ILC ARTICLE

Crisis has kickstarted a ‘new technological phase’


Before the pandemic struck a recurring theme within the industry was the rush of technology and the battle to keep pace. However, it now seems that was just the calm before the storm.

Necessity is the mother of invention and the last six months has seen the speed of adoption of new technologies accelerate to previously unimagined levels, with some saying the industry has advanced in six months to a state it would have taken six years to reach in normal circumstances.

There is a variation to this theme though. The technology referred to now is not so much that within cars, but that which can be used across the wider business function to improve efficiencies.

Adoption of technology

‘We have been seeing a massive increase in the adoption of technology,’ said Kevern Thompson, commercial manager, CAPS. ‘I feel like I’m sitting right at the heart of the industry because we’re facilitating that connectivity. Efficiency, downtime and key-to-key times can all be improved by technology and now is the time to stretch the limits of what we can do to future-proof the industry.’

He was speaking during Series 2, Episode 3 of the ARC360 webinar held in association with I Love Claims, when he was joined on the panel by Andrew Eade, network strategy and cost manager at First Central, and Lee Wallbank, managing director of iRG.

Flexible

Andrew explained how the use of technology had enabled his business to continue trading through the crisis. He said all non customer-facing staff were working from home a week before lockdown was imposed, and everyone else had followed suit a week after it.

‘It was a big shock to a lot of people at first,’ he admitted, ‘but now we’re probably working better than we were before. We have catch ups every morning for the teams, there is a lot of collaboration between them and people are actually talking a lot more.’

Those lessons have created a new dynamism with the workforce, and enabled the business to seamlessly reverse plans to bring staff back to the office in September following government guidance.

Andrew said, ‘I think what’s happened has moved the industry on to a space where it would have been in five or 10 years’ time.’

Attitude

Meanwhile, Lee said that technology was also playing a more important role at iRG, with customers providing images after an incident which enables the workshop to prepare for the job and order parts as necessary, while every single technician now has their own tablet which has further sped-up the repair process.

For iRG, this willingness to evolve has served it well since Lee was part of a four-person management buyout in January. A month later floods closed two of the group’s 11 sites, and a month after that Covid-19 struck. For many, these considerable setbacks might have proved too much, but iRG has found the positives.

Implement changes

Lee said, ‘We’ve had a bit more time to implement the changes we wanted to make. We were looking at different processes and efficiencies before the pandemic. We had things we wanted to improve and because we didn’t have much time to run the business ‘normally’ we’ve been able to go ahead with them immediately.’

Alongside process changes – which has seen the separation of jobs into prestige, conventional, commercial and express – iRG has also recently opened a new site in Birmingham.

Lee said, ‘We’ve carried on with our plans, the growth strategy is still there, although slightly delayed. We’ve refurbished two sites, we’ve kept everyone employed and even managed to take people on – and that’s before the new site in Birmingham. I think the crisis has given us a chance to show the staff that the new management team is behind them and doing its best.’

Momentum

Meanwhile, the feeling is that the adoption of technology needs to continue – and will continue – to ensure the industry builds on this change momentum. A live online poll found 100% of respondents believe technology would now be a core investment focus for some or all aspects of their business.

Kevern said, ‘Technology without a doubt has been tested, and without doubt it creates efficiency if used correctly. The choice is wider than ever so don’t be bogged down by the thinking that this is the only system I’ve ever had. At CAPS we want to connect the industry from top to bottom and also horizontally, and that connectivity needs to be transparent. We’ve got a huge development roadmap.’

Data sharing

That means data sharing among insurers, incident management companies and repairers throughout the claims process. It was a vision shared by Andrew.

He said, ‘There is a real opportunity for collaboration between insurers, work providers and repairers to share information and that will create real savings for the customer. We’ve just got to join the dots.’

In relation to industry change, highlighted by both the increasing adoption of technology as well as recent acquisitions and investments throughout the sector, it was suggested that the industry was now entering new territory and 85% of respondents to a live poll agreed that the sector had entered a ‘new phase and pace of change’.

Key

In the more immediate term, another live poll found that November would be the telling month for 50% of respondents, following the end of the furlough scheme on 31 October. Meanwhile, in terms of volumes, 42% said they were at 70-80% of what they were last September, 29% said they were between 80% and 100%, while six per cent said volumes were above last September’s levels. And despite greater restrictions as coronavirus cases rise again, only 15% reported a slight decline in volumes through September, with 18% saying volumes had remained static and 67% reporting a slight or significant increase.

A more detailed analysis will be available next week when CAPS published its next monthly update.

ARC360, in association with I Love Claims, is supported by corporate partners BASF, BMS, Copart, EMACS, Entegral, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Mirka, Nationwide Vehicle Recovery Assistance, S&G Response, Sherwin Williams and CAPS; partners The Green Parts Specialists, Indasa, and Innovation Group; and strategic partners AutoRaise; NBRA; RepairTalks; and TrendTracker.

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