All posts filed under “People and Training

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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