Mike Gilliland

by Mike Gilliland

I moved at the beginning of the month. It’s a necessary evil in life but on the up-side, it provides a great opportunity to purge items that you no longer find useful, or that have little relevance to your current life. One such item that falls into the last category is my toolbox. A leftover albatross from my days on the shop floor, it contains some specialty tools for vehicles that nobody fixes any more. There is no reasonable argument to defend why I should keep it, I live in Vancouver and no longer have a garage. But it did get me thinking, if I were back in the shop, what tools would I need today?

From a technician perspective, I’m no longer qualified to answer that question. From a management and technology perspective, I’ll contribute my thoughts.

Future success will largely depend on the ability to quickly scan vast quantities of information, identify what is important, and convert that into usable intelligence. Decisions regarding the business, and business partnerships, will be data-driven decisions. I believe there are several tools that are absolute must-haves for any collision repair facility to successfully navigate the future:

1. Body Shop Management System (BSMS)

It still surprises me when I run into shops with no management system. A BSMS is more than an accounting interface; it is the system that creates the foundation for standard practices, operational compliance, and basic business reporting. The need to measure your business by a variety of criteria is impossible without a BSMS as the cornerstone of operations.

2. A Benchmark or Scorecard

A successful business needs to compare their own performance with that of their wider industry, competitors, and peers. Without some kind of reference point management doesn’t know how their business is performing whether good or bad. The first step is to find and measure one’s own Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and then find a way to compare those to others. Paint companies are excellent sources for benchmarks. If you want more detail than they provide there are companies like AutoHouse that specialize in KPI and other business intelligence reporting. One KPI that AutoHouse tracks is Touch Time. Touch Time is a very interesting and useful measure because it cuts across several critical business areas. For example, did you know that the average repairer Touch Time is 2.3 hours per day while the Top 10% of repairers average 4.1 hours per day? That is a sizeable variance. Do you know where you are on that scale?

3. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

The Wikipidia definition for CRM describes it as ”... a system for managing a company's interactions with current and future customers. It often involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.” Think of your CRM as a day-timer that has a sales focus, it has a broader focus than just repair customers, it able to track sales communications with insurers, brokers, fleet accounts and other work influencers. It’s still relatively rare in the collision repair environment but it is gaining acceptance. Costs vary but some basic systems are very reasonably priced. If you need some suggestions please drop me a note.

I had time to write this blog article while recovering from the hernia that moving my tool box caused. The good news: a) I’m on the mend, and b) anyone needing specialty tools for working on mid 70’s and early 80’s Chevy pickups now knows who to call. There is my argument, helping others restore old Chevy trucks! Sounds reasonable to me… although significant others disagree.

You can view additional blog articles from Mike at

Mike Gilliland is President of AutoHouse Technologies, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It’s been 30 years since Mike first started out in the collision repair industry as an auto body technician and, since then, he’s excelled in a variety of repair, insurance, and supply roles. Mike’s experience in all aspects of the collision industry gives him a well-rounded perspective on current issues and he’s passionate about helping collision centers strive for higher performance. Mike can always be reached at


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