To begin, let me clarify that this discussion is on “collision repair standards” and does not include business operating standards, shop facility standards, repair verification or the controversial topics of parts or paint brands.
There are four elements to the process needed for shops to successfully complete a repair: the technician’s ability (training), the methodology (repair procedure standards or process), the tools and equipment (needed to perform the prescribed repair), and the materials (parts, paint, etc.). What we’re addressing in this debate is just one: the methodology. All of the other subject matter is separate and should be excluded from this discussion.
With all of that in mind, let me paint a picture of how I believe that repair standards can become a useful product and a reality in the future of the collision repair industry.
I’m proposing a path and approach that leverages what now exists and follows the path of least resistance and thus is the most likely to succeed. I’m not trying to do what they did in Europe, nor do I believe we need to create a new entity that will take decades to establish and millions to fund. The “Thatchum USA” plan that others are trying to sell us on has had disastrous consequences in the United Kingdom, driving nearly three-quarters of the shops out of business or into jeopardy.
The Starting Point
We believe the right starting point is the most obvious: recognizing that the OEMs already create the “default repair standards” through their published repair procedures. This already is our unofficial standard. The OEM procedures are already used as a foundation for training, testing and documentation. Let’s make it official and declare that the OEM repair procedures, imperfect as they are today, are the industry standards.
There is another compelling and logical reason for declaring OEM repair procedures as the industry standards, besides the obvious point that the OEMs are the ultimate authority since they designed and built the car. What other entity is willing or able to take on the liability involved with declaring how a vehicle should properly be repaired? This factor alone should end the discussion over who should set the standards! But this is just a starting point. While I’m suggesting starting with the OEM repair procedures, I’m not suggesting they’re the end-all. The OEM procedures are incomplete and need refinement and review. They need to be in a more usable format that’s consistent for all OEMs. They also need to be complete. We have gaping holes in the information available to techs, training organizations and others who need it. It’s obvious they need more work to be used universally by the industry as “collision repair standards.” That’s the next step.
Addressing the Holes
The second step is to address the gaping holes in the repair procedures and default standards we’re currently using and codify them into a useable format. I believe that collision repairers themselves must be represented in this most critical process since they’re the ones who have to use and live by the standards created. Therefore, I propose the need for a council representing repairers and interested parties. I strongly suggest we use what already exists and not create yet another organization that will need millions of dollars of funding and take decades to gain credibility. From the survey we conducted, there are two obvious choices: I-CAR, or the associations working together in a structure like the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG).
In my version of the future, the best choice to shepherd this initiative is I-CAR with its 32 years of credibility and well-established infrastructure of experience. In a survey of thousands of repair professionals, 98 percent felt I-CAR was the most trusted entity in the industry.
A longtime industry leader once said, “Thirty-two years ago, I-CAR was established to address a critical industry need. It seems obvious to lean on them when we need help once again to address a critical industry need.”
No one is suggesting that I-CAR should create repair standards. We’re just asking them to coordinate the effort and all the logistics. I-CAR isn’t perfect, but they’re already the industry common-place, and they can create a council, coordinate a process to document gaps, and work with OEMs to ensure that the published repair procedures are complete, consistent and useable for all.
I-CAR already operates as a liaison with OEMs to clarify procedures for their training programs. They already publish procedures and have staff and funding. They can provide an environment where the repairers can meet and work to identify needs and access opportunities. They can coordinate with all others to help them define their work product to be included as part of the complete body of “repair standards” the industry will use.
If I-CAR doesn’t accept the challenge, then my next best choice is the DEG or some organization like it supported by the associations representing collision repairers. The survey of repairers I previously alluded to suggested that the DEG would be the second most trusted entity to host and manage this process.
The next step is the most compelling of all: The vehicle must be repaired following the repair standards, or all this is an exercise in futility. Repair standards have to be used by the technicians repairing the vehicles to have any real value.
Eighteen years ago, when the industry last attempted to establish repair standards, the effort missed the mark because the work product never made it to the fingertips of the techs in the shop. Today, there’s a new dynamic that changes all that. We have at least three major companies (data providers) selling electronic-based technical repair procedures. Competition will force the products to be well priced and include key features; otherwise, the shops won’t buy them. The product features and functions are improving monthly, and the price to use the products are only pennies per repair at most.
These companies and their sales, marketing and training abilities transform “repair standards” into commercially viable products. This factor alone increases the likelihood that repair procedures/standards will be universally used and accepted by the industry. These three companies will be the means to push the “repair standards” into the marketplace. They provide valuable feedback to ensure that the repair procedures and standards are created in such a way that the techs can use them effectively. But the shops represented by the “council” I referred to earlier will ensure the repair standards don’t get distorted along the way.
There is now an economical, commercially viable business case for repair standards. It’s no longer just a concept. As an on-demand product, the standards are no longer just bulletins the OEMs put out as value-added services. These products feature the ability to match the repair procedure with the exact lines from the repair order and estimate. They can even allow a shop to document that they followed the procedures with an electronic “proof of compliance” form that has images and more saved with the file in case the shop ever has to prove what they did in court. This gives the shop an added legal defense as well as a valuable tool to build consumer confidence.
From cradle to grave, in this version of the future, there is a complete loop. The OEMs can get feedback to improve their “repair procedures” and how they create and publish them. They can become far more consistent, complete and useable through the feedback from the shops and those having to use them in other forms. The council made up of shops and hosted by I-CAR would operate to ensure that the repair procedures are what the shops need. I-CAR could continue to be the liaison and conduit for communications between OEMs and all other interested parties in the industry. The companies wanting to create and sell on-demand products that integrate the “repair standards” to match the estimates, technicians and equipment will drive the use of standards throughout the industry.
It would be great if insurers got on board, but it’s not necessary. They could benefit, too, because both repairers and insurers are paying billions in friction costs and inefficiencies due to the lack of repair procedures – technicians just need to know the right “how-to.” But ultimately, shops need this for themselves and the consumers they serve.
Read the other side of the argument: Point-CounterPoint: Who Should Establish and Oversee Collision Repair Standards?
Scott Biggs is known around the world as publisher, host, lecturer, panel moderator, consultant, innovator, strategist, futurist and author. But most of all, he’s a friend to thousands of business owners. Biggs is currently CEO of Assured Performance Network, the largest co-op for collision repair businesses in the world with approximately 3,500 locations and third-party administration for automakers’ rebate reward programs and body shop certification. In his 28 years in the collision industry, Biggs is also the author of numerous business books, video programs and management workshops. He has delivered more than 850,000 hours of management education, consultation and inspiration to the nearly 75,000 collision industry professionals as a viewing audience and 7,000 class attendees. You can read his blog at scottbiggs.com.
Biggs’ industry contributions are numerous. He was the host and founder of the Collision Business of the Year Awards, the Night to Remember program and the WIN Conference. He was also the administrator of the Hall of Eagles for 13 years, an original co-founder of the National Auto Body Council (NABC), and an advisor, advisory board member or consultant to several notable industry organizations such as GM, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, ASA, SCRS, CIC, I-CAR, CCC, Process Claims, 3M, NAPA, Sherwin-Williams, AkzoNobel and BASF. Biggs was recognized with the Collision Industry Achievement Award and inducted into the Hall of Eagles. In 2002, he was recognized as one of the 25 most influential leaders in the 20th century in the collision industry. In 2012, Biggs received a special Industry Achievement Award from SCRS for his many contributions, especially related to championing the efforts related to collision repair standards.
As an entrepreneur, Biggs has successfully launched more than a dozen of his own businesses. Beginning in 1985, Biggs has been the driving force behind numerous businesses and products that are household names in the auto industry such as BodyShop Video, Collision Concepts, Business Development Group, EOM, eBOSS, BodyShopTV.com, Assured Performance Network and BodyShopBuying.com.