Bodyshop Magazine: Moving Parts

According to bodyshop magazine, the supply chain for the collision repair sector is deeply and intricately connected. Parts, equipment, coatings and other consumables often cross multiple borders before they are delivered to workshops that need them.

Alistair Carlton, Technical Manager, National Windscreens responds:

1. How would you describe the role of your business in the collision repair supply chain?

As the automotive glass specialist, we need to provide a true JIT (just in time) service to body shops, delivering our service at the exact time it is required by the body shop, for all vehicle and glass types. This includes providing a fast response remove and refit service: attending the damaged vehicle at short notice; removing undamaged glass to allow a body repair to be undertaken; storing the glass; and then refitting the glass to the vehicle. With the rapid and continuing growth in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), we also need to provide a one stop service for windscreen replacement and camera calibration. It is simply not economic for anyone in the supply chain to have separate appointments for glass replacement and calibration. We are aware that this time critical philosophy is necessary if body shops are to maintain efficient processes, fast turnaround of repairs and ultimately the best customer service for drivers.

2. What are the key challenges in the supply chain for your sector?

Increasing vehicle complexity requires heavy and continuing investment in people, technology and infrastructure. We maintain a truly national network of 108 fitting and calibration centres all designed to deliver windscreens repair, replacement and ADAS camera calibration in just one visit. We support this with 800 mobile technicians to provide a service where a UK driver is never more than 11 miles away on average. We have already invested over £3 million in developing our ADAS calibration capability with a lot more investment now planned to meet accelerating developments in vehicle technology, such as radar calibration following accident damage

3. How can repairers and other industry stakeholders combat these issues?

Commitment to meeting the repair requirements of new and ever more complex vehicle technologies is key. This undoubtedly requires continual investment in technology and training, but developing close and wider partnerships is critical. Stakeholders need to look further afield for these partnerships than they may have done traditionally. Everyone involved in the sector, from insurers to vehicle glazing specialists, needs to have access to better and more comprehensive information on individual vehicles in order to deliver a cost-effective service. The rapid changes taking place in vehicle technology make it virtually impossible for any one organisation to keep up effectively on their own. Partnerships and shared knowledge are now more important than ever. National Windscreens for example has developed close partnerships with vehicle manufacturers, insurers and industry organisations such as SMMT and Thatcham. These allow us to use our expertise to influence future developments and put us in an ideal position to invest in remaining ahead of the technology curve. One such example is a system developed by National Windscreens that identifies the exact glass required and if ADAS is fitted on an individual vehicle, with 99.5% accuracy. This ensures that we get the right glass first time, avoiding any wasted appointments, and can advise if time needs to be allowed for calibration following windscreen replacement. Our partnerships with body shops allow us to use this information as part of planning a vehicle repair, ensuring the most timely and cost-effective approach.

4. How do you see the repairer supply chain changing over the coming 12 or 24 months?

With increasing vehicle complexity demanding ever higher levels of technical competence and the more stringent standards on compliance in virtually all areas – from health and safety to working practices through to materials and personal data – we will undoubtedly see consolidation in the supply chain. National Windscreens has in place detailed investment plans to ensure that it continues to achieve the standards demanded of suppliers. Our first-hand knowledge of this confirms that smaller suppliers will increasingly struggle to meet the level of investment needed to deliver the required standards and this will inevitably lead to a fewer number of suppliers offering a greater depth of capability.

5. Any advice for independent body shops and small body shop groups to negate some of the common obstacles they face?

Our advice is to build true partnerships with trusted suppliers who demonstrate commitment and capability to help you perform competitively in the future. Future success depends on having partners who are not only delivering an outstanding and cost-effective service, but who can add real competitive advantage to your business now and in the future. At National Windscreens, partnerships with world-leading brands, such as DuPont and Hella Guttmann are achieving just that. These brands are helping to shape the future of automotive technology – from automotive adhesives to connected vehicles – and the partnerships National Windscreens has developed with these keep us at the leading edge in our sector.

See the full article on pages 20-21 of bodyshop's February issue here.