Industry
4 min read

Skill Gaps & Estimator Shortages

Written by
Kirk Carlisle
Published on
December 2, 2022

There were 11,838 listings on Linkedin…

Indeed had 2,395 listings.  Monster wanted me to sign up to see how many, and I just didn’t need that much email traffic in my life, but I’m betting they had quite a few as well.  No, I wasn’t searching for technicians; my specific search term was “Collision Estimator.”  We are all well aware of the technician shortage, but I cannot say I hear much talk about the estimator shortage.  I believe that is because we do not think we have one.

Many of the repair industry people I know came from the insurance claims industry, myself included.  Being a field adjuster gave me a foundation for understanding the repair process.  I was in shops daily, and most were willing to share their knowledge.  When I started in the repair industry, I expanded on the technical knowledge I had gained working in insurance claims.  The shop did not have to invest much time training me on anything beyond the day-to-day operations required to get the car back to the customer.  My technical foundation grew as I worked with the technicians.  Traditionally, estimators have filtered into the shop either from insurance (like I did) or from within the shop.  This trend is quickly changing.

Man working remotely at desk.

There is an extra word in the typical auto-adjuster title now:  Remote.

Beyond their initial training, most new adjusters will not walk into a shop to resolve a claim.  They’ll never run their hand over the dent they’re estimating.  They’ll never have the opportunity to have a technician explain why a procedure is done the way it is.  That information originates from your estimator now.  So if you take in a new estimator from today's virtual claims environment, the training required is more significant than before.  The other avenue involves hiring internally, but do you know anyone who can afford to reassign someone from their body or paint role right now?  I certainly don’t.

Tablet with holographic checklist.

Tools of the Trade

At this stage, there are a lot of openings for estimators, and those openings are being filled with less experience than ever.  The new shop estimator has to be provided with new tech and tools to fill the knowledge gap because if they’re not, the shop as a whole is going to pay for it.

Don’t have new estimators?  Then I would be willing to bet that the estimators on your team are spending more time than in the past trying to justify the repair times that are hard to see when the adjuster is not in the field looking at the vehicle in-person.

There are a ton of tools available to help estimators, certainly, but I’d like to narrow the focus down to which tools will make the most significant difference; specifically, what is easy to use, accessible, and most affordable.

Transparent black and white schematic of a hatchback roadster.

The first tool is the estimating system itself.

Hang with me, I know we’re starting on the obvious side.  I don’t specifically mean the estimating system but the tools inside it.  Even an inexperienced estimator can become effective if taught to use H notes, footnotes, and, most importantly, the P-Pages.  The P-Pages are often the fastest way to teach a new estimator what additional operations a replacement panel needs.

Procedure Libraries

The second tool I would suggest is a procedure library such as Alldata or Sun Collision Repair. Even if you have never turned a wrench yourself, the procedures will walk you through a replacement step by step, allowing you to picture the operations required for the job. Between the estimating system P-Pages and an OEM replacement guide,  even a very inexperienced estimator can write a reasonably comprehensive estimate.

But what about repair?

How do you teach a new estimator the difference between a 3-hour dent and a 5-hour dent?  Or why the same 3-hour dent on mild steel is a 5-hour dent on an aluminum panel?  We’d always relied on everyone coming together at the vehicle and agreeing on a reasonable repair time, but that increasingly no longer happens.  The new estimators we bring into our industry must be given tools that teach them to think about repair effectively.  So, the question remains, IS there a tool or technology that can capture and vizualize the damage, as well as suggest the number of hours required for repair?

The LiDAR-powered Smart Tool of Estimating Repair

iPhone screenshots of the Dents.co app in action.

If you think the answer is ‘no,’ allow me to introduce you to the Dents.co mobile app for collision repair solutions. Using the LiDAR and multiple cameras in equipped Apple mobile devices, this is the premiere tech and estimating tool for the estimator trainee to effectively learn repair.

Learning effective repair estimating relies on the consistent application of knowledge.  The Dents.co app provides precise measurement of damage and applies an advanced algorithm that gives estimators consistent repair time recommendations on every panel.  The system requires the estimator to think about details like substrate and body lines, and the algorithm teaches the estimator the impact these details have through appropriate repair time modifications.

Guidelines, measurement, and documentation are critical to a complete and correct repair.  The avenues to instill this knowledge have changed.  If you are still working to bridge the knowledge gap opened by the evolution of the virtual claims process, subscribe today by using the link below.

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