Motor claims are changing rapidly as the UK moves away from internal combustion engined (ICE) vehicles, with hybrids and pure electric replacing them. But even the traditional ICE car is now being packed with technology, with different ADAS systems being installed, even within one model range.
One piece of tech that insurers and brokers often take for granted in the claims process is the windscreen. No longer just a piece of toughened glass, perhaps with tiny wires inside to speed up de-frosting, it now features an array of sensors, cameras and areas of screen where head-up displays need to be projected.
Many insurers and brokers need to understand more about the tech, so that customers can be kept in the loop when a replacement windscreen claim is being processed. It isn’t just a cut `n’ paste job. IE went to Auto Windscreens in Chesterfield to find out more, with a guided tour from managing director James MacBeth, classic Mini and boat enthusiast.
IE; James, one of the first things I noticed walking around the call centre is how big this operation is.
JM; Yes it’s still growing. We have about 400 staff here at the Chesterfield site and another 350 or so at various other UK locations. The company has been around for 50 years now and we have plans to keep growing.
IE; Lots of people working in the insurance claims sector probably aren’t aware of how much training goes into things like fitting windscreens. It’s essential in an era of ADAS calibration that everything is done right isn’t it?
JM; It’s absolutely imperative now, because the advanced technology that’s built into that piece of glass means you need to understand every aspect of it. That’s how we do things here, you start as an apprentice, learning about the MoT standards, the latest calibration standards from manufacturers, safe handling and more.
Autowindscreens has a dedicated training centre which was established in 1991. It was the first within our industry, and over the years AW have been ahead of technology and industry standards. The main focus over the past few years has been development of ADAS. All our technicians attend a specified ADAS course as part of the NVQ qualification. We work with GQA on NVQs and it’s all about our company setting high standards, and making sure we are compliant with the IIR [Insurance Industry Requirements] standards.
IE; For insurers that is good news as they can sign off on a repair and know that everything has been done right, so the customer is getting a car back that’s safe to drive.
JM; We are always aware of that end user, the person who wants their vehicle back in as-new condition. We use aftermarket and manufacturer parts and one of our key partners is Pilkington, the biggest name in glass manufacturing. They are all about quality, with a world class reputation in glass, so you could not have better partners.
IE; Earlier, in the workshop, you introduced me to Mark Holmes, who is something of a guru when it comes to designing specialist lifting tools for windscreens. Tell us why you developed your own fitting tools.
JM; As some people know I started out at Auto Windscreens as an apprentice, about 30 years ago, so I’ve done the job and know it pretty well. One of the challenges that any fitter faces today is lifting and balancing the screens, which can weigh over 20 kilos. Now with some vans and trucks, it’s become a two-person job, and that all adds time and money to any windscreen claim.
So Mark sat down and began thinking of an easy-to-move work stand that could hold a screen securely, move and rotate it, lower it carefully down and so on. All operated by one person, no back strain and safer handling of a valuable product too. It’s called the Panther Pro and the big benefit is saving staff from musculoskeletal injuries, improving the wellbeing of the staff. It’s made a huge difference to the way the job is being done.
IE; One thing that struck me watching the training video clips before is that in the last couple of decades windscreen replacement has gone from being a relatively simple part-swap, to a complete vehicle systems check. Now you have to recalibrate all the ADAS systems once that screen is removed and replaced.
JM; In the early days of my career you might be looking at taking 20 minutes to replace a screen. Perhaps spend another ten minutes checking an Austin Mini screen for water leaks!
Now, you are looking at putting everything back to original manufacturer spec and the diagnostic tools we use give you a full report on everything, every problem, that the car might have. So that’s a kind of extra benefit, in that you can tell the customer for example that a numberplate light is out and needs sorting out.
IE; So insurers and brokers can hand over a car, with a full print out, saying what’s been done, checked over and fixed. That means a happier policyholder, who is far more likely to renew if they feel that they’re being looked after.
JM; Absolutely, and that’s why we take that delegated authority seriously – we have a duty of care just like the insurers.
IE; Now, that system calibration checking bay you showed me earlier has over-the-air updates, so you can get the latest software updates from manufacturers, which is important because new models often have slightly different specs of ADAS features installed, even within a single model range. That’s a pretty important development isn’t it?
JM; It’s one of the fastest changing things in our industry. In the last five years or so windscreen calibrations have become more involved and there is new technology being fitted to cars every year. We can login with manufacturers and check for updates and we feel that this kind of `one-stop shop’ approach, where a company can check that everything is 100 percent back to OEM spec is the way ahead.
IE; That has a knock-on benefit for insurers too, doesn’t it, because they can communicate that digital calibration process via messaging apps, so you can text or email saying, `your car has just had its full systems check etc?’
JM; The customer has peace of mind knowing that the screen has been replaced by trained technicians, using the latest equipment and the best parts. Then it’s been checked over according to manufacturer spec and signed off. It’s so important to get all these details right and for the insurers it does offer an opportunity to keep policyholders in the loop, not in the dark. Sharing that information on how a claim is progressing is a huge benefit.
IE; James it’s been an education, thanks for your time.