C.I.A. Technology: Paint & Materials Calculator

May 29, 2007 by
Filed under: Collision Repair Industry 

If you’ve ever had some doubt whether or not the database providers are more interested in the welfare of their insurance customers than that of their collision repairer customers, you need look no further than the last estimate you wrote using their software. While all three claim to do research and time studies, and there is a general consensus that the current method of determining paint and materials costs is seriously flawed, all three continue to employ the derelict and unreliable formula that multiplies paint hours by some arbitrary dollar amount. If that isn’t bad enough, one of the three providers, Mitchell, sells a Paint and Materials Calculator. And while this calculator is also flawed it is much more accurate than the hours times dollars formula. It begs the question, why isn’t Mitchell’s P&M calculator integrated into their estimating software?

If the folks at Mitchell believe there is a need for another method for calculating P&M common sense would make one wonder why that other method isn’t part of their estimating system. Aside from Mitchell being able to sell you two products instead of just the estimating software, the main reason their P&M calculator isn’t integrated is because insurers currently using Mitchell’s system would scream bloody murder. Considering Progressive alone probably has more copies of Mitchell’s estimating software than all the body shops using it combined, Mitchell isn’t about to end their hypocrisy any time soon. Motor and Audatex (formally ADP) aren’t about to step on any insurer toes either.

This leaves us with the choice of employing separate software for determining true P&M costs or suffering through the same old system abuse we have endured for decades. Unfortunately, the majority will follow that path of least resistance and opt for the latter. A small percentage of shop owners and managers will take charge of their finances and purchase P&M calculating software or find another way of determining their true costs.

The two P&M Calculators known to the industry–Mitchell’s Paint and Materials Calculator and PaintEx–are a big improvement over the status quo, but they both have a serious flaw that is costing users money every time they use their software. While they both give the user the ability to include everything from paint to masking paper in their P&M invoice, they both rely on the tired old method of using paint hours as a factor in their calculations. Because of this, the gutless wonders, the invertebrates in our industry who allow insurers to cut paint times with this “blend within panel” crapola are losing not only valuable labor dollars, but huge sums of paint and materials dollars.

Why do you think insurers are now trying to get away with these diminished paint times? They know it’s a double whammy. Knocking a half hour off of a paint labor operation doesn’t just screw you out of twenty something dollars. It’s really twenty something dollars plus another twelve or so dollars for materials that you are sacrificing in the name of “getting along with the insurance industry.” Using Mitchell or PaintEx isn’t going to help you here. And what about all of these blend operations? They are killing us. In most cases it takes at least as much materials to blend as it does to paint the entire panel. Yet every time you blend a panel you give away half your materials money for that panel. There’s one of the main reason’s we’ll probably never see that 50% blend formula changed. Too much is at stake for insurers and data providers aren’t going to risk biting the hand that feeds them. And there simply aren’t enough people in our industry with the brains or balls to effect a change.

Though I can’t control your relationship with insurance appraisers, and I can’t fight your battles with insurers over diminished paint times, I can help you retain valuable materials dollars regardless of how much paint time is raped by the insurer.

The Paint & Materials Calculator that comes with BodyShop Office, is a part of my C.I.A. Technology, meaning it’s designed to counteract the sleazy tactics of insurers and their accomplices in the data providing industry. To do this I’ve eliminated their ability to affect your materials profit by cutting paint hours. My Paint & Materials Calculator does not use paint hours to calculate materials cost, it uses panel size. Unlike Mitchell and PaintEx it also imports your estimate and automatically fills in the painted panels. You can literally create and print a materials invoice in a few seconds. Here is an example of an actual materials invoice.

Here is a demo showing how to use the calculator: View Demo

Like everything, Paint & Materials Calculator has pros and cons. First the pros:

  • Is not dependent on paint hours.
  • Very easy to use.
  • Creates an invoice in seconds.
  • Fully customizable. Very flexible setup.
  • Uses your EMS imported estimate files.
  • Easy to update prices.
  • Make changes to database globally or for an individual invoice.
  • No monthly or annual fees. Pay for it once and use it forever.

Now  the cons:

  • No data updates. You have to do the initial setup and update the prices occasionally.
  • Not paint code specific. You use an average sprayable cost.

OK, so you have to spend some time to set up your database. The software comes already setup for Sikkens paint and the most common 3M products. It is very easy to setup, but I’m sure your paint jobber will help you with product prices. And if you are jobber reading this, this tool could be a great way to cut the constant pressure you have from your customers to cut your prices. If body shops begin getting properly reimbursed for materials, they probably won’t find it necessary to hound you about prices. Get all of your customers using this and you might be able to increase your profits.

The key to using any P&M calculator that produces a highly detailed invoice is to use it with the supplement. The whole point here is that you cannot guess what you will actually use for materials. You can only know once the vehicle is repaired what materials you used. Will you get paid by every insurer every time? That’s up to you. If you set up the P&M calculator and use it properly, and more importantly, honestly, I see no reason why you shouldn’t get paid every time. I haven’t been turned down yet. I made back the $799 price for BodyShop Office in just five supplements. That’s one valuable tool.

You have to decide whether you will fight for what you deserve. If you give an appraiser an invoice for parts that you actually used will you get paid for them? If you can itemize every item used in the repair, right down to the razor blades, why would the appraiser refuse to pay you? Like I said, whether an insurer accepts a materials invoice is entirely up to you, your negotiating skills, and more importantly, your determination and your refusal to accept no for an answer.

I can supply you with the tools, and even the advice on how to use them. I can’t supply you with the character needed to be successful with those tools. You either have it or you don’t.

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3 Comments on C.I.A. Technology: Paint & Materials Calculator

  1. Mike Colwell on Mon, 29th Oct 2007 5:01 pm
  2. How do I get this program?

  3. Stewart Edmonds on Sun, 8th Mar 2009 10:08 am
  4. Mitchell’s paint & materials calculator ” is ” intergrated in their Ultramate estimating.

  5. MFranklin on Thu, 22nd Jul 2010 4:00 pm
  6. What do you think about PMC Logic?? Is it better than Mitchell as far as accuracy?

    I’m about ready to grab a few ballsy industry people, a code writer and put out my own calculating system. Something that has an option to integrate the clips and fasteners……..

    …….anybody interested, contact me. I’m not joking around.


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