Catchphrase Conundrum

Catchphrase Conundrum
Procedures need to be practically applied in real world conditions to have a meaningful impact. (Photo: Huw Evans)

We need to deal better with OEM procedures.

There’s a problem in our industry, and it’s that the term “OEM procedures” is in danger of becoming little more than a catchphrase.

The problem with catchphrases is that they capture attention but are often not really understood.

Repairers talk about using OEM procedures, but are they really doing so? For example, when an operator prints out 35 pages of an OEM repair procedure and hands it to the technician, has the operator really done everything possible to ensure a safe repair? Chances are, 30 of those pages are not relevant to the specific repair, and the flat rate tech, no matter how dedicated, will not read through to find the five pages that matter. After all, he fixed a car that looked a lot like this last week, so he knows what to do. How many shop owners can say with a straight face that they inspect their welding machines on a regular schedule and pay their techs to do test welds before every repair?

Limited understanding

What about insurers? Just like repairers they like to say that OEM procedures are important, but their actions don’t align with the words. They’ll pick out the parts of the procedures they like and rationalize on compliance with the other parts. If you read OEM procedure manuals carefully, you will notice that many do not use the words structural and nonstructural. So why are insurers using these words, except to assign their own rules, and payment policies, to different parts of a vehicle? And show me the OEM repair procedure that allows the use of aftermarket parts.

Unfortunately, the manufacturers aren’t helping matters by putting out requirements that don’t align well with real world practise. There are too many procedures that seem to be written more to keep their lawyers and parts departments happy than to add anything to the safety of the repair. Is it necessary or is it boilerplate?

It’s true, you have to know the rules, and that’s why we have OEM procedures. You have to appreciate why they’re there, but then everyone, manufacturers, insurers and repairers, have to understand how to use them in real life. If you use them to the letter of the rule every time, the work grinds to a halt and costs become prohibitive.

You have to know what you’re doing—you have to be respectful of the environment but you also have to know how to apply the rule in a real life situation. If everyone went 50 km/h in a 50 km/h zone, it would be awkward. You wouldn’t want to go 80, but everyone doesn’t need to go 50 on a good road on a clear, bright and sunny day.

One-time use part

A simple industry example is the one-time use part. If it’s a torque stretch bolt in a suspension component, you’d better just use it once! But if it’s a moulding clip, and you’re not a ham-fisted apprentice, you know that if you can reach the back of the clip it can be removed in a way that will protect the tabs and allow it to be used again.

Repairers need to be involved in the conversation about needed improvements, but they are a too broad and diverse group to be involved in direct discussions. The insurers and manufacturers are of a comparable size and number and so can engage in honest dialogue about the changes that will align safety with reality.

Otherwise, “OEM procedures” becomes just another industry catchphrase that is used glibly, and ultimately, loses the meaning and impact it should have.

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