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From the Shop ADAPT Reports

The Strategic Side of ADAS

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Dec. 30, 2020—Earlier this month, two shop owners who are at the cutting edge of vehicle technology gathered virtually to discuss the backend of advanced driver assistance systems calibrations. Rather than the usual static versus dynamic rapport, this event covered burning questions from, “When is the right time to invest?” to “What is the best way to market?” 

The event, hosted by ADAPT’s sibling publication, Ratchet+Wrench, featured Bryan Kauffeld, owner of Ulmer’s Auto Care and a founding member of the ADAS Center of Cincinnati, Ohio; and Scott Brown, owner of Cardinal Plaza Shell in Springfield, Va., and co-founder of LEVEL 5 Solutions. Each of the companies has cornered an increasingly important market in the industry by fulfilling ADAS work as a subcontract for other shops through grassroots advertising. 

The ADAS Center of Cincinnati opened its doors in the fall of 2020 and has been performing calibrations both in-shop and on the road ever since. LEVEL 5 Solutions has been open only two months now and is already performing advanced calibrations in under a day. Here’s how they got to where they are today. 


The Time is Now

Brown said he knew it was time to invest in ADAS technology when he saw an increasing number of vehicles with ADAS capabilities come into his repair shop, Cardinal Plaza Shell. First he said he needed to stake out a location for LEVEL 5 Solutions. 

“Starting a business during a pandemic, not the best decision,” Brown said, “but during a pandemic, everything is on sale.”

Brown said taking time to get educated and educate his staff was the most time consuming part. From start to finish he said it took 18 months for LEVEL 5 Solutions to open its doors. 

Kauffeld said he saw a strong need for comprehensive programming and diagnostics in the Ohio area which led to his team’s decision to open the ADAS Center of Cincinnati. The ADAS Center also features a mobile calibration operation run out of a cargo van. The van is outfitted with diagnostic tools and targets for various calibration procedures.

“We realized rather quickly that we were going to have to go mobile due to our location,” Kauffeld said, “so we have in-house and mobile operations.” 


The Way to Market

Brown and Kauffeld said they both spent time visiting and contacting local repair shops in their areas, spreading the news about their facilities and the services they provide. 

“I’d rather chew my arm off than send a car to the dealership,” said Brown. That's why he made an effort to get in touch with repair shops who would be willing to send cars to LEVEL 5 Solutions.

Kauffeld said the smaller investments also went a long way with loyal customers of the repair shop and even helped to bring in new customers. 

“Note pads, koozies, pens, postcards, candy canes, we send out all of that stuff to keep us at the top of mind,” said Kauffeld, “because one day, they’ll need us.” 


Quick Tips

Here are a few helpful hints from shop owners who have been where you are:

  • Have an adjustable schedule. Brown said calibrations are one of the hardest businesses to plan for due to the complex nature of the repair, number of updates needed across tools, and the general lack of public knowledge. Do yourself a favor and craft a schedule that is flexible to meet the needs of your customers and technicians. 

  • Have a dedicated space. Kauffels said calibrations are a “very clean side of the business” and in order to run a smooth operation with as few interruptions as possible, you should have a dedicated space to perform your ADAS calibrations. 

  • Document as often as possible. Brown said in the repair shop, documentation is baked into the process, but when it comes to ADAS calibrations, you should keep a running record of everything. From tool updates, to each scan, to each calibration procedure—write it all down.

“Documentation helps [technicians] become more efficient and know what equipment they’re going to need to have ready before the car even comes in,” said Brown. 

  • Find your ADAS technician. Kauffeld said in his repair shop, he had a technician who was well-versed in diagnostics and at the forefront of software and technology who he invited to work at the ADAS Center of Cincinnati. He said finding a technician who is committed to researching and studying the latest repair information is invaluable.


Image: Ratchet+Wrench

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