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Hella Gutmann Solutions – the independent’s partner of choice

The Hella Gutmann Solutions (HGS) production facility in Ihringen and technical call centre in Breisach, both situated in southwest Germany, recently opened their doors for the UK and Ireland aftermarket press in order to give them an insight of just what goes into its comprehensive range of diagnostic tools and advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) calibration equipment, to make them the market-leading products they are.

After providing a brief company history of how the original, independent Gutmann business, which introduced its first commercial diagnostic tools in 1983, came to be a wholly-owned part of the HELLA family, Managing Director, Rolf Hunold got to the heart of the proceedings by addressing its dual activities in terms of repair and mobility solutions. The repair element encompasses the here and now of what makes HGS the diagnostic and calibration pioneer it is, whereas the mobility constituent is geared to future trends, tackling issues such as connectivity and data analysis via the cloud. An area we shall return to shortly.

Focusing in on repair solutions, which is what is of immediate interest to the typical independent workshop, Frederic Ernis, head of business development for UK, Ireland, France and Benelux, explained in greater detail the depth of the multi-brand diagnostic range and complexities behind its development.

Although the capability of the tool increases with each step up in the range, from the entry level mega macs 42SE, to the recently launched mega macs 77, the core diagnostic data remains consistent across them all and this is the first element that really sets HGS apart.

Whereas in 1990 Gutmann diagnostic tools covered just six vehicle manufacturers (VMs), HGS tools now cater for 43, which relates to more than 40,000 models and in excess of 1.7 million fault codes – all of which have to be traced back to their source by the company’s in-house workshop facilities, sophisticated mapping equipment and team of highly experienced engineers. The process can take up to six months, but only by analysing the minutiae of the detail can HGS ensure that its equipment provides the market-leading accuracy on which the independent service sector can truly rely.

“Obviously, due to both copyright issues and the fact that it is encrypted, it is not legal to simply copy VM data,” explained Neil Hilton, head of business development for HELLA UK, “but, as an extra level of protection, it also includes false codes, so the process of re-engineering the data for our equipment, is clearly highly complex.”

“However, an indication of the company’s ability to successfully overcome these challenges is the fact that HGS now has more than 40,000 workshop customers. In addition, the investment made to develop our data is mirrored by the resources we put into our support services, which ensure our customers can access a real-time solution to any problem that they are unable to rectify directly from their mega macs device.”

This is made possible through the HGS technical call centre, where 54 specialists between them answer more than 2,000 enquiries every day. Split into brand specific departments, these highly skilled engineers – who have each been recruited from VM dealer workshops of the brands for which they are responsible and are required to return to those dealerships for two weeks every year to remain fully up-to-date with the latest developments – receive the support questions either from a ‘ticket’ generated and sent directly from a mega macs tool or via a telephone enquiry.

“This diagnostic know-how and technical ability was also the impetus behind the development of our ADAS camera and radar calibration (CSC) tool, which has now been on the market for more than five years and remains the benchmark for ADAS recalibration in the aftermarket, with by far the most comprehensive multi-brand coverage,” Hilton continued.

“Despite the dramatic increase in the number of ADAS equipped vehicles – which incidentally, are visiting the independent workshop on a daily basis – there is still a worrying level of ignorance in the aftermarket when it comes to the need to recalibrate these vehicles after carrying out any mechanical repair that affects its geometry. So that’s anything from a simple tracking adjustment to any steering and suspension component replacement, as well as changing its wheel/tyre combination!

“What the independent workshop also needs to appreciate is that after undertaking this work, the responsibility to ensure that the vehicle’s ADAS equipment is functioning correctly does not lie with the motorist, who may or may not know the vehicle is equipped with these systems, or the VM that originally incorporated them, but with the workshop that worked on the vehicle. When this penny drops, workshops will have to invest in an aftermarket solution of which the HGS CSC tool is clearly the most refined.”

Finally, returning to Rolf’s comments concerning mobility solutions, HGS has already begun trials of a new device, which will provide the independent sector with an effective means to remotely communicate with their customer’s vehicles in a way that previously only selected VMs have been able to achieve.

Once plugged into the vehicle’s OBD interface, the CarForce dongle can telematically communicate with the workshop and provide data from which they can proactively contact their customer and make them aware of potential issues such as low tyre pressure, the need to change the oil or battery, or to refill the AdBlue for example, so allowing the driver to take the necessary measures before the problem escalates.

“Although this is still in trials, this initiative provides the independent with realistic access to the next generation of vehicles and combined with its current mega macs and CSC tool repair solutions, makes HGS the technical partner of choice for both the present and the future,” Hilton concluded.