Publisher's Statement - April 2017
Business good, training available, but investment is challenged
On the threshold of what appears to be another hot, busy summer, thousands of technicians and owners are returning from spring training classes ready to integrate new information into their service work for additional effectiveness and efficiency. Most report demand is steady, business is good, and that quality training is available to deal with the changing technology that appears in the shop.
Whether received at training weekends such as the ASA-Midwest Vision show, the ASA-Northwest ATE event, or from the distributor-sponsored training programs offered by NAPA, WORLDPAC, TechNet, and others, the training is available. More training, focusing on drivability concerns and electrical issues, hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, and now pre- and post-repair scanning in the collision industry, will be offered this summer at NACE Automechanika in Chicago, July 26-29.
But, although business is good and training is available, many shop owners are wondering if their investments will withstand impending, game-changing technology in the industry and the access to information needed to address it.
It’s one thing to prepare for impending need to change an entire business model of a shop to meet the new challenges of over-the-air software changes, ADAS technology, and recognizing that systems today are different than even five years ago. Shops will need different disciplines and type of staff who can still perform mechanical work but can also realign cameras, radars, steering angle sensors and perform software-related updates.
It’s another to be concerned with access to information and parts, OBD denial or restriction, or the investment required to meet IT proficiency and security. Vehicles will continue to advance in self-diagnosis and the communication between the vehicle and the shop will be imperative. Information is key and it must be made available. Will there be a fair playing field for all segments? If so, then the aftermarket must also be sure it has an affordable means of acquiring it.
The independent service business owner cannot afford to do it on their own. They need to be supported by industry efforts throughout the aftermarket segments. One challenge will be if the OEs and the aftermarket can work together from service, distribution and manufacturing standpoints. Another will be if the aftermarket can work together, through its representative associations in all segments, to meet the challenges, first educationally, then hopefully through advocacy before, or instead of, legislatively.
Communication throughout the various service segments, the distribution channel, and supply chain, all working together to define its positions, is a prerequisite step. The required dialogue can be achieved through the trade press and at conferences as challenges are identified and positions are clarified. Then, the industry will need to develop support through its associations. Which associations will you depend upon? And, which will you support, directly and indirectly?
The changes lie directly in the present and near-term future. Familiarization with the new technologies and the challenge for information access will result in the needed clarification on which to determine the path to be taken. In the meantime, the involvement of industry participants at trade shows and conferences, in associations, and with the trade press will help develop and define the direction the parts and service industry will take.
So, while managing your business to profitable ends and securing training to stay current, protect your investment by supporting your associations and trade press as the future of the industry is determined.