In general, Panel Shop owners have little trouble in carrying out what they were trained to do – obtain work, effect repairs and invoice the client. However, due to time constraints and lack of formal training in management and accounting, other areas of business are sometimes not handled with the same level of skills. These areas include the office and associated paperwork, job control and profitability.
Over 30 years ago, Sydney Panel Shop owner, Terry Flanagan, recognised these problems in his own shop and set about solving them. His idea was to combine the technology of computers with his knowledge of the industry and its people, by pioneering the first computer program specifically designed for the Smash Repair Industry.
The following criteria was used to develop the program:-
- It must be easy to use and function as a complement to the business.
- It must eliminate all repetitive paperwork.
- It must quickly provide management with the necessary information to make sound business decisions.
- It must increase productivity from the office and shop floor through management.
- It must be a tool that pays for itself.
The result of these ideas and many years of ongoing development resulted in the program we all know today – “AUTO-QUOTE”, the Computer Management System, now regarded as the industry standard by Insurance Companies, TAFE Colleges and Smash Repairers Australia wide.
With the doggedness and determination of the Commonwealth Games Athlete that he was, Terry has seen his ideas and vision develop in to a product which is used to drive more Collision Repair Shops in Australia than his combined competitors, culminating in 2007 with the honour of receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to the Motor Repair Industry.
1987 → 2012
In the 30 years that Auto-Quote, Queensland has been the State Distributor for Auto-Quote Australia Pty Ltd’s award winning Computer Management Software for the Collision Repair Industry, we have seen technology become the number one factor in driving Business Productivity.
Dedicated Server Networks are no longer the province of large corporations. Over 25% of our clients in Queensland have invested in Server based Networks with the additional flexibility afforded by such Networks more than offsetting the costs associated with a Network of this type.
From unbreakable 286 Olivetti Computers with 20-Megabyte Hard Drives and 5 ½” Floppy Drives to today’s Second Generation Multi core Processor Computers with 1000 Megabyte Hard Drives and on board USB 3.0 Ports, computing power has increased at an exponential rate.
As Hard Drives have grown in size, so has the amount of Data that is stored on the Computers and used on a daily basis. This has led to the development of specialised Backup and Disaster Recovery Software, a far cry from the not so long ago days of copying data to Floppy Disks.
In the space of 15 short years, the Internet has claimed dominance in all facets of life and business. Business relationships are now carried out in real time, saving hours, days and sometimes weeks of time transmitting, transferring and general document processing.
Unfortunately, along with the benefits the Internet provides, it also brings risks and Network Security unfortunately has to be recognised as a major potential threat that needs to be effectively dealt with by every business. Hence the emergence of Anti Virus software as an integral part of every computers safety strategy.
From the outset of the 56k Dial Up Internet Accounts, Auto-Quote Queensland quickly realised that while our Software was more than capable of being the Primary Application for every Collision Repairer, the experience would be enhanced if merged with cutting edge technology that would be useful in our Industry.
This realisation has led to the establishment of a dedicated Technical Division, which is designed to carry out day to day technical issues as well as planning for future trends in Hardware and Software.
The first task our Tech Division was given was to provide a simple but effective Hosting Facility to provide our Queensland Clients with a cheap and effective way to gain a business grade Internet Presence.
To date, we have registered Domain Names for the majority of our clients and host the Domain Names and Business class email addresses with our subsidiary company, Jenisys.
In 2010 we rebuilt the Jenisys Servers from the ground up, primarily to include the Hosting of Web Sites, a growing trend in the Collision Repair Industry as Repairers not only look to retain their existing Clients as well as seek work from alternative sources to the Insurance Industry.
The last 10 years has also seen the Insurance side of our Industry adopt Technology as they also seek to contain costs and improve productivity.
Almost all Estimates, Photographs, Supplementaries, Invoices and any other documents are now forwarded electronically to each and every Insurer by means of specially developed Software Modules such as P/Net4, ORM, ARNIE, Estimage etc., with Assessments carried out remotely using the Estimate and associated evidentiary photographs sent via the Internet.
Every day of the week, new Technologies or Applications for existing Technologies appear on the landscape, and our entire team evaluates these products and services to see if they are applicable for our Industry.
Computing Mobility is an emerging trend, even in the Collision Repair Industry. The home office now caters for those who, for whatever reason prefer to work from the comfort of their homes using the RDP “Remote Desktop Protocol” technology.
In Queensland alone, we have several clients who utilise Wireless Technology in the Workshop area to generate Supplementaries on the fly, we have a number of clients who are remotely accessing their Networks with Tablets such as the ‘iPad’, we have also linked Computers in two separate buildings together with a wireless signal, beamed from one building to the next via directional antennae’s accurate to within 5mm.
2005 saw the release of Auto-Quote’s Windows based Program, AQWIN, the replacement for our original DOS and Imaging Products.
It also saw the opening of our 30 seat Training and Conference Facilities which were used to provide group Training in the new Programs, allowing us to increase our Productivity Levels necessary to offset the internal costs of taking such a rollout to the marketplace Queensland wide.
The introduction of a GST based Tax System in Australia in July 2000 was a particularly interesting time for Software Developers and end users alike. Our transition to the GST software model proved to be relatively easy, partly due to the fact that New Zealand Auto-Quote clients had undertaken the GST Tax Changes several years prior.
It’s impossible in these times to predict where Technology will take us in the next 10 years however we have a number of indicators which help to guide our planning.
In Australia, the NBN Co’s rollout of high speed Fibre Optic Broadband will be the catalyst for numerous changes, more so in the small to medium business sector than in the larger corporate world.
Off Site Backups, Converged Data and Voice systems, Enhanced Imaging Systems and from our point of view, superior Technical and Training Support and a myriad of other useful features will all be standard operating procedure for most businesses.
For those Repairers with more than one site, or multi shop groups, massive cost savings will flow as the Fibre Optic connection speeds will allow for the entire Network to run from a Centralised Server, rather than individual Servers at each site.
For those Collision Repairers whose requirements dictate that the Network be structured around Dedicated Servers, the emerging Technology of Server Virtualisation fits tightly with our Industry.
Virtualisation is the ability (by means of sophisticated Software) to supply only one Physical Server but configure it as multiple Servers carrying out separate rolls.
For the Collision Repairers, valuable office space is not gobbled up by computers and the Carbon Footprint is kept to a minimum.
Cloud Services and Hosted Applications are also starting to receive heavy attention in the IT Industry and these practices will be greatly enhanced by the NBN’s Fibre Optic Network.
Smart Phones and Tablets are relatively new Technologies, initially developed for recreational consumers but their versatility and widespread usage sees them advancing their way in to our Industry and particularly in situations where off site Estimates need to be prepared, such as at the Insurers Assessing Centres.
Current developments in Camera technology will see the end of single dimensional photographs with three dimensional images – just think where these enhancements will fit in an industry that embraces the use of photographic evidence.
From a Collision Repair Industry viewpoint, there are many factors, including Industry Generated Programs which will have huge impacts on the way we operate.
The precursor to the changes necessary to see a future for our Industry were laid down in the Collision Repair Industries Code of Conduct which was developed in 2007, one of the driving points being the necessity to bring transparency to our Industry by replacing the out of date system of “Funny Money – Funny Times” with a realistic Times and Rates System.
While there has been a lot of behind the scenes development of a Realistic Times Guide, the first positive direction was taken by NRMA with its release of NTAR.
As we all know, getting something this important for the future of the Industry correct the first time, was never going to happen but a lot of excellent work has not gone to waste.
Under the direction of our National Organisation, AMBRA (Australian Motor Body Repairers Association), our Individual State MTA’s have developed a Realistic Times/Realistic Money model called eMTA which is planned as the National Standard for the Industry.
A ‘Soft’ rollout is being carried out in several Australian States in conjunction with a small sampling of Insurers, all of whom are signatories to the Code of Conduct, and to date, the feedback is very positive.
All the signs are pointing in the direction of a change to the Write Off provisions for cars to a national approach of not provisioning for “Repairable Write offs”, as per the NSW Legislated model.
This change has already seen major shifts in many NSW shops, particularly those with the equipment and trained staff to handle structural damage as fewer cars are sent to the Auctions.
Also under consideration and discussion is the process of devising a National approach to Grading of Shops and the numerous “Level Playing Field” options this would bring, along with a restructure of the method of work distribution, currently the sole domain of the individual Insurers
Without a doubt, the old adage of constant change rings through loud and clear in the Collision Repair Industry