All posts filed under “People and Training

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Scanning; White Noise and Progress

Last week, on March 29th, CCIF presented an all-day session in Toronto about vehicle electronic code scanning.

A statement in the introductory comments caught my attention; to paraphrase ‘everyone in the industry is interested in and motivated by the need to get the vehicle back to the same operational state as it was in before the accident.’ Pre-accident in all operations is a subtle but real change from the overly simplistic catchall of pre-accident condition. The wording suggests that changes in repair procedures are being recognized and accepted as required.

It was then said that one of the factors blocking movement toward the goal of pre-accident in all operations was ‘white noise’.

An interpretation on this comment could be that everything is new, everything is changing rapidly and there are many commentators speaking from different points of interest. There is validity in many of the comments and positions being taken, but they are not all of the same validity and integrity and collectively the result is white noise. Many steps will be needed to get to the right place; an understanding that we are still surrounded by a lot of noise is one of these steps.

The scanning seminar itself was a very good example of a step toward quieting the noise. Only a year ago the discussion was about whether or not scanning procedures were needed. At this session in March of 2017 there was essentially no discussion or debate about whether or not these procedures were required. Instead the questions were about how best to do the needed work.

Answers did not jump out, certainly not ‘The Answer’ but the acceptance of the questions as legitimate was a big step in itself.

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Capacity at the Manufacturers

The last post discussed industry capacity, with the emphasis on the physical and knowledge capacity of the repair side to do the highly technical work that is required for correct repair of modern vehicles.

The other two participants in the overall repair industry, the manufacturers   making and selling the cars and the insurance companies who are involved in paying for the majority of repairs also have serious capacity issues.

Of these two the manufacturers are probably facing the bigger challenge. They are prescribing more and more detailed and rigorous repair procedures but have not addressed the practicalities of performing these repairs. In common with all other very large organizations they have to find a way to get the understanding and belief in these needed repairs down through their organizational chains to the people who are actually tasked with the repairs. Just as with the repairers, organizational culture gets in the way. In addition to a very long communication chain, they are faced with a number of profit seekers along that chain

The manufacturers do not own the dealerships that sell their cars, nor do they employ the people working in the service departments of these dealerships. The dealer principle is pressured and incentivized to sell as many cars as possible. In turn his service department is pressured and incentivized to keep customers reasonably happy while making as much money as possible. The service manager has to report to the fixed operations manager and the important things in his report will be; are the customers reasonably happy and are we making money. The easiest way to make money is to do what you know how to do, as quickly as possible.

If a new recalibration procedure involves 4 to 6 hours and results in a correction that is mostly invisible to the driver there is not a lot of satisfaction in the procedure and there will be a resistance on the part of the buyer, whether owner or insurance  company to pay for those hours. The result will be a lot of talking and negotiating to get to an agreement to do the work for perhaps a 5 hour invoice. But the flat rate technician is accustomed to booking 5 billable hours in 2 to 3 hours and he will feel that he is losing if he is paid only 5 hours for the actual 5 hours he puts in (the service department model also depends on his billable hours). Nobody is making money under these conditions.

The collision repair shop that calls in with a request for a specific calibration can easily be told ’No it’s ok, you don’t have to do that calibration.’ The collision shop is happy to hear that because they would not make any money from the sublet calibration and they can get the car through much faster if they don’t do it. The insurance company is not going to complain about a lower bill, But does it really need to be done? The answer now is yes. The technology has been built in the cars and current requirements are that this calibration has to be done in specified circumstances. The capacity issue is that these requirements have been set by one department, or silo, without consultation with other departments about how to implement the required procedures at the scale required.

One long term solution may be to improve the technology so that it becomes much more self-calibrating. One very difficult interim solution will be for the manufacturers to recognize that technology has outgrown their current business model and a new model is needed for this part of their operation. Perhaps off site dedicated calibration centers, perhaps release of information to the aftermarket to allow entrepreneurs to set up these dedicated calibration facilities.

Once again; I could go on, but then you will stop reading. The existing problems are not at all trivial and a lot of collaboration will be needed to reach solutions.

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Industry Capacity – More Complex than Just Space and People

In September 2016 at the Canadian Collision Industry Forum (CCIF) meeting in Vancouver a panel presentation discussed the topic of electronic diagnostics of accident damaged vehicles. At that time the short form description of this procedure was ‘scanning’ a longer form was ‘scanning and fault clearing’. Both of these terms refer to accessing the vehicles computers to search for fault codes that would indicate either damaged electronic components or an occurrence that had triggered a fault code.  If the code is cleared by the technician performing the scan and does not reoccur this suggests that the event which caused the code had been corrected. If the code re-appears after clearing this suggests that the problem still exists and further work is needed to correct it. If I continue with explanations or examples all of you will stop reading within the next few words. The topic is complex and can very quickly run to many pages of technical detail for even a good overview.

By January 2017, when this topic was again discussed by a panel at the CCIF meeting in Toronto understanding had expanded to include calibration.  Calibration refers to the adjustment of cameras and sensors to a position or setting that allows them to function as designed. With cameras and blind spot sensors this will mean a specific aim, with airbag sensors in seats this will mean a weight calibration that will then allow the seat to pick up whether there is a child, an adult or no one in the passenger seat. Once again I could go on and you would stop reading.

During 2016 the discussion of these topics was relatively new and centered on who would pay for the needed procedures, which were not part of the common procedures that the industry was used to working with.

What came out in Toronto, to people who were listening carefully, was that who would pay may be the least of our worries.

Industry capacity to identify and perform the volume of complex scans and calibrations needed is perhaps a bigger problem.  Capacity refers to both available time and physical space, and also to knowledge and skill.  The time and space may be found, but the development of needed skills will take time.

Going back to the ‘who will pay question’; what needs to be done and how it will be paid for?  Answers to these questions are needed before there is clarity to the vision of the required skills and from that clarity an understanding of the needed skills development.

Many progressive operators are paying attention and doing as much background prep and development as possible. For these people this is a cost and an investment that will likely have a return in the future.  Many more operators are waiting to be told what to do and for them the shift to correct repair procedures will be a challenge.

The transition period to the needed new model for the collision repair industry may have moved back out to the 5 years we started with.

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Certification – Another Update

I posted two articles about certification in late December and there has been enough activity in the first few weeks of this year that an update is warranted.

In an interview with Collision Repair last week Andrew Shepard, the Director of the AIA Collision Sector and the administrator of CCIAP (Canadian Collision Industry Accreditation Program) told the interviewer that CCIAP had reached 1,000 shops registered in the program. He did not say how many of these shops had achieved accreditation, but at this point this is not as important as the fact that close to 25% of the collision repairers in Canada recognize that certification is an important validation of their training and upgrading efforts.

Most of these facilities are part of the four major banner programs and it is likely that their participation was encouraged, if not enforced, by the management teams of these programs. This is not at all a bad thing; they are involved and will all become better repairers for this involvement.

Independent, unaffiliated repair shops still make up the majority of the Canadian collision repair industry and these operators can continue to be an important part of the industry, but to that they have to stay current.  This strong wave of banner shops becoming involved in the accreditation process will prompt progressive independents to also get involved and this will be good for the industry and all vehicle owners.

The insurance industry is supportive of CCIAP and with this support there will be a significant benefit to the entire repair process, and once again the vehicle owner. Accreditation involves equipment, training and very specific repair procedures. Acceptance of the requirements of accreditation by all parties takes away a lot of opinion, subjective thinking and ‘common sense’.

The repairer and insurer relationship demands the efficiency provided by the existing automated electronic claims processing systems.  A widely accepted accreditation system will allow the inclusion of required new repair processes into these automated systems.

There have been a lot of changes since my first post in July of last year. We may get to where we should be in less than 5 years



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End of Year Post

On Time, Clean and Tidy, Polite Staff, Great Communication  =  A Happy Owner

Below Average Severity (Cost)  =  A Happy Bill Payer

Efficient Repairs and a Good Profit Margin = A Happy Operations Manager

10s All Around!

Is the Car Safe and Next Accident Ready?  We Don’t Actually Measure that One

This site was started in July of this year based on the theme of vehicle owners being left out of the discussion of how their cars would be repaired now and in the near future. Very rapidly changing repair requirements were colliding with very entrenched out-of-date cultures within both the repair and insurance sides of the industry

What is Being Measured ?

One hot topic of the past few months has been the measurement of results, commonly referred to in the collision repair industry as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs.) In the insurer repairer world, the relationship is based almost completely on these numbers with the most important being customer satisfaction and anything that affects cost.

This July ,2016  article by John Huetter in RDN includes a very interesting video link that has since resurfaced in a number of other articles. Going back to my irreverent heading for this post ‘10s all around’ but something was definitely not right.

Who is Measuring Quality?

Quality of repair scores are based on the vehicle owner’s response. The problem is that the vehicle owner is not qualified to answer questions about safe and correct repairs. They only see the clean shiny painted result and have no way of knowing how the structural repairs, which are not easily visible in the completed vehicle, were done. They also do not realize that their car is being repaired in an unregulated environment with many different participants looking for a profit

Repairs will not get less complex and the answer will not be for consumers to become educated about the technical aspects of vehicle repair. The industry will have to mature to the point where the ability to perform safe repairs on modern vehicles becomes the minimum entry point for participants.

Finishing with my constant theme. We will get there but we are not there yet


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Certification – Muddying the Waters

An announcement was made a few days ago in the trade papers that Ford Canada is launching a National Certified Shop Program. On the surface this sounds like a good step and it will give consumers a better chance of getting the right repair.

ford_focu_2012-1Ford has contracted Certified Collision Care to manage their accreditation program. This means that there is no discussion of the capabilities, service area or integrity of the repair facility until it has paid money to join Certified Collision Care, which is a private company that is trying to find a niche in the collision repair market.

This adds yet another profit seeking point to the industry. For a Ford certified shop these points now include at a minimum; Ford, the insurance company, Certified Collision Care, the shop owner, and the piece work technician on the floor. There is only so much efficiency to be found and with each additional player looking for their share the pressure builds.

This would still be manageable for a progressive well equipped shop if it were no more complicated than that.

However, the three major collision shop networks in Canada; CARSTAR Canada, CSN Collision Centres and Fix Auto Canada have all committed to the Canadian Collision Industry Accreditation Program (CCIAP) which has been developed by the non-profit Automotive Industry Association of Canada (AIA). While AIA is non-profit, the accreditation is not free and is a direct competitor to Certified Collision Care.

With the way it stands today if an operator wants to become part of the Ford program that operator has to sign on with Certified Collision Care and if they are part of the Fix, CSN or CARSTAR network they also have to join CCIAP.

Outside of the these networks if an independent shop is signed on with Certified Collison Care and one of the other OEMs takes the position that CCIAP is more in line with their requirements than is Certified Collision then the shop will also have to sign on with CCIAP. This probably does not make them a better facility but does add cost and administrative overhead.

I think that most vehicle owners would see two accreditations in one shop as a marketing move and both accreditations would be diminished in their view.

It will also not be difficult for insurance companies to pick and choose which parts of the certification program they will accept and what they will pay for. This is happening now with repair requirements presented by the manufacturers but not accepted by the insurance companies. There is nothing about a voluntary accreditation that would force them to change their thinking today.

Accreditation as it stands today is a move toward the right place that the industry will be in several years from now but it is not the immediate answer that the promoters present it as.

It continues to be very much an industry in transition. Those operators that will survive to see the hoped for future stability are paying a lot of attention today.

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Standards and Regulation for Vehicle Repairs? Not Much

These three photos probably do not need explanation to most people; an airplane under repair, an open 110V electrical box in a renovation and a late model car partially re-assembled after a collision.

The work depicted in each image requires a level of expertise to be completed safely. Most people would not be surprised to learn that the mechanic working on the plane is government certified and has to sign off on the work with his current certification number before the plane can go back into service. Most people also will not be surprised to know that while a homeowner can do his own electrical work without certification, if the work is being done under a municipal building or renovation permit it has to be completed and signed off by a registered electrician, again with a current certification.

These same people will be surprised to know that in many (most) jurisdictions nobody has to be certified and nobody has to sign off on the car repair. In our jurisdiction of British Columbia there are no government requirements that a person working in the collision repair industry be licensed or have any certification. This then means that there are no regulations or mandated standards on how the work is done. Which then means that standards could be determined or influenced by the repair person, the business owner, the vehicle manufacturer, the insurance company or perhaps the vehicle owner.  These participants are not all motivated by the same result.

In the past, with much less complex vehicles this Wild West environment did not cause more than the occasional anecdotal problem. In the future that is now upon us this unregulated environment exposes vehicle owners to real dangers.

This September 22 article, by John Huetter at Repairer Driven News, suggests that there is a realization of the requirements for regulation and standardization, although it is still in early stages.

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Collision Repair and Certification

Certification is a word that is currently used quite freely in the repair industry. Without question certification and validation of repair shop capabilities and process will become an important part of the repair environment in the coming years.

At this point there is a surge of activity with certification with several players increasing their involvement and competing with each other. If the result 5 years from now is that there are different certification standards by different organizations then certification could well be seen more as a marketing tool than as a legitimate indictor of capability and integrity.

Assured Performance and Verifacts are the two main certification organizations for the collision repair industry in the US and Canada. Both are For Profit privately held companies.

NSF International is a Not for Profit organization that has its roots in food safety certification and had been involved in the certification of aftermarket auto parts since 2011. NSF has recently introduced a program of collision shop certification. This appears to be a quite rigorous third party independent certification, perhaps with less of a marketing component that the other two may have.

I-CAR is another Not for Profit organization that provides accreditation based on employee training.

The collision repair industry is very loosely regulated in most of North America and none of these certification programs are mandated by regulatory bodies

Truly regulated and standardized professions offer licensing or legitimacy through Not for Profit organizations funded by the profession as a whole. While these are not without controversy they are accepted as the single regulator for the profession.

It can easily be imagined that the legal system would be quite chaotic if there were competing bar associations. Medical practice would also be very interesting if there were more than one body validating credentials.

Auto collision repair may not be medicine, but then neither is aircraft maintenance. There are not competing organizations qualifying and certifying aircraft mechanics.

In the collision repair world, Verifacts has on site inspectors that review the actual work being done. Assured Performance has a phone app that allows technicians to fill in the blanks on a form and take pictures to verify that they are doing correct repairs.  The inspector cannot be there every day and it will not take much for a tech savvy repair technician to take the ‘right’ pictures.

One OEM will outsource their certification to one company and another will outsource to another. Each of these certification companies will want $500 to $1,000 a month and each will have slightly different standards.

Does the repair shop decide that it will only repair cars of manufacturers that their preferred certification provider has agreements with? What if they do very good work for a customer with a Honda and her husband’s Chrysler needs repair?

The theme of this blog has been that we will probably be in close to the right place in 5 years, but we are not there yet. Certification still needs some time to be truly valid.

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Stuck in the Past with the Future Looming


In a Verifacts Guild 21 Web Conference on September 8, Sean Carey of SCG Management Consultants gave an excellent overview presentation emphasizing that the cars of 2040, driverless or otherwise, will be vastly different from today. Manufacturing will be different, insurance will be very different and the repair procedures will be equally different.

Then the very logical point was made that it won’t happen in 2040, it will be a progression which has very much started and even by 2020 there will be significant changes.

2040 is a long way out and many of us may not need to plan for that, but 2020 is less than 4 years and the active participants now, whether drivers or industry operators will be very much involved in 4 years. Methods being used today by repairers and insurers will not be even close to acceptable.

As I have written before there are a lot of honest and intelligent people working on the business models and protocols that will be needed to insure and repair these cars correctly. These people will get to the right place and these business models will be developed and implemented.

However they are definitely not at the right place now and operations both with repairers and insurers are still dominated by culture that is firmly stuck in the past.

Today we still have many repairers who will not invest in equipment and training and we still have front line insurance people whose job it is to say ‘we don’t pay for that’ or ‘nobody else is asking to be paid for that’ and my favorite for this week ‘you are only trying to bill for that to pay for your new equipment.’

Neither that repairer nor the front line insurance adjuster will get in trouble if a car is given back to the owner with damage conditions that have not been diagnosed, much less corrected. 10 years ago if a car had no dash warning lights on it could be assumed to be ready to go. Today most repairers and front line insurance adjusters still use this no light conditions as verification of a complete repair, even though it is known that in today’s cars many error codes and deficiencies do not trigger a dash light.

The rules at September 10 2016 discourage looking for these codes. It is easier and more profitable for most people to not rock the boat.

“…..operations both with repairers and insurers are still dominated by culture that is firmly stuck in the past…..”

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Next Accident Ready Leadership

Who will react best to the rapid changes that have overtaken the repair industry?

This is a question which leads to more questions as the relationships within and between organizations will have significant bearings. For example, looking at the category of independent shop owner, the owner can have a very firm belief in the concept, but if his front office staff and technicians are not fully engaged he won’t get far.

Here is one list of some of the players involved who will have a role in the development of Next Accident Ready protocols. The lack of explanation of the role of each in the process is intentional in order to keep the conversation as open as possible.

All of these groups and people are in competition with others in their category and there is always a tension between categories. All have varying personal and business motivations and objectives.

The Front Line Insurance Adjuster.
The Senior Claims Person at the Insurance Company.
The Front Line Shop Estimator
The Repair Technician
The Independent Shop Owner.
The Independent Small MSO (Multi Shop Operator), with from 2 to 6 shops.
Larger MSOs
Banner Affiliates
Banner Head Office People
New Car Dealers
Certification Providers

And, very importantly;

Vehicle Owners