What challenges face the restoration industry? How is technology influencing change? And where do top industry leaders think the industry in headed? CLM Magazine chatted with three experts to find out.
Discuss one challenge the restoration industry has faced, as viewed from your perspective.
Lance Malcolm, Crawford Contractor Connection: The ability to scale response and manage the surge of claims over a short period of time is critical to delivering their promise to their policyholders when they need them most. By utilizing a highly scalable managed repair program for day-to-day claims, insurers can build access to the resources necessary to meet increased capacity needs following a natural disaster, such as the recent record-breaking winter storms in Texas. An industry-leading managed repair program like Contractor Connection can deliver increased capacity for a weather event response, coordinating capabilities for residential and commercial repairs, allowing insurers to focus on managing the claim.
Jack Dolan, Rimkus Building Consultants: The biggest challenge I’m seeing is skyrocketing material costs. Many manufacturers pulled back production when demand dropped at the outset of the pandemic and are still not running at capacity. This has resulted in a reduced supply of materials in the face of increased demand following fires, floods, and storms, leading to a more than 20% increase in primary building materials such as lumber and steel. This same supply and demand scenario is also resulting in significant delays in the availability of materials, which, of course, adversely affects project schedules.
Susan Kuchta, Restoration Specialties Franchise Group: The biggest challenge we face stems from the adjuster’s struggle to balance speed, cost, and customer satisfaction. As a result, we are often competing with the trash can. By that I mean in an effort to close the claim quickly and satisfy the insured, adjusters cash out and toss items that might have been restored. This may not be the best solution for the insured, the planet, or the cost of the claim. The onus is on all of us to ensure parameters are built to improve the triple bottom line: social, environmental, and financial value.
How are you integrating technology into the property restoration process?
Jack Dolan, Rimkus Building Consultants: We are making great use of 3D capture technology, such as Matterport, to efficiently and accurately create as-built conditions that, in turn, decreases our turnaround times for damage assessments and the preparation of repair drawings. Faster drawings lead to faster permitting and ultimately restoration. To avoid costly and (oftentimes) unnecessary damage to properties, we also routinely utilize non-destructive equipment for our assessments, such as thermal imaging, concrete resistivity meters, and ground-penetrating radar.
Susan Kuchta, Restoration Specialties Franchise Group: The trend to more desk adjusters has been in motion for some time, but the pandemic has heightened it. The adjustment for us has been relatively easy because we have been moving in this direction already by focusing our technology improvements on the ability to communicate details to the adjuster more quickly and in the moment. We add photos and detailed descriptions to our estimates to enable transparent and speedy decisions. We will also establish API connectivity to our job-tracking software with the carrier so the information can be accessed by the adjuster in real time.
Lance Malcolm, Crawford Contractor Connection: The property restoration industry is changing rapidly through the integration of innovative technology to support the continued digitalization of claims processes while streamlining estimating and repair processes. We support claim segmentation for both residential and commercial insurers and their customers through digital innovation and highly customizable solutions, paving the way for the future with a focus on driving policyholder satisfaction through increased transparency and proactive communication combined with exceptional quality and speed of service.
From the design perspective, what processes can companies follow to expedite the restoration process?
Susan Kuchta, Restoration Specialties Franchise Group: Selecting vendors who can provide the right expertise in several specialty categories is the first and best place to start. For example, our family of companies has individual experts in electronics, appliances, art, documents, and textiles. It is one claim submission to a team of specialists, not submission to a team of generalists. This ensures the right action immediately and significantly reduces the risk of product failure or damage.
Lance Malcolm, Crawford Contractor Connection: Integrating the right combination of people with digitized processes plays a vital role in restoration efficiency. Contractors and insurers must have access to key data insights to best understand how to reduce cycle times and increase quality of property repairs. Leveraging a robust and experienced managed repair provider to handle claims from first notice of loss to finished repair will allow insurers to increase speed and accuracy without diminishing quality of work.
Jack Dolan, Rimkus Building Consultants: We find that customers’ expectations with respect to scope, schedule, and budget are best met when restoration design firms and restoration contractors work jointly from the onset to assess the overall damage, and to determine what code upgrades will be required to meet the requirements of the authority having jurisdiction over the permitting process. A lack of agreement as to scope will always lead to delays and unexpected budget increases.
Where do you think the restoration industry will be in five years? 10?
Lance Malcolm, Crawford Contractor Connection: Managed repair utilization has grown exponentially over the past 25 years and shows no signs of slowing down. Additionally, technology will continue to accelerate and bring innovative estimating and repair solutions into the ecosystem, further increasing the delivery of speed, quality, accuracy, and customer experiences.
Jack Dolan, Rimkus Building Consultants: I envision the industry making greater use of technology to manage expectations. For example, designs imported into a virtual-reality environment would allow owners or end users the opportunity to see the finished construction before contractors even begin their efforts. During construction, things like project-specific websites or apps with virtual tours will allow clients to monitor real-time progress on their projects.
Susan Kuchta, Restoration Specialties Franchise Group: We believe the restoration industry will be healthy for some time, but will continue to transform more quickly. Photos, phone apps, and drones will continue to be integrated into the claims process, but the need to restore property and contents will remain. In fact, the number of catastrophic events is predicted to rise which will demand even more restoration to keep costs under control. K
ABOUT THE PANEL
Jack Dolan, P.E., CBC, is president of Rimkus Building Consultants. email@example.com
Susan Kuchta is vice president, sales and strategy, for Restoration Specialties, home of ERS, ART, TEX, and DFD. firstname.lastname@example.org
Lance Malcolm is U.S. president of Crawford Contractor Connection. email@example.com