Archive for category Technology

What Will Winter 2019 – 2020 Bring?

Winter 2019 2020 v2 Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

If you read the recent “Farmers’ Almanac’s Extended Forecast 2020” article on the outlook for the coming Winter in North America you’d have seen that it’s predicted to be what the self-proclaimed provider of “perception, experience, and common sense” is calling a “Polar Coaster”. Their forecast for this Winter anticipates that we will experience bitter cold from the Rockies to the Appalachians. A forecast likes this tends to be great news for the retail automotive aftermarket as weather extremes are a key driver whether you’re in the Emergency Roadside Service (ERS) industry or the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry.

For 201 years the Farmers’ Almanac has been providing seasonal weather predictions and this Winter the worst areas for cold and snow include the Northern Plains, Great Lakes Region all the way to the Northeast. The prediction indicates that the worst weather could take place from late January through early February.

Winter weather often brings feast or famine to the automotive aftermarket depending on whether it’s a colder or warmer season. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a manufacturer of products used by the automotive industry’s that operate in the aftermarket, a company distributing replacement parts into markets across North America or a retailer providing services to the end user, the spikes in opportunities that cold weather extremes bring includes probable logistical and supply issues. Potential issues that extreme cold, ice and snow brings can include keeping plants open and fulfilling increased parts orders, keeping delivery vehicles on the road getting those products to the retailers who also have to deal with scheduling repairs that come along with the increased opportunities.

With the current historically low unemployment rates that we’re seeing across North America an extreme Winter also will bring additional stress due to difficulties finding those qualified to manufacture, distribute and provide repairs that consumers and businesses alike will require. Currently there are numerous examples of difficulty finding and keeping qualified technicians in both the AGRR and ERS industry’s. In the AGRR industry a glass repair or replacement can often be deferred for some period of time, but weather extremes effect on automotive batteries will drive volume spikes in jump starts and replacement opportunities putting strains on companies that provide services in the ERS space.

So if the Farmers’ Almanac prediction turns out to be accurate for Winter 2019 – 2020, has your company planned and prepared its best so that you can take care of your customers parts and service needs? Those who have done the best job planning before any extreme cold, ice and snow appears will be the ones able to capitalize on the opportunities that are available.

Just sayin’.

 

* Photo by Vel Vesa on Unsplash

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The New Normal

Today the competitive landscape in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the United States was dramatically altered. We saw this morning an announcement that Safelite, the largest company in the space, purchased the second largest company. As the clear market leader Safelite was perhaps 14+ times or so larger than TruRoad Holdings. By acquiring the companies that make up TruRoad and bringing them into the Safelite platform the gulf between Safelite and the possible number two AGRR company Glass America is even more gigantic.

You’d have to believe that auto insurers, fleets and even consumers would have a strong interest in ensuring that competition continues to exist for AGRR services. Insurers and fleets especially would have interest in seeing a strong national competitor emerge to keep pricing and service levels in check considering the market share Safelite controls. The prospect of building a true competitor and all that would be required to compete against Safelite in the marketplace would be an incredibly daunting task and in my opinion is highly unlikely considering the new competitive landscape in the AGRR space with Safelite acquiring TruRoad.

Baseball player and coach Yogi Berra was once quoted as saying when asked about the chances of the New York Yankees winning a pennant race one year, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” I’m sorry to say that competition in the AGRR space might be over. Welcome to the new normal.

Just sayin’

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The Effect of ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance System) to the Automotive Repair Industry

If you’re part of the automotive aftermarket repair industry you’ll find interesting an article titled “Car Safety Systems That Could Save Your Life” written by Mike Monticello (@MikeMonticello) for Consumer Reports. The article detailed a Consumer Reports study on vehicles with ADAS technology onboard and the effect it could have on your business. The study reported that, “ A majority—57 percent—reported that at least one advanced driver-assist feature in their vehicle had kept them from getting into a crash.” Considering that the study involved 72,000 vehicles the potential impact on the automotive repair industry in the years to come could be dramatic.

canstockphoto56974797 (1)

Mitchell International, an organization providing technology solutions to the insurance industry as well as automotive repair industry, reports that during the first quarter of 2018 the average gross collision appraisal value showed that the average cost of collision repairs was $3,512. When you then consider the Consumer Reports study showing that 57 percent of vehicles with ADAS technology managed to avoid a collision equates to 41,040 fewer vehicles needing repairs. The lost repair value would result in a revenue loss to the collision repair industry of $ 144,132,480. An amazing number considering the small overall size of the Consumer Reports sampling. Imagine the effect this lost revenue will have on the companies that supply the body parts, paints, auto glass and mechanical parts to the collision repair industry.

The Consumer Reports article goes on to explain that “48 percent for the 2019 model year, according to data compiled by Shawn Sinclair, CR’s automotive engineer for advanced driver assistance systems” have automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems. In 2018 “only 29 percent of new vehicle modes sold in the U.S. in 2018 had standard AEB”. Within the next few years it is expected that the majority of OEM car manufacturers will include basic AEB ADAS technology on new vehicles. Granted it will take a number of years for the automotive repair industry to feel the full effect of ADAS technology across the entire United States car parc of 289 million vehicles, especially with the average age of a vehicle in the United States at 11.8 years as reported by the web site statista. IBISWorld.com estimates that total United States collision industry revenues in 2018 totaled $ 47 billion.

You can just do the math to see what the ultimate effect of ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance System) technology across the entire car parc will have to the collision repair segment of the automotive repair industry. The effect to the companies that supply parts and services will also be just as dramatic. What is your company’s strategy to deal with the potential loss of revenue that ADAS technology brings because it’s coming?

Just sayin’.

 

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Using Data as Actionable Information

Does your company provide customers with amazing reporting that presents them actionable or unique information derived from your analysis of their data? If you don’t you’re missing a great opportunity to highlight the value that your organization can bring by presenting data they either haven’t thought about or don’t access to help improve performance.

I received an email from Uber® that detailed my rides during the past year. Most of the information wasn’t actionable, but it was interesting. I learned that I traveled 285.25 miles via Uber® in 2017. I was labeled a “Weekday Warrior” suggesting that most of my rides took place between 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. on weekdays. Their take was I was using Uber® for rush hour, happy hour, heading to a morning meeting or a ride to the airport and they were right. I used Uber® in 11 different cities with the highest use in Boston. I don’t live in Boston, but they told me that most international air travel from Boston is to London. Who knew? I learned that I signed up for Uber® 1,396 days ago and my average rating of drivers was 4.82 out of 5. I guess I’ve been impressed with most of them.

Uber

Uber® also informed me that Los Angeles riders provide the highest satisfaction ratings for drivers across the World, Tampa uses Uber Eats® most often and that New York stands out as the city with the most late-night and weekend rides. Miami had the most mobile telephones that go MIA (pun intended) in an Uber®, the top tourist destination was The Eiffel Tower and Chinese is the most ordered food in the United States, Burritos in Asia and Europe, along with Tacos in Latin America via Uber Eats®.

Uber 2

Now I’m not sure that any of this information is meaningful or actionable for me, but when you provide your customers with unique information that you track which you believe is important and that could be useful to them in bettering their business you add value. Can you provide a unique perspective that shows the value that you bring? Adding value to your customer is a key component to finding success for your company. By differentiating your value proposition to your customers, you help separate your company from your competitors. So, if you’re not using data to provide your customers with information that can improve their business you’re missing out on a great opportunity to improve yours.

Here’s hoping your 2018 is a very successful one!!

2018

Just sayin’.

 

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Nationwide Windscreen Services – A Leader in Auto Glass Replacements of Vehicles with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

If you’re in the automotive industry you’ll know that the complexities of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technologies are being utilized on more and more Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) vehicles rolling off assembly lines around the globe. What does ADAS mean to drivers buying or leasing OEM vehicles? As an article published by the research and consulting firm McKinsey & Company titled “Advanced driver-assistance systems: Challenges and opportunities ahead” explains,

“Demand for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS)—those that help with monitoring, warning, braking, and steering tasks—is expected to increase over the next decade, fuelled largely by regulatory and consumer interest in safety applications that protect drivers and reduce accidents. For instance, both the European Union and the United States are mandating that all vehicles be equipped with autonomous emergency-braking systems and forward-collision warning systems by 2020. A recent McKinsey survey also suggests that car buyers are becoming even more interested in ADAS applications that promote comfort and economy, such as those that assist with parking or monitoring blind spots.”

Another article titled “Driver Assistance System Market to Grow..” that appeared in the online Digital Journal stated,

“Increasing government regulations such as mandating usage of driver assistance systems in the vehicle and emerging high-end vehicles market in developing countries has an important quotient in the growth of driver assistance system market. In the coming years, it is expected that the driver assistance system market will advance with higher growth rate as compared to previous years. The current challenges for the market are training the professionals on the software due to its complex and expensive features. Therefore, steadily changing process of manual workflow to digital workflow, will result in long-term benefit when the advance features of driver assistance system services are implemented and would be used on regular basis by various industries.”

Consumers buying vehicles with this technology onboard, who will require aftermarket services that could alter the original calibration of ADAS technology, will need to be aware of the importance of choosing service companies that are not only knowledgeable on these safety systems, but that also have service technicians equipped and proficient on the use of all required tools to ensure that the ADAS technology works properly. It’s critical that OEM car manufacturers, companies developing ADAS technology, governments, along with a myriad of automotive aftermarket service industries work together to ensure consumers are kept safe.

One aftermarket service organization in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the United Kingdom is a leader in ensuring consumer safety. That company is Nationwide Windscreen Services (NWS). NWS began in 2006 and in just over a decade they have 70+ locations that provide auto glass repair and replacements, with 500+ mobile fitting vans and 600+ staff offering a 24/7/365 call center operation and service coverage to insurance, fleet and consumers across the United Kingdom.

ADAS NWS 1

NWS has taken dramatic steps to ensure that the replacements they do are done properly. On August 1, 2015, NWS opened its first ADAS center in Leicester, England, and Stuart Sole, Managing Director of NWS said:

“The windscreen of the future will no longer be a piece of glass protecting occupants from the elements and offering structural support for the vehicle, safety systems are being developed with driver aids to help avoid collisions and accidents. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems technology will manage the cruise control, automotive braking, adaptive lighting, GPS, smart phone, lane departure warning cameras, collision avoidance system. This technology continues to influence vehicle design at a great pace, with more and more of these systems being introduced onto new vehicles. NWS will continue to invest in future technology within the automotive glazing industry; ensuring that the NWS customer base continues to receive a market leading product in all areas of our business.”

Since opening their first ADAS service center in 2015, NWS has invested more than £ 300,000 (US$ 380,000 prox) to ensure that NWS provides proper calibration when required on replacements that have ADAS technology. Today NWS is fully capable of providing recalibration for replacements which require this service across their platform. NWS has been awarded the Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance ISO 9001 for their processes.

Quality Assusrance NSW

I asked Philip Homer, Operations Director at Nationwide Windscreen Services, who has responsibility for developing the service delivery model at the company to answer a few questions regarding the commitment to the safety of their customers at the time of replacement and when recalibration is required:

  1. You’ve made a huge commitment to safety in time and treasure to ensure that you provide a complete drive-away solution when you complete a replacement for customers whose vehicles have ADAS technology. What drove you to decide to provide a solution internally versus utilizing the OEM dealer network after you replaced a glass where ADAS was involved?

Answer: A one stop solution for the driver and vehicle down time, standardised pricing throughout the United Kingdom. Assurance for fleet and insurers that the vehicle has been calibrated following a replacement.

  1. I’m sure that you spent a great deal of time researching the best solution for your customers. What is the name of the recalibration system that you chose and what were the main reasons you chose their equipment?

Answer: Hella Gutman – We feel their system is the most practical available at present providing a solution for static or dynamic calibration. The equipment also prints off a certificate to confirm a successful calibration.

Hella also provide training for our technicians at their facility in Banbury Oxfordshire, once completed the technician is also issued with a certificate to confirm that they have attended a training session and competent in how to use the equipment.

ADAS NWS 2

  1. Are you able to complete recalibration with the Hella Gutmann equipment that you’ve chosen on all vehicles in your marketplace?

Answer: Approximately 75% of vehicles requiring some attention can be calibrated using the equipment we use.

  1. Within the United Kingdom are there AGRR installation and/or automotive recalibration standards that have been determined and approved by a governing body that your company follows?

Answer: We are not associated to any governing body but do feel we have considerable experience in the field as we were the first to market in the UK.

  1. You’ve received the Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance ISO9001 rating. What does this mean to your company and staff?

 Answer: We have been accredited by Lloyds QA for over five years and our team are very proud of this accreditation. We are currently working towards ISO9001 // 2015.

  1. Do you provide recalibration services at each of your centers? Do you also provide the service on a mobile basis?

Answer: We currently have twenty sites across the UK and during 2017-2018 we are planning additional sites in strategic locations

  1. What is the time required for completing recalibration – shortest, longest and average?

Answer: Approximately forty-five minutes for static or dynamic calibration.

  1. Do you charge customers for recalibration? How much do you charge for a recalibration? Are you able to bill insurance and fleet customers for this service or do the customers pay for the recalibration directly?

Answer: Our standard price is in the region of £130.00 (US$ 165.00 prox) plus vat. We have a number of billing routes into insurance or fleet customers

  1. When you complete a recalibration is it always 100% effective? How do you know that a proper recalibration has been completed?

Answer: We have had a small number of unsuccessful calibration. This has been largely down to the relevant software release. In the event that we are unable to recalibrate we would advise the driver to take their vehicle to a franchised OEM dealership.

  1. NWS is committed to providing this service to your customers. For those companies in other parts of the world who are interested in providing a similar service to their customers and wonder what the return-on-investment is, can you tell me how long will it take you to get a return on your investment?

Answer: Provided you have access to the vehicle park you should have no problem in obtaining an ROI in under 12 months.

  1. Do you provide this service for other AGRR companies that you compete with or does NWS make the service available solely to your customers?

Answer: This is under discussion now as we feel if has further potential.

  1. ADAS has been called an interim technology. Do you feel this is the case and, if so, what do you think will replace it?

Answer: We have been informed that the technology is at stage three and the vehicle manufacturers or those providing the equipment are aiming for fully autonomous vehicles which would be stage five.

  1. How have you been able to determine which makes and models require recalibration?

Answer: Manufacturers with an ADAS enabled windscreen, but on several occasions they aren’t activated or the camera mounting has been blanked off. We feel that the best identification point is by the technician during installation

  1. How do you handle makes/models where the vehicle owner is instructed to only use the OEM car dealership for calibration?

Answer: We have a robust process in place to organise any calibration should we need to use a franchised dealership. However, we would always recommend a calibration to be carried out during the glass installation to avoid any inconvenience to the driver.

  1. How knowledgeable do you find consumers are about ADAS and the need for recalibration?

Answer: Their understanding is gaining momentum largely due to the vehicle manufacturer selling the driver aid technology as a safety feature

  1. How have you educated your insurance and fleet customers, as well as consumers of the importance of proper recalibration of ADAS after you’ve completed a replacement?

Answer: Yes, we feel have taken an active role in educating the insurance and fleet sectors. We have presented to number of customers and a “best practice” session at the 2016 Fleet Management Live event at NEC in Birmingham.

  1. Are there any learnings from your experience with providing a complete ADAS solution to your customers in the United Kingdom that you can share with other auto glass companies interested in recalibration systems?

Answer: Good technical support is the key to successful calibration in the initial stages of use.

Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions that I’ve asked today Philip. The commitment that Nationwide Windscreen Services has made to customers they serve is highly commendable and provides a roadmap to AGRR companies that are looking to provide an ADAS solution for vehicles with this technology that requires recalibration after the installation. The commitment that NWS has made in investing in calibration equipment, employee training and facilities allowing the company to deliver a complete ADAS solution to is highly commendable and delivers a strong statement that safety is paramount to their customers. Congratulations to you and your company for being a leader in the industry.

As more and more OEM vehicles have ADAS technology onboard we need to ensure that aftermarket automotive companies are fully prepared to properly recalibrate vehicles they service if recalibration is required. The consequences could be life or death for consumers when an automotive aftermarket company provides service and doesn’t recalibrate the vehicle when required. Is your company taking the proper steps to ensure that you’re fully prepared?

Just sayin’.

 

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The Opportunity to Listen (and Learn)

Over the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to listen to a number of amazing speakers at conferences. Each speaker had a great message tailored to the audience and each offered a look into their area of expertise; offering advice that was meaningful and relevant to the industry audience that was listening.

At a conference held earlier this year I listened to keynote speaker Ron Insana, award-winning journalist, financial analyst, commentator and author. His ability to examine and offer analysis of past and current world events, be they political or business, that have shaped or shape the decisions made by politicians, businesses and individuals was amazingly insightful. Ron spoke of how those in attendance could also look at those same events to determine the direction that we lead our respective companies. I had the opportunity to spend time with him at breakfast prior to his keynote and his engagement and interaction with those of us at the table provided a great experience.

I attended a conference in May that had a number of great speakers. One was Brad Grossman, Chairman and CEO of Zeitguide. Zeitguide was founded in 2009 and provides a unique view into our ever-changing world. Zeitguide utilizes people from around the globe to “find, filter and focus” on the abundance of information that exists to provide context to all that is going on today. More importantly, Zeitguide provides crucial understanding as to what is going to happen in the future that will determine the direction an industry make take. Mr. Grossman’s talk was as inspiring as it was insightful.

Another speaker at this conference was James Spellos, President of Meeting U. Mr. Spellos talked about the importance of technology and how technology is driving or should be driving your business to the greatest success imaginable. His discussion of the use of existing and innovative technology was highly entertaining. Spellos mentioned a former Google CEO’s quote, “we create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003”.  As he walked through the audience answering questions posed to him he was offering countless suggestions and ideas to more effectively use information, technology and devices, but wisely.

At a conference in June the keynote speaker was Sheryl Connelly who, for the past decade has been Ford Motor Company’s Futurist. What does a futurist do? By definition she’s looking for trends. What events, conditions or insights that can be gleaned by scouring the globe for what’s happening now that helps Ford be a leader in its industry for the very long-term. For Ford, Ms. Connelly’s insight provides them another view into the strategy they could follow, the shape of the design of their vehicle platform that will find the greatest acceptance in the market and the products or technologies that will be offered in Ford vehicles well into the future. She’s not looking at the auto industry to determine the future but the social, technological, economic, environmental and political events (or “steep” as she terms it) that will affect our lives in the next 10 to 20 years. Ms. Connelly’s talk gave me a different way to think about what I could be looking at to determine what could affect my future.

At a recent conference this month I had the opportunity to listen to Bernie Brenner, author of The Sumo Advantage and Co-Founder, Chief Strategy Officer of TrueCar, Inc. He spoke of the importance of business development (BD) in the future of any business, regardless of size, to drive strategy and indirect revenue (future revenue). He offered ideas to utilize BD to form strategic partnerships with industry heavyweights that can help build and sustain your company’s growth. Bernie’s directness and openness at the conference, in his presentation and while interacting with attendees, was both refreshing and inspirational.

Next month I’m attending an industry conference where the keynote speaker will be David Robinson (The Admiral), a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a U.S. Navy veteran, an outstanding player in the NBA (1989-2003), a humanitarian and a partner in a private equity firm (Admiral Capital Group). I’m looking forward to hearing him detail his experiences and advice on how to achieve success in business and life.

If you have an opportunity to attend an industry conference don’t miss out on listening attentively to the keynote speakers. They typically have amazing backgrounds and experiences to share. Each speaker I listened to this year offered insight which I could use to improve myself in both my business and in my personal life. So I would highly recommend that when given the chance to register and attend conferences in your industry do so. Then take the time to listen to those that the conference organizers have selected to speak. They’ve been chosen to speak for a reason. I’ve found them to always have great messages.

Just sayin’.

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Employees vs. Robots

I was reading an article that appeared in Tuesday’s USAToday with the headline – “Amazon puts 15,000 robots to work on Cyber Monday”. 15,000?!?! The Kiva Systems robots do tasks that historically have been done by some number of Amazons 88,400 employees. Robots picking products that are purchased online by consumers that then need to be shipped to them from Amazon fulfillment centers across the globe cost some number of people jobs. Using Kiva robots obviously provides great value to Amazon shareholders since they don’t require a human resource department to oversee payroll, other benefits such as medical and dental plans, vacation days, sick days, etc.. But this can’t be good for union and hourly workers.

Automation Robots vs People

 

Robots are obviously taking over or facilitating any number of manual jobs that historically have been done by employees. Amazon’s use of robots brings the product(s) ordered online and stored in shelf bins to a packer for shipping. Once the purchased item is delivered to the packer the robot returns the shelf bin back to where it belongs awaiting the next task. These robots have certainly saved Amazon the cost of workers who provided this service. The article says that Amazon spent $ 775 million for the Kiva robots and that, “The robots are part of a complex software and hardware system that simplifies picking and packing at warehouses that contain literally millions of items.” The article doesn’t mention that each robot, and the systems that supports them, cost an average of $ 51,667. Payscale.com estimates that the average Amazon employee salary cost is in a range of $ 50,098 – $ 122,195. After Amazon’s initial investment in the Kiva robots there would be ongoing costs for maintenance, repairs, replacements and of course those whose job it is to manage the 15,000 robots, but Amazon obviously did all the internal analysis and studies to see that the return on investment was well worth the $ 775 million.

The advent of using robots isn’t new, but with robots taking over responsibilities of human pickers at Amazon and the use of robots across countless industries and companies the potential loss of unskilled or low skill jobs could be devastating. Taking place at the same time is the strong push by some city and state governments to increase the minimum wage through legislation. Somehow there seems to be a potential disconnect.

Redwood.com compiled a report titled “The Top 10 Reasons Businesses Demand Enterprise-Level Automation”. Reason #2 in this report is:

“Happy and Productive Employees

Automated tasks keep people—who can get bored or irritated by doing repetitive tasks—free from drudgery. It also liberates them to do more strategic and valuable activities for the company. Automation lies at the core of all of our modern conveniences. Machines are made to do repetitive, boring tasks—without complaining.”

You can see where the use of robots and/or automation that is rapidly taking over or helping employees in their jobs providing cost reductions and greater shareholder value for companies who utilize them, but I’m guessing that most employees would prefer being “bored or irritated” and not “free from drudgery” versus not having a job. Certainly there are countless jobs that won’t be taken over by robots, but is your job completely safe from being replaced by a robot so that you can be freed to do something else? I’m guessing the Amazon employees that were picking products for packing at one time thought so.

If you’re a business owner or in management with responsibility for delivering shareholder value you have to continually be looking for ways to cut costs and increase value just as Amazon has done. There are countless jobs that aren’t going to be replaced by robots, but are there robots that can help you improve the productivity of your employees making their jobs easier and provide greater shareholder value? As companies compete against each other for business at a local, regional, national or international basis; looking for the slightest advantage against industry competitors the answer has to be yes. What are you doing to take any advantage available and ensure that you continue to grow and prosper in your industry?

Just sayin’.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

www.usatoday.com

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/12/01/robots-amazon-kiva-fulfillment-centers-cyber-monday/19725229/

www.kivasystems.com

http://www.kivasystems.com/about-us-the-kiva-approach/

www.amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Locations-Careers/b?ie=UTF8&node=239366011

http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Careers-Homepage/b?node=239367011

www.payscale.com

http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Employer=Amazon.com_Inc/Salary#by_Yearly_Sales

www.wikipedia.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pick_and_pack

www.Redwood.com

“The Top 10 Reasons Businesses Demand Enterprise-Level Automation”

 

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The Future in the Automotive Aftermarket Industry

For me, listening to keynote speaker Tony Aquila, CEO of Solera Holdings, Inc. at Auto Glass Week in Baltimore was most interesting. He led Solera’s purchase of LYNX Services, GTS and GLAXIS from owners Pittsburgh Glass Works LLC and PPG Industries, Inc. earlier this year. Tony’s accomplishments are considerable, especially considering that he grew up sweeping floors working in his uncle’s body shop and he has a 9th grade education. You have to be incredibly impressed by the guy.

The “Strategic Focus” web page for the company states, “Solera is the world’s leading provider of software and services to the automobile insurance claims processing industry.” (Link to corporate history) Solera will certainly be changing the world of auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) with innovative software solutions that will simplify the claims handling process surrounding glass repair and replacement. The organization has the potential to affect the way all consumers and influencers ultimately buy AGRR products and services dramatically. Depending upon the vision and direction Solera heads automotive aftermarket parts and service providers, including the auto glass repair and replacement industry (along with the collision repair industry and parts distribution industry) could be in for some big changes. It’s all about taking out market inefficiencies and reducing costs associated with those inefficiencies.

Just look at the AGRR industry. To ensure that service level expectations of the consumer is ultimately met, any software program would need to have access to the real-time inventory level of any supplier or distributor warehouses in the area, the inventory levels of any AGRR shop or technician in the vicinity vying for repairs or replacements, along with the schedules of all technicians available to properly repair or replace the part.

Imagine when an auto glass replacement is required, if it would be possible for the software program to instantly search for the part determining which supplier(s), distributor(s) or AGRR shop(s) has (have) the part in stock; perhaps ranked by cost for the part while finding the best auto glass replacement technician suited to properly install the part; when and where the consumer wants it installed. With that capability you then have to start asking some questions like:

Once the software program has all of the information required to start processing an auto glass replacement, who or what company is directly buying and paying for the part(s) required?

It could be:

  1. The AGRR shop or technician facilitating the replacement or
  2. Maybe the customer’s insurance company or
  3. If it’s a cash job the consumer could pay.

Which of the three above pays for any part required is important to determine the all-in price to be paid for replacement parts, along with the price paid for required installation supplies and labor.

So which organization determines the pricing level for the various scenarios outlined above?

Who is buying and paying for the part and installation supplies required?

Who is paying for the technician to install the part?

Answers to these and many other questions will give you an idea as to where the industry could be heading. There will be changes coming and margins are probably going to change in the AGRR industry in the near future. And probably not for the better.

What is it you’re doing to be prepared for the future?

Just sayin’.

140707.safeisrisky

Courtesy of TomFishburne.com – Marketoonist.com©

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Help Wanted: Writer Wanted for Social Media Conversation Page on Auto Glass Repair & Replacement

Hashtags

 

An interesting email hit my inbox on Monday from a company representing Service AutoGlass, a part of Safelite Group, Inc. The email came from Fun Online Corporation which is headquartered in New York, New York. Mike Schoenback  (and his partner Ron Luks) sent the email and it started with,

“Hi David,

I came across your contact information through Glassbytes.com.  Our company (Fun Online Corp) is working with Service AutoGlass®, a national provider of wholesale vehicle glass products and installation materials, to launch a social media conversation page in the fall of 2014.”

So the wholesale division of Safelite wants to interact with its customers via social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, along with numerous other social media sites? The email went on to say,

“We are interested in connecting with a person with good writing skills who has technical experience with auto glass repair and replacement and a familiarity with the industry. We are looking to hire such a person on an ongoing (freelance) basis to respond to posts on the social media page and work with us to develop conversation starters. Experience as a blogger is a big plus. This is a paid position.”

I guess I tick a couple of the boxes they’re looking for. I’ve spent my career in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry, I am on some social media sites so I’m familiar with how those work and I blog. Even though it looks like the opportunity is being “outsourced” to Fun Online, the fact that it is a paid position is also great to know. The email ended with,

“I’m writing to see if you may be interested or if you have a colleague who may be interested in this opportunity.  We’re happy to have a phone or email conversation if you’d like more information about this.

Thanks very much!

Mike Schoenbach

Ron Luks”

Their email didn’t mention Safelite, just Service AutoGlass. I replied to let them know that I really appreciated the email letting me know about the opportunity, but I didn’t think I would be an appropriate person for the role they were looking at for a variety of reasons and I guess they didn’t look at some of my blog posts. I replied to Mr. Schoenback explaining that I was pretty sure that Safelite wouldn’t want me to fill the role even if I was interested. That being said I was once a part of Safelite filling a number of positions in the mid to late 1980’s leaving as the regional vice president of New England in late 1989; so I do have some familiarity with the company. I just didn’t think I’d be a good person to help “develop conversation starters” for them at this point in time. I’m sure that I could come up with a few “conversation starters” though. Here are some possibilities:

“If an auto glass replacement somehow slips through the hands of Safelite and you’re lucky enough that the opportunity comes to your company would you consider giving us a call so that we could sell you the part?”

“Here at Service AutoGlass we’re your all-in-one source for products and service, even if Safelite is spending countless millions on television and radio ads and is your biggest competitor. Come on…..give us a call. Won’t you?”

“We know that Pilkington, PGW, Mygrant and other wholesale distributors aren’t in the retail AGRR space installing auto glass in competition with you, but that shouldn’t stop you from giving us a call should it?”

I’m sure that you can come up with a few of your own. I asked a friend in the industry for a social media conversation starter for them and he suggested,

“They say you get what you pay for…. What did you get from us?”

I wished Fun Online success in finding someone to fill the social media role for Safelite…  er’ I meant Service AutoGlass. I found out that they sent the same email to a few other people in the AGRR industry as well. Imagine my disappointment hearing that. Perhaps they contacted you to see if you were interested? If not and you’re interested in the freelance position you can contact Mike and Ron to find out more. The Fun Online web site states:

“At Fun Online Corp. we’re your eyes and ears during business hours, evenings, weekends and holidays. A round-the-clock business infrastructure is expensive and can be a logistical nightmare. We can create a social media team or expand your current team and save you money. You’ll have 100 percent full coverage.”

It seems like a great opportunity.

Just sayin’.

 

 

* Cartoon courtesy of TomFishburne.com/Cartoons

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Hobson’s Choice (a Free Choice or No Choice at All?)

I recently read the argument that attorneys for Safelite Group Inc. (Safelite) made relating to Connecticut’s Public Act-13-67(c) (2) in a glassBYTEs.com article. They argued that,

“it puts appellants Safelite Group Inc. and Safelite Solutions to a Hobson’s choice….”

Hobson’s choice[1] refers to a businessman by the name of Thomas Hobson who ran a livery in Cambridge, England in the 1600’s. Hobson required that every rider asking to hire one of his horses to always take the horse nearest the door. If a patron didn’t want to use that particular horse no other horse could be used. A “take it or leave it” choice. As another source on the origins of the phrase states[2], “A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered.” I thought using “Hobson’s choice” in this particular instance an interesting one considering the origins of the term. More on that later.

This link to the summary of the act that was first introduced in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee of the Connecticut House and ultimately signed by the Governor of the State of Connecticut required that in the handling of any insurance auto glass claim in the State of Connecticut that:

“The act requires that a glass claims representative for an insurance company or its third-party claims administrator, in the initial contact with an insured about automotive glass repair services or glass products, tell the insured something substantially similar to: “You have the right to choose a licensed glass shop where the damage to your motor vehicle will be repaired. If you have a preference, please let us know. ” By law, appraisals and estimates for physical damage claims written on behalf of insurers must have a written notice telling the insured that he or she has the right to choose the shop where the damage will be repaired (CGS § 38a-354).”

Fairly straightforward.

A public radio program called “A Way with Words” talked about Hobson’s choice on one of the program segments. One of the hosts of the radio program, Martha Barnette tells us:

“The phrase Hobson’s choice goes all the way back to 17th-century England. For 50 years, Thomas Hobson ran a stable near Cambridge University. There he rented horses to students. Old Man Hobson was extremely protective of those animals. He rented them out according to a strict rotating system. The most recently ridden horses he kept at the rear of the stable. The more rested ones he kept up front. That meant that when students came to get a horse, Hobson gave them the first one in line—that is, the most rested. He’d let them rent that horse, or none at all.”

Perhaps you see where I was thinking that Hobson’s choice was an interesting phrase for the attorneys to use in their argument. First, Public Act-13-67(c) (2) is a duly enacted Connecticut law so their client really doesn’t get a choice in deciding whether they wish to follow it or not. As is their right, they can dispute the law which is obviously why the company is filing the appeals to the act which provides Connecticut consumers a choice in what company repairs or replaces their damaged auto glass. It’s just that at his stable Hobson didn’t want the same horse(s) being used each time by his patrons. Hobson wanted his patrons to use only the horse(s) that he wanted them to use. You can understand why Hobson wanted to rotate his horses so that each got equal use. Safelite wants Connecticut consumers to only use the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) company that Safelite wants them to use. In this case it would appear that Safelite is Hobson.

By enacting Public Act-13-67(c) (2), the State of Connecticut took steps it deemed appropriate to protect consumer choice for residents of the state. There are any number of AGRR companies operating in the State of Connecticut for consumers to use when they sustain auto glass damage. So is it “A Matter of Self-Interest or Consumer Choice”? Isn’t it Safelite that is attempting to provide Connecticut consumers with a Hobson’s choice?

Just sayin’.

Take it or leave it

Another example of a Hobson’s choice would be from Henry Ford’s book titled My Life and Work and written in 1922 referencing options available for the Model T Ford.

Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

 

[1] Merriam-Webster.com meaning of Hobson’s choice

[2] Wikipedia.org description of Hobson’s choice

Other sources:

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/07302014SafeliteLettertoCourt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson’s_choice

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobson’s%20choice

 

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