Matthew Stansfield, operations director of motor engineering at Davies, reflects on the challenges arising for repairer networks as the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic

The UK repair industry was undoubtedly heavily impacted by the government’s nationwide lockdown restrictions – imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic - with 51% of bodyshops losing more than 30% of their expected volumes during the 17 months of restrictions.

With fewer cars on the roads, the number of vehicle accidents plunged and 98% of bodyshops took advantage of the government’s job retention scheme.

Many skilled workers who were furloughed subsequently moved on to new jobs - the challenge now is finding enough skilled labour to deal with the increasing demand we’ve seen for repair work across the country over the past months.

The annual Auto Body Professionals Club’s (ABP) report on the state of the UK body repair industry was published in September 2021 – this highlighted that there is a lack of young people coming into the industry, leading to a bidding war between repairers.

Matthew Stansfield

Matthew Stansfield

A shortage of skilled labour is now the second biggest threat to the industry – compared to being ranked 10th last year – while losing staff to other industries due to pay levels was the fourth placing industry threat identified by the report.

To combat this skills shortage, it is essential to invest in talent. A long-term plan with structured career pathways and development opportunities will help future talent develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours that the industry needs for the future.

At Davies, we have responded to the skills shortage by developing and launching our own Vehicle Damage Assessment (VDA) apprenticeship programme, to train and develop new talent.

Communication is key

Nationwide supply chain issues are a further industry problem - difficulties in sourcing parts is having a knock-on effect on customer experiences.

In a world where speed is of the essence, many customers are expecting instant responses, short claim lifecycles and quick repairs. When that simply isn’t possible due to external factors, effective communication becomes the most important component to the claims journey.

We’ve seen that keeping the customer updated and telling them what they can expect from the get-go can transform the overall claims experience in turbulent times.

Creating a more carbon neutral repair process

Between the supply chain challenges and skilled labour shortages, repairers are also experiencing increased pressures from across the insurance industry to be more carbon neutral.

Historically, carbon neutral, green or second hand vehicle parts haven’t been customers’ first choice, but people are beginning to feel more positive about this. Changing some of the terminology and using the word `green` has certainly opened people’s minds to recycling old parts.

The challenge remains to source these parts - it’s essential that insurers and providers work together to ensure reusable parts from salvaged vehicles are put back into the repair network.

According to ABP’s 2021 report, 71% of bodyshops are now fitting green parts. In turn, 57% have increased the volume of recycled parts they have used during the past year.

It is notable that when asked why they didn’t fit green parts, just 28% of repairers cited poor quality, compared to 64% who said this in 2020, which shows that this is an area of the industry that is rapidly developing.

At Davies, we’re proud that most of our repair network already has carbon neutral status or are working towards it.

It’s great to see that several bodyshops have also received prestigious awards and recognition, such as at the National Body Repair Association’s Greener Bodyshop Awards.