Estimatics Tools – Knowing Your Options (Part 1)

Estimatics Tools: Knowing Your Options (Part 1)
Technology is enabling faster, more accurate estimates. (Photo: Huw Evans)

In the first of a two-part series, we look at how estimatics solutions can deliver superior repair plans.

The concept of Estimatics has undergone a paradigm shift in recent years. Blueprinting the process is no more about calculating the costs for insurance companies. The end goal is to design an effective repair plan that takes into account the complexity and features of modern vehicles.

Addressing vehicle complexities

Understanding the vehicle is crucial. Besides being more complex, every vehicle today is a little bit different from the next one in terms of its construction, systems and sensors. And there are a lot of factory-added technology and packages that need to be taken into consideration.

“Solera|Audatex’s VIN-decoding tool identifies optional pieces of equipment for many manufacturers, taking the guesswork out of equipment identification. Once the VIN is decoded, the system instantly provides frame dimensions,” says Michel Caron, Vice President, Sales, Dealer Fixed Operations and Collision Repair Solutions.

Caron further adds that pre-scan information used when preparing the estimate can help identify potential electronic or mechanical issues from on-board diagnostic codes. For this purpose, Audatex has partnered with its sister company, Identifix, to develop a pocket-sized sensor that can identify all error codes and recommended fixes. “This allows the appraiser to quickly determine if the repair can be performed in-house or if it needs to be sublet based on these proven fixes,” says Caron.

The company’s compliance tools are designed to deliver a fair estimate for both the insurer and the body shop. The tools review all estimate lines against the insurer rules and additionally ensure that legitimate charges are not accidently forgotten by the appraiser. “These tools allow for the straight-through processing (STP) of the estimate, whereby files that follow the rules are automatically approved,” explains Caron.

The old and the new

J.R. Martino, General Manager, Budds’ Collision Services uses a combination of old and new technologies. A traditional tool like the readily available tram gauge helps spot check a vehicle’s frame for damage and assists with writing estimates. The shop also uses a Celette Jig system that allows technicians to set up a vehicle on an electronic dedicated frame that prints out schematics on the structural integrity of that vehicle.

The CosmosSync app comes in handy during the estimating process. The estimator can take multiple pictures with a smartphone and upload them directly to the repair file. “When we close the file or upload it for the insurance company, we have all the documentation needed to get paid for what we do,” he explains.

Integrating procedures into the estimating process

Mitchell International has developed estimating tools that help in integrating repair procedures into the estimating process. For example, when the repairer begins working on the bumper, the system automatically finds all related OEM repair procedures for that portion of the vehicle and displays them to the estimator. “With this system, the estimator does not have to get out of the application, go to a separate library of repair procedures and then search for hours through the indexes to find the appropriate items,” says Jack Rozint, Senior Vice President, Sales & Service, Repair-Auto Physical Damage Solutions, Mitchell International.

Mitchell is also embedding help for technicians within its software. When doing complicated repairs, technicians can click on links that offer how-to guides built right into the software. These guides walk estimators through each step in the process that needs to be completed, helping them write an accurate and complete estimate.

“With increasing vehicle complexities, recent technological advancements in estimatics tools bring in all information systematically to the estimator’s fingertips,” says Rozint.

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