Tomorrow never knows?

Neil Pattemore considers the workshop of tomorrow, and how it will impact on the business of tomorrow

By Neil Pattermore |

Published:  16 July, 2019

Last year I wrote about the changes facing independent workshops. Since then there have been further developments, and now the rate of change is increasing exponentially. You will be familiar with today’s challenges and probably aware of some of those of tomorrow’s, especially if you are a regular reader of this revered magazine. However, the workshop of the future will need to change significantly to stay competitive as well as being compliant with both commercial or legislative requirements.
    
If I look as some of the likely changes, they are quite wide-ranging, but together they will put increasing pressure on the management of the workshop and the business more generally. The IMI has recently stated that “management and leadership within the sector is not evolving quickly enough” and that “a skilled, competent and professional workforce, able to keep pace with the demands of new technology and changing markets and remain competitive” are necessary, which are being supported through the IMI’s ‘Campaigns for change’ initiative.

Greatest challenge
Looking at the workshop level first, then the greatest challenge remains the access to, and the use of, in-vehicle data. Taking the access to the vehicle first, it will be controlled to meet the needs of cybersecurity – needed as vehicles become ever-more electronically controlled on the way to fully autonomous vehicles. This also means that today’s OBD connector will be both restricted in the way that it can be accessed, already requiring electronic certificates to authorise access and to define what data/functions are then available, but also the width and depth of data which is also being reduced due to the very design of the OBD connector being unable to support the bandwidth needed for high-speed in-vehicle systems. The access for these systems will be via wireless communication, which is both faster and more secure, but also more difficult for the workshop to access – even if this is going to be possible at all. Vehicle manufacturers already deny independent service providers access to data via any of their telematics systems and are restricting the OBD port. To obtain the required electronic access certificates even for the OBD port, independent workshops have to be registered and authorised by the vehicle manufacturer before paying them for the required certificate. This is especially a requirement when working on ADAS systems, as the vehicle manufacturer needs to know if the repaired system is re-calibrated and working correctly, so access to the system, the re-coding of replacement ADAS components, as well as confirming the vehicle is working correctly again, is likely to be certificate based. All these access authorisation requirements are likely to need new legislation to provide independent access to the vehicle and its data.
    
Assuming that access is possible, the next evolution will be the use of data with supporting partners, such as the diagnostic tool manufacturers and spare parts providers. This will be necessary to quickly and accurately identify what work is needed on a vehicle and the corresponding replacement parts on increasingly complicated in-vehicle systems. This will be done by exchanging data with these service providers to provide a ‘just-in-time’ delivery of the technical support and parts needed – without this partnership support small independent businesses would struggle to repair tomorrow’s vehicles, let alone make a profit from doing so.

Vehicle ownership
As vehicle ownership moves away from individuals to ‘mobility service providers’, where the use of the vehicle will be available as short-term rental (i.e. by the hour, day, month etc.), your customer becomes the vehicle provider and they will drive down prices to be competitive in their own mobility services, so workshop efficiency becomes paramount to remaining competitive in this changing market.
    
In a wider context, the way that vehicles are supplied through authorised dealers is likely to change, as direct sales to mobility providers develops. As this happens, the authorised dealers are more likely to become service and repair points, and this is where the difference between authorised and independent repairers becomes more blurred. Both types of workshop will need similar levels of competence and be competitive for the service and maintenance they provide. This brings in another change for the independent workshop, where there will be an increasing need to have business management data reporting that will be needed by the mobility service providers to allow them to work efficiently with the workshops they are dealing with (e.g. financial and process management systems) that today is expected from authorised repairers.
    
The very real threat is that vehicle manufacturers will either fully block remote access to the vehicle and its data (the identification of what work is needed will be conducted remotely before the vehicle comes into a workshop), or will control the access via workshop interfaces, using electronic certificates, and in doing so, control all competitors while imposing their own business models and service/repair methods. Legislators are aware of this but are also deeply concerned about the cybersecurity threat and are still investigating what solution may be needed to ensure true competition is still possible for both the mobility service providers and vehicle repair workshops.
    
Some better news is the imminent referencing into European legislation of the ‘SERMI’ scheme, which will verify and authorise independent workshops to provide access to security (anti-theft) related data, functions and parts. This scheme is now being directly included in European legislation and once implemented, could be expanded in the future to provide a harmonised access and use of electronic certificates for other requirements. Ultimately, the SERMI could help avoid vehicle manufacturers blocking competition ‘through technical design’ – but this remains a legislative decision.

Competitive choices
The workshop of the future will look very different to the workshop of today. There will be much more reliance on the access and use of data. The sharing of this data will enable efficient and timely repair of the vehicle. This will also necessitate increased levels of business management to both fulfil the demands of mobility service providers, but also to ensure that the business has efficient management systems to underpin their ability to remain competitive – and to continue to offer consumers competitive choices. The future moves mechanical repairs into the digital age and the inherent IT skills that this will also require. This will demand changes within the independent workshop business, but will also be directly linked, in every sense of the word, to external partners – so choose your partners carefully, as your future business may be dependent on what they can provide and how this will impact your own business activities and efficiencies. It is also clear that your future business will increasingly be less independent and become increasingly interdependent on the requirements and abilities of others. United we stand and divided we fall – so seriously consider joining one of the UK aftermarket organisations who will fight for legislation that can support your needs. Welcome to the brave new world of vehicle repair workshops!

xenconsultancy.com

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