Managing the connected workshop of the future

MIWA conference Automechanika 2019 - (From left) Brione Schoeman (MIWA), Prinola Govender (MIWA), ConGrazia performers with Pieter Niemand, Director of MIWA

Greater connectivity, electric vehicles, autonomous cars and data will provide even more momentum for the motoring industry within the next 10 years, and continue to shift gears. This was the message from experts who spoke at the “Beyond 2020 – the Repair Shop Evolution” Motor Industry Workshop Industry (MIWA) conference, held at Automechanika, South Africa’s leading international trade fair for the automotive service industry on 20 September 2019.

Jan Bambas, EU affairs director for FIGIEFA, the European federation and political representative in Brussels of the independent wholesalers and retailers of automotive replacement parts and their associated repair chains, kicked off the conference reflecting on the megatrends that are transforming both the sector and business in general and giving a global perspective on the Right to Repair (R2R) campaign. “The vehicle industry is changing rapidly, and we need to adjust as quickly if we are to keep up,” said Bambas. He said that data linked to connected vehicles will be the key driver of the vehicle industry of the future and stressed the importance of a secure, open access telematics platform that could safeguard the competitiveness of the whole automotive industry in the digital era. “The ‘efficient workshop’ will need not only the Right to Repair but the Right2Connect with more computational characteristics, automation and streamlined repair processes. Any restrictions to in-vehicle data and information will limit innovation in the new digital world. Competition, innovation and consumer interests must be at the heart of how we operate,” he said.

Peter Woods, technical sales manager of automotive technical data company, HaynesPro, also elaborated on challenges facing future workshops. He said that with modern cars becoming more advanced with new technologies and electrical systems, there is a need to adapt in line with the evolving car.

He was positive about the future of the independent market but did stress the need for developing the technical skills required to service electric vehicles. “With innovations like driverless cars within touching distance, there is a huge space for people to work in, and shape the way repairs are performed on these vehicles and the technology needed to do so,” said Woods.

He said that in the UK, the demand for electric cars was increasing with less than 10% of the market certified to work on electric vehicles. “We project by 2035 the carpark will be split equally. Now is the time to invest in people, skills and equipment.”

Santiago Malbran, manager at global automotive parts manufacturer Mahle, spoke about his company’s agility in gearing up for a future-oriented driver mix that includes hybrid and combustion engines, and electric and autonomous cars. He said the common thread was definitely change and with vehicles becoming more complex, the question is how should equipment change to support the vehicle professionals of tomorrow.

Cutting-edge workshop digital solutions which save both time and money, like Mahle’s TechPRO ADAS solution, a  tool which allows workshops to adjust and calibrate driver assistance systems quickly and easily using just a digital calibration panel, represent the face of the future.  “Calibration is possible in just under 3 minutes saving up to 80% of time compared to conventional systems. It’s easy to use, has online updates, and has universal coverage.” He said all solutions need to be geared around providing workshops with significantly shorter service times, lower service costs and an added measure of safety.

Commenting on the local market, MIWA Director, Pieter Niemand says, “We are committed to supporting change in the industry, and preparing for future technology. We are embracing cloud-based solutions, digitalisation and automotive development, and our support of the Right to Repair (R2R) campaign still remains strong. Regardless of technology, we still need to deliver the same trust and service to future generations, and ensure that our customer-centric business retains loyalty,” notes Niemand.

His message to the members was “Always strive to do better. The customer needs to be involved, so keep them informed using technology. Analyse their experience, monitor their feedback and ensure you’re always listening. Qualified staff remain at the core of our business – mechanics who are qualified in using modern equipment. We are committed to ensuring that as technology changes gears, we do too, with the right training and support.”

From driving the industry, to finding self-drive, Quinton Coetzee, an international speaker, entrepreneur, naturalist and adventurer, wound up the conference encouraging the audience to adopt a winning mindset for the connected workplace of the future.

Drawing parallels from the San’s survival and resilience in the bush, Coetzee encouraged the audience to adapt and “survive” at any cost, and strive against challenging odds in the workplace.

“If you want to be a champion in the workplace, you need to go the extra mile to gain distance, and exceed the goals,” he said. “You need to recognise opportunities, seize them, and exploit them.” He encouraged the audience to unlock their skills in order to get maximum gain, both in the workplace and personally.

“Gone are the days of the big eating the small. Now it’s about speed and agility… the fast ones are the winners. If you’re not hunting, you’re being hunted,” he concluded.