The car-repair sector needs a change of pace
For President Gianfranco Crosta "to be competitive, workshops must invest in technological innovation and expertise".
According to Gianfranco Crosta, Pgm of Vamag, three are the elements on which the car repair sector must focus in order to be increasingly competitive in a rapidly changing world: higher expertise, technological innovation, and resilience.
Mr. Crosta, we know that you do not particularly appreciate the term 4.0, but don’t you think that what lies behind this concept must be the starting point to remain competitive in the car repair sector?
"I think we have been abusing the term, Industry 4.0, as it was intended for the production side of the industry with its industrial automation, which integrates new production technologies to improve working conditions, create new business models for better productivity and the overall quality of production plants. This definition is unsuitable for such figures as retailers and artisans, much less for tire dealers or body shops. However, we are of the opinion that the very definition of Industry 4.0 contains the prerequisites for growth also in the latter two sectors, to which much of our production refers. A concrete example is our Dynamic Acceptance, which integrates new production technologies, improves working conditions in the workshop thanks to the "OneStop" system and the innovative proprietary software capable of processing data and information collected by a dynamic test in a few seconds, generating a complete report on the condition of the vehicle, thus creating business opportunities. True, vehicle acceptance alone does not do any justice to the necessary innovation if it is not supported and integrated by a complete makeover of the spaces and a rethinking of the workflows. Above all, though, working methods need to be reviewed and must lead to the professional growth of the customers, transforming them from artisans to entrepreneurs".
Next year you will celebrate 40 years in business. What have your strengths been?
"The hallmarks of these years were mainly two: professional skills and technological innovations. In forty years, we have always tried to invest in these two aspects in order to remain competitive in the market. Today we can sit down with the customer and design a complete workshop, offering tailored advice not only on equipment but also on the entrepreneurial growth of the customer".
How do you support your clients?
"For one, we help them to increase the number of services they offer, automate their work processes and digitize their business. When we design a "Connected Workshop 4.0", we mean a place of work equipped with tools and instruments able to communicate with each other and provide relevant data and figures. We are convinced that, collecting data before and after every job is crucial for all our customers, as these can be immediately transformed into potential sales tools rather than processing them later to look at the figures and merely analyse possible margins for improvement, or doing some marketing or speeding up the process of purchasing spare parts and consumables and so on".
It seems that "data analysis" is essential for both your business as well as your partners.
"Definitely; connectivity and data collection are at the heart of the business. The whole range of our production, wheel aligners, power test benches, inspection tools, vehicle acceptance, is able to do all this, and from each of these instruments we collect essential data we can use in generating reports that can help in the choices and solutions to be adopted. We are aware that this may seem rather futuristic, but we are also convinced, and in part due to the recent Covid-19 pandemic, that the time has come: either one adapts quickly or there will no longer be enough margin to guarantee the survival of the business given the current scenario. Workshops are slow, not only in their daily activities, but also in commercial and marketing activities, a fundamental weapon to generate income, margins and business strategies".
Earlier you mentioned "futuristic". Yet, a significant number of companies are moving slowly in the field of innovation. Isn't there a risk of being left behind?
"True, some businesses have been run for over thirty years by people who have dreamed of handing everything over to their sons, and find themselves now at a crossroads. It is precisely for them, given the trust they have placed in us over the years using our equipment, that we feel we have a moral obligation to accompany them in a new phase of their activity. We are also focusing on the younger generations who are more enterprising, accustomed to using the latest technology, many of whom with university degrees. Through our network of distributors, we are organizing forums and meetings directly with the market throughout the country, in order to share ideas and prospects with them so as to mutually define what future workshops will be like. Leading them on a path of personal growth, being able to help them immediately in changing their current business model, turning them into dynamic "multiservice" workshops, with added skills, perhaps acquired at our new "Vamag Academy", increasing automation and connectivity in small steps until the goal is reached.
It will be a massive transformation".