A glimpse into the future
Column by STEFANO LIESSI
The AAPEX/SEMA Show is one of the largest automotive trade shows in the world. Held annually in Las Vegas, Nev., it consistently draws a crowd of more than 100,000 car enthusiasts and industry insiders. If we narrow in on the collision industry, I will hazard a guess that it is the largest in the world for our specialty.
In this opportunity comes a plethora of collision eye candy; new welders, frame racks, measuring and fixture systems, spray equipment and consumables, to name a few tooling options. Part of the tools of the trade also includes components such as software and management applications that also work in conjunction with business ideologies that sometimes promise all the answers to your problems—sign here on the dotted line. The trade show is a salesperson’s paradise with a captive audience that is removed from its day-to-day business with the intent of being there to shop.
Everyone—and no one—was selling the one most sought-after item: the answer to your business problems. The magical solution to the destination of profitability. How do you turn the monstrous amount of cash flow into profit, effortlessly and guaranteed, one might ask? What do I mean by “everyone and no one?” Simply put, each person I encountered had a product or idea far superior to the competition and insisted I will see the benefits immediately. But, each year, operators come back full of energy, wisdom, ideas, and even equipment that fizzles out after the rush is gone, further demonstrating that no one actually had the solution.
There is no magical answer; there is no such thing as overnight solutions. Get-rich-quick schemes are precisely that—a scheme. Now it’s not all doom and gloom; as I stated, no “magical” solution is available at SEMA; however, there are many opportunities to help you get to that profitability, just not in the form of an elixir. I looked at some fantastic welders and incredible new systems used in dent repair; the glue pull repair is a definite game-changer. Access to OEM information with software to aid in adding your line items, universal jig setups and measuring systems are becoming so advanced that it is almost…ALMOST impossible not to repair vehicles correctly. Most of what I saw was, in actuality, very beneficial to a business’ success and credibility.
Here is my so-called magical formula; start using the equipment and processes you brought back from SEMA and stick to it, do not back down, and do not become complacent in your old ways or the status quo. You only change your outcome by implementing the change to get there. You have spent money in the past to advance your facility, to meet some form of certification, and now you need to utilize that investment to its fullest. I see far too many facilities invest in this equipment only to leave it in the corner as a coffee cup holder or parts drying rack. Remember the day you saw that piece of equipment at SEMA and how you were told it could do all these things to help your business and fix vehicles correctly? Well, it can only do that if you use it properly. Each time you choose not to utilize that shiny show purchase from SEMA or another source, you leave cash on the table.
I have heard countless excuses and justifications for NOT utilizing the equipment or processes. Here is the catch, the OEs are giving you every opportunity to start using it right now—they have for decades. Looking through the OE procedures, there is a clear and definite direction to implement the use of the equipment in the procedures—after all, you are certified. There will be sections that tell you that you must measure, you must use silicone bronze, you must STRSW, you must set up and destructive test your welds, and so on. So why would you not do this? You can account for everything you do; every item is a line item. This sets your KPIs on track and balances out your WIP, providing actual usable data for your management system, and tracking a return on the investment you made. As far as I know, if you provide service, charge for service, pay expenses, the leftover is profit. This is business practice 101, unless something has changed over the years that I am unaware of. Nowhere does it say to throw money at it and wait.
Yes, I can hear you right now. As I said, I have listened to it all, regardless of what your situation is, agreements, deals, and organizations. At the end of the day, in my opinion, and you are entitled to my opinion, the magical elixir is the traditional model of providing the full service, utilize the tools at your disposal (equipment, software, etc.) and account for everything you are doing. A job well done correctly should never cost you money; a job done incorrectly will cost you your business.