep all old parts until approval etc., but keeping the customer as our No.1 priority should be our goal.

There are many more ways outside of getting approvals to lowering cycle times, like proper scheduling of inputs and outputs, possibly preordering parts, 100% blueprint, mapping the vehicle, thorough mirror-matching process, confirming techs have reviewed the estimate, proper QC, deductibles confirmed at drop-off, etc.

My responsibility as the owner of my shop is to keep enough work coming in the door. At the end of the day, we each must figure out what our competitive advantage is to a customer using our shop over another.


Greg Lobsiger has owned Loren’s Body Shop in Bluffton, Indiana, for over 23 years. He has been a member of Mike Anderson’s groups for ten years and had extensive lean manufacturing training.

EMAIL: greg@lorensbodyshop.com

ARCHIVE: fenderbender.com/lobsiger

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Aligning with OEM certification programs can provide a path to DRPindependence.


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With today’s increased vehicle complexity, can a collision repair shop successfully juggle the at-odds requirements of direct repair programs (DRPs) and performing repairs following OEM procedures and remain profitable? For the two collision repair shop managers FenderBender interviewed for this article, the answer was no. Each of them related their efforts to modify standard DRP agreements to allow for the simultaneous goals of proper repairs, profitability and pleasing DRP managers. They found the path to being DRP-free is not without its own struggles. But by concentrating on OEM certification programs and satisfying their customers, they’re driving profitable “walk-in” business. The payoff has been less stress, greater technician satisfaction, and increased profitability – even with a lower car count. That said, they can be an effective method of increasing car count and creating satisfied customers – if you understand their limitations.

Mohawk Collision Center in Schenectady, New York, serves Mohawk Chevrolet and Mohawk Honda, has 20 OEM certifications, and has been DRP-free for five or six years, says General Manager Gerry Rosenbarker.

“Back then, to do a $500,000 month, I used to have to process somewhere around 180 cars a month, which is exhausting,” he says. “Now we do $700,000 months with 100 cars a month.”

Josh Piccione is general manager of Tom Wood Collision Center in Indianapolis, which serves the dealership group’s 21 brands with OEM certifications for each brand. He’s been in his current position for about a year, but when he arrived at the shop 10 years ago it had a handful of small DRPs.

“We had a single DRP for about the last four or so years, and recently we decided to

split paths,” he says, noting the DRP model, focused on volume and meeting certain concessions, is incompatible with Piccione’s goals for the dealership collision center.

“A lot of these DRP agreements come with a laundry list of things that you can’t do and a laundry list of things that they expect you to do a little differently. And maybe I’m just a young rookie GM and I don’t yet fully understand this, but it’s hard for me to understand why you would allow another company to make business decisions on your behalf.”

Leveraging OEM Certifications

OEM certifications are “raising the bar for accountability” in the collision repair industry for how repairs are to be performed, Piccione says.

“Something we take a lot of pride in here is we are very decorated when it comes to OEM certifications, and we want to fix the cars the right way,” Piccione says. “And when we started a discussion with our most recent DRP and the whys behind we were going in different directions, what I took away from it is that it’s still just a volume and a metrics aspect on the DRP side.”

Outside a DRP relationship, the certifications provide more leverage in being appropriately compensated for the thorough repair plans required to follow OEM repair procedures.

“Most of the time, we have no issue when it comes to negotiating with the insurers for what needs to be done,” Rosenbarker says. “There are times they draw a line in the sand and the customer does have to participate. It’s not that often, though.”

The certifications are “a badge of honor” in the company’s advertising, Rosenbarker says, and used to sell a customer on the difference between his and other shops.

“What we often say is that anybody can make the paint shiny. There are a lot of shops out there that can do a small job and make it 100%. But you bought a five-star-rated vehicle. I know I can

guarantee when it leaves here, it’ll be a five-star rated vehicle again. But we’re going to do it by the book, because the engineers built and designed your vehicle for crashworthiness, and that’s what they say needs to be done.”

Generating Early Word-of-mouth Through DRPs

Early on, the DRP agreements did serve a purpose for the shops, though. Rosenbarker’s original shop was at the Honda dealership’s old location, small and dated and not in a desirable part of town. By stationing an estimator there, customers could drop off and pick up their vehicles at the new dealership. The shop had a staff of only four at the time, doing about $45,000 to $50,000 in monthly sales. Needing to take out the peaks and valleys of the business, Rosenbarker began a DRP agreement with State Farm. Cars began to flow in. Staff worked hard to meet key performance indicators on the scorecard. With the advent of OEM certifications, he says, it was a no-brainer to try to add a Honda certification, but the old facility was a roadblock. So, he forged ahead with the DRP model, increasing the business to 13 employees and doing about $200,000 a month in sales. With the shop bursting at the seams, the company’s owner asked Rosenbarker to help

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Mohawk Collision Center

Mohawk Collision Center has grown to include 20 OEM certifications, including Porsche and Lamborghini.

“That’s when we realized, ‘Wow, there’s all this stuff these guys won’t pay us for. They don’t care about that. They don’t want the expense of that, but we need to do this because we don’t want the liability of it. Grow your business quickly with DRPs and use them like they’re using you and then cut them loose as soon as you can. That’s my thought process.”

Making the DRP Work for You

At the time, DRP agreements for both Rosenbarker and Piccione’s shops were workable because they were able to customize them to their needs.

design what he’d need in a new shop. They bought property near the dealership and built a nearly 24,000-square-foot facility about nine years ago with an efficient horseshoe-shaped production flow.

Rosenbarker knew even then that OEM certifications were desirable, but his participation in the Axalta 20 group, which at the time was administered by Collision Advice’s Mike Anderson, opened his eyes to how OEM certification programs provided a path away from the DRP model.

“Like anybody else, I didn’t like having the thumb of the DRP on me all the time,” he says. “Everything had to be cheaper, better, and faster, and with those pressures all the time.”

The new facility was running smoothly.

“But it’s a big facility with a lot of equipment, with three frame machines, two booths, and four prep decks. That’s a big monthly nut you’ve got to make.”

The “beautiful, state-of-the-art facility” caused more work to flow from State Farm, followed by a smaller DRP, Honda certification, and certification for the brands served by Assured Performance.

The DRP agreements meant the shop often performed procedures for which it was uncompensated. But for the few years the

shop was on the programs, he found that doing the repairs by the book did pay off in the form of referrals.

“These customers are very happy; they are giving us great Google reviews and telling their aunts their brothers or sisters what a great experience they had. Boom, those cars land in our shop, and most of those are not DRP, so it was working out well. We had a good rapport with State Farm and with a lot of their agents and so on.”

In examining the numbers, Rosenbarker determined the DRP agreements were not very profitable. Worse, profitable walk-in customers were not prioritized.

“We had started concentrating on the trap that I think so many shops get caught in, and that’s the insurance company being your customer, rather than our own customers who maybe weren’t one of our DRP’s and who chose us. So all those referrals I was working hard to get, unfortunately, I found that we were putting them on the back burner because we had to hurry up and get all the DRP jobs out.”

The more Rosenbarker learned on the path to OEM certification, the more it made sense in the long-term to focus on them as a business model.

Rosenbarker had negotiated an agreement with GEICO’s ARX program that allowed him to use 88% OEM parts, which was much more than the market average was, he says, while turning away other DRPs that were less flexible. But then the ARX 2.0 program arrived. The insurer’s personnel changed, including eliminating the in-house writer.

“Some of the people that we’ve worked deals out with moved around. Things started to change dramatically.”

Being able to “turn on and off” the program allowed the shop to help even workflow. But the shop was still required to process tow-ins, including those that were obvious total losses.

“It was burying us in admin work. So we shut them off for a little while to concentrate on what was the better DRP at the time, which was State Farm, and then concentrate on our customers.”

Similarly, Piccione says his shop’s last DRP endured for over four years because it was not a “basic DRP contract.”

“There was a specific agreement made for our shop and that carrier,” he recalls. “The recent GM who was here walked down that road with them to make sure we were checking some boxes on our end. We allowed them

27 July 2024 fenderbender.com

to check some boxes on their end, and we had a great, great relationship.”

Despite his decision to go DRP-free, he’s “not anti-DRP,” he insists.

“I’m anti-one-sided business relationships, and I think that it just takes a unique environment for both parties to agree on mutually what’s going to help us in our own ways. And it’s still fair to everyone involved, not just the shop, not just the insurance company, but also the customer.”

He sees a lack of understanding by insurers of what repairs and procedures modern vehicles require.

“I doubt anybody’s going to tell you they want you to fix cars and not do it the right way. They expect you, as the repair professional, to do it the right way. But if they had the same knowledge and understanding of how cars are developing and how intensive they are getting – to make sure everything’s safe and proper – would they have still made the same decision that they made? I would argue that they wouldn’t have. I find it hard to believe there’s that many bad people in the world who just want to do it as cheaply as possible.”

Since the split over the winter, the shop has lost some volume it has yet to recover. But considering the alternative, Piccione knows he’s made the right decision.

“If we were to go back, we would either have to be doing operations for free to do it the right way, or we would have to not do some operations that were required.”

He’s also given the benefit of the doubt to others who’ve come knocking on his door, but none have been workable for him. He’s puzzled by how antiquated some of the boilerplate agreements presented to him have been, leaving no wiggle room to

Tom Wood Collision Center

Despite the challenges of going DRP-free last winter, Tom Wood Collision Center General Manager Josh Piccione knows he’s made the right decision.

modify them so they’re updated for modern repair methods.

“I have dipped my toes in the water to try and look at other DRPs, and we’ve had some good conversations, but what I’ve seen with most of the proposals that come back to us is they haven’t tailored it to our market or our clientele or our shop. It’s, ‘Hey, here’s our agreement. Read through it. Let us know if you agree.’ It doesn’t really give you much opportunity to get your red pen out and go, ‘Hey, I’ve got these concerns. Can we talk about them?’”

The Challenges of Becoming DRP-free

Operating outside a DRP means some adjustments, of course, including no longer having instant approvals for supplements.

“That’s been one of the challenges we face,” Piccione says. “When you look at the DRP world, you can get that instant approval, you can order and receive the parts faster, and you can fix the car faster. We can follow up to get the supplement handled as fast as possible, but we’re still on hold now. Whether that’s three days, six days, or seven days, what we’re experiencing is it’s not consistent.”

Open communication on the part of insurance companies and examining all available information would do much to alleviate these delays, he notes.

“I’m sure there are shops out there that overwrite sheets intentionally, and that gives everybody a bad name. But if we put something on our ticket, somebody has determined they this on here, and there’s a reason why. Are we going to write a 300-line estimate and get every single paid every time? Absolutely not. But I would see a huge change in a positive way if we all just raised our hand and asked

why before it’s just denied. Ask why Josh or Tom Wood or ‘ABC Body Shop,’ ‘Why do you have an alignment on this car that doesn’t have a suspension damage?’ Because there’s likely a pretty solid answer behind it.”

He says the loss of the last DRP, which was providing significant volume, has made his staff be thorough and more transparent with line notes and OEM procedures.

“There’s no more assuming that ABC Insurance is going to have an appraiser who knows you can’t pull on a rivet-bonded panel. We all know it because that’s common, but we can’t assume that that’s common knowledge.”

Claims volume from that insurer are about half what they had been, although part of that loss has been with the recent industry slowdown, he says, noting that it’s required an adjustment in explaining the claims process to customers.

“Now we just must have a challenging conversation with those customers. ‘Hey, we’re going to be transparent; we just went through this separation of an agreement. We’re still learning how this relationship is going to work outside of the direct repair agreement. We’re going to have some bumps in the road that we want to be clear with you about.’ We don’t know what the bumps look like yet, and I think that’s probably the more challenging part because you don’t want to bring a customer in and set the wrong expectation.”

Rosenbarker counsels shop owners and operators to “not be afraid to part ways on your own terms.”

When his shop had the two DRPs, his overall gross profit was around 41%, he says, and it’s now between 53 and 55%, depending on the month, with work consistently booked five to six weeks out.

In working on 100 cars a month – down from 180 – he can better pay his staff and offer benefits because his shop is more profitable, and they have less stress because they’re not processing as many vehicles. It translates to a better experience for the customer.

“It’s an outstanding win for us. I think a lot of other shops could do it. Is it work? Absolutely. It isn’t particularly fun trying to get it to there. But the view is absolutely worth the climb, you know?”

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Runs His Operations With One Eye On The Future

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he’s constantly “working on his businesses to stay in the business,” he says, always making decisions based on what’s best for his shops in the long-term.

It’s this future-focused mindset that has allowed him to expand his shop, First Aid Collision in western North Carolina, from one location to three locations in the span of only six years, and he’s set his sights on more expansion down the line.

As it turns out, the industry veteran has an advantage not many of his competitors have — before he was a successful, multi-collision shop owner, he was a successful mechanical repair shop owner, and he learned early how important customer service is to the viability of a business. Even though the collision and mechanical worlds can be quite different, he says, there’s one constant — the customer.


LaBruno entered the mechanical side of the industry at 19, first working as a technician before opening and running his own shop for 15 years, from 2005 to 2020.

According to LaBruno, distrust runs rampant in the mechanical repair world; many customers walk through the door with a preconceived notion about the business, and they’re leery out of the gate. Throughout the

years, he learned to overcome that hurdle by thoroughly educating his customers about their cars and repairs.

“Even though the end result is sort of the same — we’re fixing cars — the process to get there is totally different in the mechanic and collision worlds. In the mechanical world, you’re always scratching for work… you really, really have to know your customer service.”

As such, he’s always prioritized his customers…and that, he says, is what gives him the upper hand. Even though LaBruno is “pretty much surrounded” by consolidators nowadays, he’s not worried.

“Our customer service is probably the best of any collision center around. I’m not trying to brag; it’s because we do a lot of training and make sure we’re meeting customers’ expectations. I think that’s what makes my shop a little different than most in our area.”


At the beginning of his ownership journey, LaBruno wore “all the hats” in his mechanic shop, working on the cars while simultaneously running the business. It wasn’t until he joined forces with ATI about seven years in that he says he learned how to better manage employees so he could step back and play the long game of growing the business:“working on it instead of in it.”

Once he had some breathing room, however, he realized he wanted a new challenge — and as fate would have it, his uncle owned a collision repair shop next door that was calling his name.

“I started messing around a little, writing estimates since I had some time on my hands,” he reminisced. “One thing led to another, and I found myself interested in the collision world.”

It didn’t take LaBruno long to venture into ownership on the collision side — he found a

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paintless dent repair (PDR) business for sale about eight miles away from his uncle’s operation and took the plunge into dual ownership in 2018. He invested in the shop to make it a full collision repair center and ran both the mechanic and collision repair shops for about two years.

“I thought it was a great idea to feed the mechanical side of the collision center to the mechanical shop. But, after two years of doing both, I realized I really couldn’t put 100% into the collision center the way I wanted.”

Feeling as though he’d taken the mechanical repair shop as far as he could and with a growing interest in the collision repair world, he made the decision to sell the mechanic shop in 2020 and put all his time and effort into First Aid Collision, and it started “growing like a weed.”


When LaBruno found himself booked out for a month, even two, at his 5,000 sq. ft. location in Arden, North Carolina, he knew it was time to expand. Finding an existing shop to purchase wasn’t easy, however, so he opted to build his second location from the ground up.

With 11,500 sq. ft. of shop space, First Aid Collison – Hendersonville opened its doors in Dec 2022, bringing in $2.5 million in its first year.

The shop was so successful that the decision to purchase a third came easily. And unlike the second shop, the third one “pretty much popped up in my backyard,” he says. Myers CarSmart Collision in Brevard, an older, 13,000 sq. ft. independent operation, became First Aid Collision – Brevard in May 2024. Although the shop is bringing in revenue, “it could do much better…so that’s our next goal, to start hitting targets there.”

LaBruno “has his hands full, for the moment,” but he’s always looking ahead to the future, thinking about where shop #4 might be. LaBruno and his family spend a lot of time in Seneca, South Carolina, so he’s thinking about expanding to that area in roughly five years. But he acknowledges, “you never know what opportunities are going to come.”


One of the biggest catalysts to his rapid expansion, LaBruno says, are the people he’s surrounded himself with. Between himself and

his wife, Jennifer, who handles the accounting, HR, and community relations for the business, First Aid Collison now has 30 employees, plus lots of other professional partners that play important roles in the business, too.

“Without great managers and employees, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do,” LaBruno stated categorically.

It’s extremely important, he continued, for owners to create good teams within their companies. And leadership is huge.

Every time he opens a new location, LaBruno trains a manager months in advance of opening to ensure they’re ready to hit the ground running come opening day. Training processes are key to success, and LaBruno certainly has them. But what’s really important, he says, is finding managers who truly own the company culture and live it out in front of employees.

“People have to believe in your vision. If they do, they’ll work hard to help you achieve it. Pay your employees well, train them, treat them well…and you’ll create a team that will allow you to expand as much as you want.”

LaBruno invests in his team, but not only through pay and benefits. Team-building

Growing with the Right People First Aid Collision has grown to include 30 employees, plus lots of other professional partners who play an important role, too.

activities are important, too, and add to the family-like atmosphere in the shops.

“We’ve gone whitewater rafting, axthrowing, golfing…you name it. And we have group lunches often.”

The team truly enjoys working together, and LaBruno works incredibly hard to maintain the culture he’s built when bringing in new hires.

“We don’t just put a body in place if we know they’re not going to fit our culture. You might be an amazing technician or estimator, but if I can tell you’re not going to fit my culture — you’re not a team player — I’m not going to hire you. I’d rather backlog and do the best we can with what we have until we find the right person. Again, I’m looking at the long term.”

So, how does he find the right candidates?

It’s difficult, he admits, the same as it is for everyone in the industry right now.

“Not only is there a labor shortage; there’s a big-time shortage of the right person, the one who will fit in well with the culture and team. We have structure. We have SOPs. We have all that pretty much laid down and in place; we just have to implement it. But finding the right people —that’s the real challenge.”

LaBruno is active in local business groups, and he’s always making connections.

“Anytime I run across somebody that I think could be a good candidate, I’m always taking numbers and meeting people and shaking hands.”

He also undertakes an extensive interview process, and always checks references. Partnering with the local community college has yielded excellent results, too.

“We put on presentations at Blue Ridge Community College, and we have apprentice programs with them, too. We work with local high schools as well. I have several apprentices from the college, and I’ve developed some of my best technicians from Blue Ridge.”


In addition to his staff, LaBruno can’t emphasize enough the importance of hiring key professionals outside the industry who can advise and help you grow your business. An excellent accountant, lawyer, realtor, and banker are nonnegotiable, he says, and once you find one or two great partners, they’ll lead you to the next. Mentors and coaches are invaluable, too — both LaBruno and his managers are still coached on a weekly basis through ATI.

“A lot of owners think they don’t have the money to surround themselves with these people, or they’re trying to do it on their own to keep their money. That’s just not sustainable, and it’s definitely not a sure way to grow.” It all comes down to paying the right people to do the right jobs, he says, and investing in the right equipment and software to empower them to do it.

The investment principle is one LaBruno embraced from the beginning — he didn’t take a paycheck at all during his first year of business to make sure he could pay everyone else and hire the right help. As an owner, he says, you must lose the mentality you need to do everything on your own.

“If you look at it from strictly an owner standpoint — getting the businesses up and running quickly, creating great cultures, and establishing the financial stability to be able to pay these employees good money — it really all stems from the teams that I have in place around me.”

Play the long game, says LaBruno: think of where you want to be in three years, or five years, and put a plan in place with the right people to help you make it happen.

The saying is true…teamwork makes the dream work.

34 July 2024 fenderbender.com
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Ace an inspection from any agency.

COLLISION REPAIR SHOPS are under constant scrutiny from regulatory agencies and face constant inspection.

Kevin Dwyer, a product manager for agency compliance industry expert GMG EnviroSafe, says between reactive inspections after an incident, follow-ups to complaints or simple routine checks, shops can have agency representatives in their shops constantly.

“Shops are getting inspected all the time,” he says. “There are a number of things that can prompt an inspection, but it all comes from those organizations trying to create safe working environments.”

The best way to make sure that your shop comes out on the other side of an inspection without any citations is to make sure you have policies in place, that your employees are very familiar with that policy, and that your shop is keeping an eye out for common violations.

As told to NOAH BROWN

Putting a Policy in Place

There are a lot of things agencies such as OSHA and EPA are looking for, and it’s a lot for shops to keep track of. That’s why

'Why Did I Get Inspected?'

Dwyer says what prompts an inspection and determines what an inspector looks at could come from a number of things.

The first is a threat or risk of imminent danger. They want to be preemptive, and if they have knowledge that death or severe injury is likely to occur, or on the environmental side, if there's a potential for a large spill or release of chemicals, there number one priority is to get out there and inspect before something bad happens.

The second is a reactive inspection if something bad has already occurred. If you had a fatality or a major injury such as a loss of an eye or an amputation, or if you had an environmental issue like a spill, they're going to come investigate that on the back end, and they're going to find out what went wrong, what the business should have done differently, and then they're going to figure out how they should penalize the business.

The third is if an agency such as OSHA or EPA receive a complaint or referral. Those organizations are mandated to respond to every single referral they receive. It could be from an employee at your shop, it could be from a former employee, it could be from someone in the community or a customer that sees something. Unfortunately, too, it could be fraudulent. We've seen people call in completely bogus complaints, but those agencies have to respond anyway.

The fourth is when an agency creates or implements an emphasis program. They're trying to create safe working environments and communities, and so their priorities are going to dictate what inspections are going to look for specifically. They'll see where injuries or fatalities are coming from, such as a specific piece of equipment, and then they'll create an emphasis on that, and that'll be the reason they go into shops.

Lastly, there are random inspections. They have quotas that they need to meet, and sometimes they'll pull an inspector to have them go do a routine inspection.

36 July 2024 fenderbender.com

it’s crucial that a shop has a written policy on inspections.

An inspection policy should include all the paperwork an inspector will want to see. You need written programs, such as a hazard communication program and a job hazard assessment. Hazard communications program outline spots in your shop where injuries could happen and how you communicate to your employees to avoid injury, and a job hazard assessment outlines every operation an employee performs and the PPE they wear during those operations to prevent injury.

You’ll also need an injury and illness prevention plan. If an injury occurs, how are you investigating it, how are you including your employees for anonymous reporting or to share their feedback? How are you proactively identifying new hazards that come up to make sure that your people don’t get hurt?

You need an emergency action plan. If you get hit by a tornado, earthquake, hurricane or other disaster, where are you going and what are you doing? If a fire or a spill occurs in your shop, you need to outline how you will respond to that and what first responders you should call.

Inspectors need to see all those programs written down, and they need them all on site. This is the first thing that an inspector is going to look at. They’re going to go through all of your paperwork, and a lot of shops don’t know that. That’s where an organization such as GMG EnviroSafe comes in. This is one of the biggest reasons shops hire us. We’ll tailor all of the necessary paperwork to that individual shop and just give the owner peace of mind so they don’t need to worry about it.

If OSHA comes and asks about a specific document or plan and you say that you don’t have it or don’t know what it is, that’s a red flag. That’s not an excuse – you’re a business owner, and you should know that you need this in place. To them, saying that is the same as telling a police officer who just pulled you over you don’t know what a driver’s license is. You’re supposed to know – you’re the one driving the car.

Common Violations

I’ve seen shops make many common mistakes that result in big fines.

One is their paint booths need some kind of fire suppression system built in. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sprinkler or dry system – but you need something.

Another is that Oxygen and Acetylene tanks can’t be stored together – they need to be at least 20 feet apart from each other. That’s a big one that we always get shops on.

Lifts need to be inspected once a year, and bench grinders need eye shields on them.

One that surprises a lot of shops is that you can’t have any open space on an electrical board. You need to put space fillers in open spaces where the breakers are missing. In addition, all breakers need to be labeled.

Lastly, you can’t have any damaged electrical cords, and they need to have their grounds intact. If the ground is gone, that increases the risk for electrocution.

Training Your Employees

Not only do shops need written policies, but their employees need to be trained regularly on those policies.

Something else that a shop should put into a policy is that non-supervisory employees don’t have the right to grant access to a regulatory agency, and then list who to contact if an inspector visits while a manager is out of town.

It’s fine if you don’t want your technicians to do that. If an inspector comes to your shop and an untrained person says, “Yeah, I’ll take you around,” the inspector might come up with a laundry list of violations. Those untrained people probably won’t know about all the paperwork needed, so an inspector will probably penalize you for that even if you have the proper paperwork on site. You want a policy that clearly outlines who inspectors can talk to, and you need multiple people trained that would be allowed to let OSHA or EPA or the state in.

Owners and managers also need to be familiar with their employees’ rights, and they need to make sure their employees know them, too. If an OSHA inspector comes to a shop and asks to interview an employee, that employee can say yes or no – the owner cannot tell them they aren’t allowed. That’s how inspectors find a lot of violations, because technicians won’t know where paperwork or other things are.

Employees can refuse an interview if they want, but they have the right to take that. You need to clearly state in your policy that your shop will not retaliate against an employee for participating in an interview, and if they participate you cannot influence or interfere. You also need to let them know that any statements they make could be used as the basis for a citation.

37 July 2024 fenderbender.com
GMG ENVIROSAFE Common Violation Bench grinders must have safety shields in place.


Process-driven operations allow more gross profit to be squeezed out of the same footprint.

IN THIS ARTICLE, we will discuss the possibility of implementing shifts in your collision repair operation. Beyond my own experience on this topic, we will be sharing the experiences of Ben Bowman of Keeler Collision, an MSO dealer repair center with shifts in their primary location in Latham, New York. We both agreed the decision to adapt shifts can be profitable, but it comes with some challenges which a “process-driven operator” can easily overcome.

Return on Investment

The benefit of implementing shifts in the collision repair industry is that the investment in the shop and equipment can be used up to 24 hours and most days of the year.

An example in a service industry is when McDonald’s decided to open their restaurants for breakfast in 1977. They now achieve 30%

of their sales from that period and it secured their long-term profitability because of the gross profit they earn during the 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. time slot.

Keeler Collision is not the average shop, though, and is able to sell $8,000,000 per year out of a 10,000 square foot location ($80 per square foot); the resulting operating profit is astounding!

It sounds easy, so why isn’t everyone doing it? The short answer is it requires you to be “process-driven.” Let’s explore the key processes to consider implementing:

Vision and Leadership

The leader of the repair center must have the vision to see that working a bit harder will yield incrementally more profit from the facility. They must be willing to enhance their processes and hire good people to make this

happen. They don’t have to be the owner; they just have to be driven to do more with less. Body Shop Director Ben Bowman and his leadership team at Keeler embody that. When you ask them about shifts, their passion for finding solutions shines through.

Keeler employs a night foreman who plays an interesting role. The night foreman primarily acts as a back-end estimator who documents the repair plan on work assigned to the night shift and prepares “evidence packs” to justify their repair plan for final billing purposes. Further, they do also manage production, evaluate quality, and lead the night crew.

Technician Staffing

Staffing completes most of the same tasks that the day shift performs. Generally, the night shift team works a four-day work week and earns a 10% wage premium when working. Staffing the night shift with well-trained certified technicians who you can directly pass work to is key. Keeler employs six in the night shift. As a result, the second shift role is more appealing to the “night owl” personalities who like working these hours. As part of the orientation process, new hires work the day shift for a week to better understand the shop’s processes (to understand what and why). Keeler pays hourly based on historical performance and offers a global incentive for overall shop performance.

Repair Planning and Parts Coordination

Shifts were started at Keeler by implementing processes to remove all “question marks” during repair planning to use advanced inspections (estimates and parts re -

38 July 2024 fenderbender.com
WITHOUT SHIFTS / MONTH WITH SHIFTS / MONTH Size of shop 10,000 square feet 10,000 square feet Monthly output per sq. ft. $25 / sq. ft. $40 /sq. ft. Sales $250,000 $400,000 Gross Margin 43% 42% (pay wage premium) Gross Profit $ $107,500 $168,000 Overhead Expenses, which incrementally grow with volume $45,000 (18%) $65,000 (16.25%) Overhead, which is generally fixed with volume (Rent, Maintenance, IT, Professional, Other) $48,000 (19%) $48,000 (12% = 7% less) Operating Profit  $14,500 (5.8%) $55,000 (13.8% = 8% or approx. 140% more in the same period) How implementing shift work might benefit an average repairer:  FINANCE+OPERATIONS

Total Labor Hours the Body Team (Body, Frame and Mechanical) Moved Upstream

Total Labor Hours the Paint Team (Paint, Detail, PDR) Moved Upstream

ceiving performed during the day) to identify, order, and receive all parts needing replacement during working hours. They use on-vehicle notes and other non-verbal communication tools (work orders, etc.) to communicate internally. All parts are received and placed on parts cart to create a fully kitted parts cart for the body repairs, regardless of the shift we are working on. When possible, parts are painted off the vehicle and transferred during repair planning to avoid bagging and tagging and to prevent unforeseen supplements during repair planning.

Passing Repairs and Work Mix

Initially, it was beneficial to earmark fast track or cosmetic work and midsized repair for the night shift. Eventually, night shift was assigned to complete heavy hits as well.  Instead of assigning jobs dedicated to night shift, we both opted to have the night

crew continue the work from the day shift. A brief 30-minute overlap between shifts to review work accomplished has proven beneficial. Keeler has learned that solid documentation (highlighting the lines completed on the work order), including a periodic brief video (from night shift for the say shift) that details where they left off has further refined communication.

Production Controls / Scoreboard of Success

We quickly realized that the night crew and day shift needed to scorekeep, documenting what they accomplished versus our daily and weekly goals. Each department tracks TOTAL hours completed versus the goal, and then adjusts resources to assure level flow.

To keep the flow level, conduct three production “huddles” per day to review the scoreboard and “read the shop floor” to see where the staffing is needed, and then to

decide the sequence of work completed. These huddles should be very brief but are crucial to work to a production goal with level flow.

Mechanical or ADAS Calibration

Keeler has chosen to bring mechanical repairs in-house and doesn’t send them to the dealer mechanical department (minor exceptions). It performs calibrations in the evening on-site, if possible.


Certain work either doesn’t have approval, has parts delays, or other concerns causing it not to be available to be worked on. The day shift production manager/lead should be working with the appropriate resources to remove the barriers and put it back into productive WIP.

Supplies and Materials

The creation of point-of-use carts per work area was essential. These carts are refreshed (and garbage dumped) at the end of the shift to pass a fully stocked work area to the next shift. Using the 3M RepairStack inventory management system with increased minimums and maximums ensured no stock-outs occur. Relative to stock parts, those are pulled during repair planning to ensure they are billed and to deliver a fully kitted parts cart to the technicians completing the repairs.

Security and Company Policy Updates

Late-night security is always an issue for repairers, so a security camera system which saves recordings and improving the parking area gate deters unwanted

39 July 2024 fenderbender.com
THURSDAY FRIDAY D – 100 D – 120 D -115 D – 110 D -100 N – 35 N -40 N – 42 N – 50 N – 0 T – 135 / 150 T – 160 /150 T – 155 / 150 T – 160 / 150 T – 100 / 100 = 710 / 700 = 98% of Goal MONDAY TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY D – 70  D – 72 D – 73 D – 75 D – 62 N – 30 N – 27 N - 35 N – 30 N – 0 T – 100 /100 T – 99 /100 T – 108 /100 T – 105 /100 T – 62 /75 = 474 / 475   100% of Goal

people from entering the lot. The video gives you insights on the goings-on during the night shift, when necessary. Ben’s teams share “shop tools” rather than having individual toolboxes. In our practice, we both enforced a strict “no visitor policy”

overnight, as we had a few incidents which led to that policy.

Equipment Maintenance

We also realized that we needed to ensure the equipment had proper maintenance, so

neither the first nor the second shift were held up by maintenance. We engaged a booth supplier who did scheduled maintenance on Friday afternoon or over the weekend so that the day shift is largely unimpacted.


In implementing shifts, our only incremental costs were a bit higher technician wage for the night crew, increased overhead staff bonuses, and some additional utility expenses. Our only capital investment was a bit more security-related costs.

Improving shop output by nearly 2075% leads to a significant net profit percentage improvement!

Thank you, Ben Bowman, for your insights!

40 July 2024 fenderbender.com
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EstVis software helps shops keep track of their work in an intuitive and easy-to-see way

ALEXEY KRYUCHKOV says it is just a pleasant coincidence that the Latin phrase est vis roughly translates to “the power.”

41 July 2024 fenderbender.com

It is not what inspired the name of his similarly named management software, EstVis. EstVis is actually short for “estimate visualization.” But even if it’s accidental, two things can be true at once.

Spend a little time with the EstVis app and software and one can see that it is a powerful tool built around visualizing the repair process for all users. From the desktop dashboard with each vehicle in process to the mobile app in which users can track and update projects in real time, EstVis is all about simplicity. It’s what drove Kryuchkov to develop the software in the first place.

Though it was the oil business that initially brought Kryuchkov to the United States in 2010, he eventually found his way into collision repair. He founded Excel AutoBody, which has since grown to two locations in suburban Orlando, Florida. Kryuchkov wasn’t new to business, as he had previously owned a telecommunications company. As a “really young” person, he says, he rebuilt engines, so he wasn’t totally without a mechanical background either.

But managing a collision repair shop was still a new challenge, and he immediately identified what the main stumbling blocks were. And most often, it came back to documentation for the insurance company. The shop was taking thousands of photos, but off the camera there was no easy way to organize them. And, most importantly, there was no easy way to ensure that these photos stayed tied to the repair they belonged to.

“When you hook up the camera to the computer,” Kryuchkov says, “by the time you try to go through the supplements you don’t understand like, ‘Yeah, I took this picture, but I don’t even remember what it is for,’ because most of the time you work on like three or four cars at the same time. And you’re interrupted on the way by the technicians requesting a supplement on this car, and a painter requesting a supplement on that car when you walk through the shop.”

The solution, Kryuchkov thought, was to utilize the power of the smartphone. It already has a powerful camera, already has Wi-Fi, and is customizable. The result was a mobile ap-

plication used by the customer, technicians, and managers alike, which feeds into a central desktop software that helps manage just about every operation in the shop.

That desktop view is called Workflow, and it’s the main production board for a shop. Projects are arranged in columns, each with a picture of the vehicle, and those projects can be arranged in “buckets” based on the stage of the repair process and those buckets can be renamed and customized. Users can easily drag and drop vehicles along the process.

“You can change the state like that, or, what’s a major difference between everybody else is, your employee can change the state from their mobile phone,” Kryuchkov says.

Technicians can add a myriad of new information through their phones. They can scan invoices and supplements and attach them to the vehicle. The idea is to eliminate paper wherever possible, paper that can get lost or disassociated with the project it belongs to.

“The major thing—this is how estimate visualization started—is to visualize your estimate to stop printing and unnecessarily wasting paper,” Kryuchkov says. “You print the preliminary estimate, then you write it down, then you go back, you print the estimate with a preliminary supplement, then you find something else, and so on.”

The customer can perform their functions on the go as well. EstVis prompts customers to take damage photos, sign work authorizations, indicate when they plan to pick up their vehicle, and more. The software can send text messages and keep a record of the conversations. It can even make and receive phone calls.

“Customers are happy as well because they actually didn’t spend that much time in the shop,” Kryuchkov says. “And also, most of the shops don’t have a huge reception area. They want those customers to get in and get out. So that is the first thing we see. We hear customers are really happy with the updates, even though nobody actually is doing the updates. The system does it for them, as long as they start moving it through the stages.”

Systems Integration and Other Features

In addition to increasing shop efficiency, EstVis also is designed to save shops money. For instance, EstVis is integrated with major paint vendors such as PPG and Axalta. The system compares the estimate in relation to the paint being used and identifies discrepancies.

EstVis also integrates with estimating software so when any estimate is written, it is automatically’ exported to EstVis. The system then has the functionality to assign specific estimate lines to employees and edit lines as well.

One possible advantage to EstVis is that data storage is something of a hybrid between a cloud and permanent storage. A shop is able to access its data forever, rather than potentially losing access to it in the event it no longer uses a certain software. Data can be accessed from anywhere, and access can be granted or revoked by administrators.

EstVis has been in use for roughly eight years. “A lot” was the only indication of the number of users Kryuchkov was willing to give, but he notes that he has seen evidence of the software’s influence as its features show up in the updates of competitors.

As far as the future of management software, Kryuchkov pointed to increased development of real-time location (RTL) systems, particularly for larger clients such as dealerships with hundreds of cars on a lot. RTL systems can not only pinpoint where a car is, it can also be used to update where a car is in process when that car is taken to a certain location.

For now, Kryuchkov is pleased—and he says customers are pleased—with where EstVis is and enjoy its intuitive, easy-tooperate nature.

“It is built for body shops because we have our own two shops,” says Kryuchkov. “... We want you, the body shops, to not feel pressure from us that you have to learn something new. We want to have it (feel) natural.”

Users may learn more and download a demo version of the software at estvis.com.

42 July 2024 fenderbender.com

Developing Training and Career Paths in a Small Shop

Cross-training is one solution that may work for you.

I see articles all the time talking about setting up training pathways for technicians and career pathways for employees, but I always feel like they are geared toward larger shops. A smaller shop may not have the ability to have technicians and employees step away from the shop for an extended period or even know where to start. It also feels like it’s hard to set up a career path in a small shop because there are only so many positions available. That is how I have felt in the past -- and still sometimes feel -with all the new technology coming out in cars and trying to keep up with training.

As I was growing my shop, I knew there was one important issue I did not want to run into and that I had seen other shops struggling with, being beholden to the only technician skilled in a particular task. You see it a lot in small shops with the paint department. They have one painter and no backup painter, and if the painter is sick, takes vacation, or quits, the whole shop gets thrown into a tailspin. I see on a regular basis shops relying on their jobbers or paint company field tech to come in and help paint a car because they do not have another option. I personally feel that if this is the case for your shop, then you are ill-prepared and setting yourself up for a headache down the road.

Currently I employ 12 people, which includes myself. We have worked really hard at cross training in all of our departments, and this is the breakdown of how many employees can do different jobs in my shop:

• Body technicians with frame and welding experience: four

• Teardown/reassembly technician: nine

• Mechanic/suspension technician: five

• ADAS technician: four

• Blueprinter/estimator: five

• Parts/mirror-matching: 11

• Prep/buff: six

• Paint: five

• Management of front office: four

• Production: five

You can tell by our numbers that we would need to be missing four people out of our shop before it would really throw the shop in a tailspin

from someone not knowing how to perform a task. As a small shop, we got here by doing a lot of cross-training among employees and adding in off-site training where we could.

A few years back, I talked to my two senior body technicians and my painter about crosstraining younger employees and how important it was for the health of the shop. I also explained to them that if we had techs cross-trained, I was 100% more likely to approve vacation time and time off work because it wouldn’t be putting us in a bind. What I have found to be key was making sure my senior technician liked the person they were cross-training. If my senior tech wasn’t a fan of a junior tech, I wouldn’t force the issue.

I also started using the Efficiency Boot Camps with the Matrix Trade Institute to help with training. I love the boot camps they offer because they are intense four days of hands-on training with a small class, usually less than 10 people, and the teachers have all been in their field of expertise for many years. They have a package that will cover the training, hotel and some food. The boot camps range from estimating, to blueprint accuracy, electrical repair, glue pull dent repair and many more options.

I like the Matrix Trade Institute’s boot camps because I can send a technician – perhaps a blueprinter who has no skill set for dent repair – and this program will give him the basics and set him up with a good foundation. That way, my senior tech has a good jumping-off point on what to start teaching when we are cross-training.

I’ve implemented the same concept in my office but will rotate them so they do a particular job for six months or a year and then transition to the next thing. That way, my entire office staff can do everything from estimates, supplements, parts ordering, deliveries, production and anything and everything else that needs to be done in the shop that an actual technician is not doing.

Cross-training is free, and as an operator of a small shop, we like that. But if you do want to make the investment in some of your employees for fee-based training, there are a lot of options available to you for assistance. Check with your state's workforce solutions division, your

chamber of commerce, and Better Business Bureau. Any of these organizations will have some knowledge on what is available to you or be able to point you in the right direction. For my shop, the Texas Workforce Solutions had government money this year that was earmarked for training individuals in underserved industries and the Automotive Industry fell into the category. I was able to send a handful of my employees to the Matrix Trade Institute and was reimbursed 90% of the cost. All I had to do was jump through a few hoops and get approval and then send in the paperwork to get reimbursed. It was pretty easy, and who doesn’t like free money to train their employees?

Again, as a small shop you may not feel you can set up clear training and career pathways for your employees. But you can find a solution that works for you. For my small shop, there is not a lot of room for growth other than taking over my job, so I have focused on cross-training and paying those employees accordingly for their skill sets as they acquire them. Personally, I would much rather have 12 employees who are well versed in every aspect of my shop than 12 employees well versed in just one thing. Find what works for your shop.

TIFFANY MENEFEE has more than 20 years experience in the insurance business and now runs a collision repair shop in El Paso, Texas.

EMAIL: tiffanykaymenefee@gmail.com

ARCHIVE: fenderbender.com/menefee

43 July 2024 fenderbender.com JOE GRETO

Driving Change Together

Our collective knowledge can drive industrywide initiatives, improve standards, and ultimately benefit everyone involved.

IN THE WORLD OF COLLISION REPAIR, the adage "There is strength in numbers" holds more truth than ever. While it's easy to gather and commiserate over shared challenges, the real power lies in transforming these conversations into constructive feedback that can drive industrywide change. For shop owners, automotive repair technicians, and industry associations, the path forward requires unity, organization, and the effective use of structured feedback.

Shift from Complaints to Constructive Action

We all know the scene: shop owners vent their frustrations, share stories of daily struggles, and often feel stuck in a loop of negativity. While it's natural to seek solace in shared experiences, this approach does little to foster actual change. Instead of basking in misery, shop owners must shift their focus from complaints to constructive action. Channeling feedback through credible sources and organizations can help us leverage the resources needed to implement significant improvements.



Unison: The Power of Organization

Imagine our industry as a boat. The boat will inevitably go in circles if everyone rows on one side. Progress only happens when everyone rows in unison, with rhythm and coordination. This metaphor perfectly illustrates the need for organized, collective effort in the collision repair industry.

High levels of communication and organization are key. We can create a powerful momentum that drives real change by working together, sharing insights, and aligning our goals. Shop owners need to understand that the majority of us are in the same boat, facing similar challenges. When we move together, we can navigate these waters more effectively.

Documenting Experiences for Impact

It's not enough to discuss our challenges to make meaningful progress. We must meticulously document our experiences. This documentation serves several purposes:

Evidence for Industry Groups: Collated feedback can be presented to industry associations, providing concrete evidence of the issues at hand.

Guidance for Accusations: Structured feedback helps in addressing accusations and guiding industry resources toward meaningful interventions.  Resources for Change: Detailed documentation ensures that those with the power to assist can clearly understand the problems and work toward viable solutions.

By failing to document our experiences, we set up our efforts for failure from the start. Detailed records are essential for conveying the specifics of our challenges to those who can help enact change.

The Road to Marginal Gains

If we're truly interested in making marginal changes for the betterment of our customers, clients, partners, and team members, we must start by documenting our trials and tribulations. I think, on the surface, we all understand that to some degree. However, when I question shops in group settings, the most common feedback is generally, "We don't have time." My feedback to this level of thinking is we are running out of time not to make the time. If we cannot consolidate our efforts soon, the industry will have had far too much momentum in a negative direction that returning to even today's standards would be one day considered irrational or impossible. This we simply cannot afford.

Consider the impact if every collision repair shop documented their experiences over just one year. This collective knowledge could drive industrywide initiatives, improve standards, and ultimately benefit everyone involved—from shop owners to customers.


The power to drive change in the collision repair industry lies within our collective efforts. By shifting from complaints to constructive feedback, organizing our efforts, and meticulously documenting our experiences, we can create a powerful force for positive change. As collision repair shop owners, automotive repair technicians, and industry associations, let's row together in unison and navigate toward a brighter future.

DREW BRYANT has been the owner of DB Orlando Collision since August of 2011. A 20 Group leader, in-demand conference speaker and award-winning shop owner, Bryant takes a non-traditional approach to process implementation, lean process development, & overall operational experience while remaining dedicated to his staff’s personal and professional development.

EMAIL: drew@orlandocollision.com

ARCHIVE: fenderbender.com/bryant

44 July 2024 fenderbender.com COLUMNS DUE PROCESS STEVEN PARKS

Automakers are increasingly restricting who can access information and parts needed to service modern vehicles.

This anticompetitive behavior can block the independent aftermarket from offering quality, affordable repair options to their customers, reducing market competition.

www.carrepairchoice.org Are You Struggling to Access Data, Parts,
Tools Needed for Common Car
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