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Top Industry Experts Discuss the Impact of Education and Training at I-CAR Annual Conference

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Jason Stahl has 26 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 14 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

A panel discussion at the I-CAR Annual Conference held
July 20 in Salt Lake City, Utah, focused on the impact of education and
training on organizational performance.

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Russell Thrall III, I-CAR director of industry relations,
moderated the panel, which consisted of the following automotive industry
professionals:

• Rollie Benjamin – co-founder, ABRA Auto Body & Glass
• Aaron Clark – president and co-owner of Collision
Solutions
• Chris Adams – claims consultant, property & casualty
claims, State Farm
• Al Motta – head of technical training, Chrysler Group
• Clark Plucinski – executive vice president of sales and
marketing, True2Form
• Tom Riggs – senior vice president of operations,
Universal Technical Institute (UTI)
• Jimmy Spears – assistant vice president, auto claims
service, USAA

"Auto technology change drives continuing education
and training needs. Repairers and insurers need a constant supply of
entry-level technicians. And organizational performance drives competitive
advantage," said Thrall.

ABRA’s Benjamin described how his organization, over the
last five years, has pursued lean manufacturing principles and defined how each
and every ABRA store operates. A "playbook" defines nine processes, including customer sales and inventory management.

At morning board meetings, employees view a scoreboard that indicates the status of each vehicle. The key focus is on improving cycle
time and CSI.

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"The team is coming up with solutions to solve the
problem, not the general manager," Benjamin said.

Clark of Collision Solutions also talked about his shop’s
conversion to a lean business model, which has been far from easy and has resulted in
some employees leaving.

"We took the ground-up approach because the model we
had been using was broken," he said. "We went from a flate-rate to an
hourly team approach. I experienced a lot of turnover, partly because I’m the
only shop that’s taking this new approach in my area. People resist change."

In the new team environment, Clark said, everyone learns from each
other and mistakes are documented so they can be reviewed and analyzed so they
never happen again.

Said True2Form’s Plucinski, "I think we spent too
many years segmenting our training when, really, it comes together. We were
more comfortable with the fist-on-the-table method. Our leadership needs to
have the ability to allow our employees to figure out how to get there."

UTI’s Riggs said his organization also turned over
decision-making and problem-solving to its employees.

"About 10 years ago, we weren’t doing well," he
said. "Our CEO said that management doesn’t have the answers, so he
brought all our employees together, emphasized the need for ‘breakthrough
performance’ and turned everything around."

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With stores all over the country, Benjamin said ABRA has
to utilize technology to make sure everyone gets trained. He said that meetings
held via the web have been effective.

"We’ve established an educational culture, not a
‘catch them doing something wrong’ culture," he said. "Our main focus
is how to be more effective cycling cars through the process."

For the benefit of those shops looking to embark on a new
way of operating, Thrall asked the panelists what steps a shop should take to
get going.

Benjamin said that shops should make sure they have the
systems first, then define and standardize the processes, then create a
playbook and back it up with video training.

UTI’s Riggs summed up his advice by saying, "Perfect
is the enemy of good," implying that companies shouldn’t worry about being
perfect with their plan and that the most important thing is simply starting down the path.

"Have a plan and know how you’re going to show up
and lead every day," he said. "Get started and understand you will
make mistakes."

USAA’s Jimmy Spears said shops should concentrate on
strategy as the first step. "It’s what you choose not to do, the paths you
won’t take, the places you won’t put any resources or people. Then by default
that’s what you’re doing. Then, when you know what to do, execute."(left to right) panel moderator russell thrall iii, i-car director of industry relations, and panelists: jimmy spears, assistant vice president, auto claims service, usaa; tom riggs, senior vice president of operations, universal technical institute; clark plucinski, executive vice president of sales and marketing, true2form; al motta, head of technical training, chrysler group; chris adams, claims consultant, property & casualty claims, state farm; aaron clark, president and co-owner of collision solutions;  and rollie benjamin, co-founder, abra auto body & glass.Rollie Benjamin of ABRA:

 

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