The visionary tech streamlining our vehicle repair industry
Launched in 2009, the National Accident Repair Group has established one of the leading vehicle repair networks within the UK.
Witnessing the company’s growth over the last 14 years, Managing Director Malcolm Banner has been instrumental in spearheading the technological advancements to enhance not only National but their customers’ business setup.
How has tech has positively impacted the automotive repair sector?
In this article, we talk about all things tech with Malcolm and how it’s positively impacting the automotive repair sector.
What is the importance of technology at National and in the automotive industry?
From early on, we knew that to navigate the vehicle repair sector, many parties have to communicate with one another effectively. From policyholders and insurers to repairers and management groups such as ourselves, we must be on the same page. When challenged with external factors such as market upset, industry delays, increased prices and world events, having the technology to manage your internal factors is essential for longevity and development.
What operational pain points have you seen in the vehicle repair sector since the beginning?
Insurers were experiencing an increasing pain point of losing repair work simply because they couldn’t deploy a claim as quickly as needed. In an era where customers want immediate solutions, implementing the right software systems enabled insurers to connect with reputable repair centres in real time. The first step was to give our customers the latest deployment technology; now, we’re at a phase where a complete repair journey needs to be visible to all parties involved; long gone are spreadsheets of customer data. Artificial Intelligence is playing a big role in our future plans, and that will only improve our operational processes and communication touch-points moving forward.
It’s been four years since Silverstone Software was established. What’s the link with National?
After a spell of outsourcing IT solutions, we identified a gap within the National Accident Repair Group, where we could offer and oversee an in-house software management solution. In 2018, we established Silverstone Software, a software agency with the vision to solve and support automation processes for all parties involved in vehicle repair.
What is the current setup for Silverstone Software and National?
Silverstone Software is a core part of our service and plays a key role in our customer’s day-to-day operations. Four years on, we’re developing the most innovative software to reduce repair cycle times and provide expert service for our customers and their policyholders. Silverstone Software manages the entire National digital programme, including maintenance, tech support and new project development. During 2023, we employed six new software engineers based in Northamptonshire to extend our software capabilities, such as .NET services and bespoke system builds in Microsoft technologies.
As your customer network grows, how do you manage a software rollout?
Our bespoke systems seamlessly integrate with our customers’ IT platforms via API connectivity or through a web browser viewpoint. We can easily link to insurers’ own claims setup, or we can install our own platform, which requires limited development. This means no downtime, information is shared securely and quickly between organisations, and the IT setup is simpler. As I mentioned, Silverstone Software’s role is to support and manage the IT transition with the option for customer training and bespoke platform alterations.
How is AI utilised in your industry, and does National have any plans for this emerging technology?
When real-time data is essential to the success of claim deployment and repair cycles, AI works in our favour. Silverstone Software is currently looking into ways to move our intelligent deployment system (IDS) forward. Due to the amount of data we handle, we’re investigating ways to effectively use AI across our core systems, with a plan to implement AI in 2024. From an operations perspective, the usage will be limited to our intelligent deployment feature, ensuring the most accurate first-time deployments.
You’ve mentioned National’s digital platforms; what other software solutions do you offer?
Our clients have the choice to utilise our unique repair management solution, weDeploy. weDeploy is an application tool which connects insurers to our trusted network of repair centres across the UK to make direct bookings. Users can confidently provide information to their policyholders and rest assured vehicles are being repaired in the most suitable location and to the right specifications. Returning to the initial pain point of being unable to accept a claim within a reasonable timescale, weDeploy allows operatives to deploy a job whilst on the phone to a policyholder, capturing information at the first point of contact to secure the claim.
Does National have any future project developments lined up?
We’ve recently released our Progression 2.0 software, which offers a complete end-to-end claim solution from when a job is deployed rather than waiting for the vehicle to reach the bodyshop. Our Progression Team are responsible for monitoring the progress of individual repair journeys where the system proactively spots any issues or potential delays. This not only delivers significant benefits to our customers: reduced repair times, accurate data, transparent tracking, etc., these can be passed on to the policyholder for a better customer experience.
Do you believe these technical advances will help reduce the repair times?
Absolutely, we have already seen the results. We have over 500 repair centres in our National network, which our customers have instant access to for claim deployment. Progression 2.0 provides real-time monitoring of each repair job, which, along with our Progression Team, can ensure every job is managed effectively with minimal delays. It operates as soon as a valid deployment is made, capturing lead times from the first deployment step to give a true reflection of timings. This is vital for our customers to have such insights.
How has tech progressed National as a business over the last 14 years?
Since the acquisition of Silverstone Software, National has been able to develop our internal systems faster and within a controlled environment. We’ve been able to gather, utilise and test data to measure performance and provide solutions for our customers, automating everyday manual tasks, increasing productivity and customer satisfaction, and aiding progression with their own team by spotting and resolving issues first-hand. This is just the start for National and our customers; we’re dedicated to continually improving our technology and services to support the entire vehicle repair sector.