Standardization Could Benefit Collision Repair Industry
There has been much discussion about the need to standardize collision procedures and processes. Learn about the benefits of standardization and what it will take for this to be accomplished.
The definition of "standard" is "something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; an approved model." Tony Molla, vice president of communications for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, says that having set standards for collision shops will help improve quality, reliability, safety, risk management and business performance. With improvements like those, why aren't collision repair standards already in place?
Molla said that through his work as the chairperson of the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) Standards Committee a few years ago, he found that some standards (such as ASE certification) already existed. But, he said, what was lacking was "a single document that codifies some of these well-established and effective programs and processes into a comprehensive definition of industry standards that we can all agree on and adopt."
The topic of collision repair standards may seem dry or uninteresting at first, but upon close inspection at what established standards in the United Kingdom have done to the collision repair field, it is apparent that if established in the United States, collision repair standards may create a more effective and successful way of conducting repairs.
History of "Thatcham"
In 1969, a group of British insurance companies came together to form the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre or "Thatcham," as it has come to be known. The group is operated independently by a board of directors comprised of 31 insurers who fund the group's activities. The organization's primary goal is to "carry out research targeted at containing or reducing the cost of motor insurance claims, while maintaining safety and quality standards." In the U.K., Thatcham provides 70 percent of the data that insurance companies use to classify a vehicle's insurance grouping.
The Thatcham model has been replicated across the globe. Back in the United States, the CIC Standards Committee is leading efforts to develop a Thatcham-like model, working with the British organization.
Jeffrey Patti, regional APD manager, who is ASE certified and has I-CAR Platinum status, currently chairs the standards committee. He said that the CIC committee is the first group he's known of that has attempted to standardize repair methods, other than I-CAR's attempt at the Uniform Procedure for Collision Repair (UPCR) back in 2000.
He said the basic purpose in establishing collision repair standards is to reduce the amount of friction between insurers and repairers. "It would also be a forum to discuss issues and try to resolve problems before it turns into a crisis," he said.
Patti says the committee's work on the development of standards has been assisted by a representative of Thatcham. Committee members have based their standards on the concept of Man, Machine, Material and Method, which is similar to Thatcham's structure and the PAS 125 model, which has been in place for two years. In the concept of Man, Machine, Material and Method, standards are developed for each of the four categories. For example, "Man" stands for "Employees" at a collision repair facility and the requirements they must meet. "Machine" refers to the equipment as well as the facility itself; "Material" has to do with parts, refinishing regulations, health and safety issues; and "Method" represents the processes and functions for carrying out the repair itself. The PAS 125 model is the foundation for the kitemark program.
Patti said the committee sends monthly updates to Thatcham and requests feedback to make sure it is on the right track. Thatcham will, from time to time, make a few suggestions.
If you have a body shop in the U.K. that displays the kitemark logo, that means you have undergone a thorough assessment by Thatcham and your repair processes meet strict standards. There is a fee for the assessment and once you've earned the kitemark distinction, you must pay an annual fee that covers two detailed and unannounced surveillance visits and the continuing use of the kitemark standards.
Having been in place for many decades, the kitemark logo is a recognizable and highly regarded symbol representing quality and thorough collision repair.
Patti says the challenge in store for standardizing procedures and processes in the United States is that existing efforts have been fragmented. Therefore, he says, the goal has been to create a clearinghouse or central location for members of the collision repair community to get up-to-date information, procedures and processes.
In a recent outline that Patti submitted to members of the CIC Standards Committee updating them on the committee's progress, he pointed out that to begin the journey of creating standards, a number of best practices must be reviewed and written. Even though the existing system of standards may be fragmented, he feels many best practices have already been established and therefore it's now only a matter of time before bringing them together in a singular document.
While Thatcham has served as a great model, Molla cautions that what works in one country may be different in another.
"I think any discussion of industry standards has to take into account the market in which these standards are designed to function. What works fine in one part of the world probably won't in another," he said. "We have to be careful to engage all stakeholders into the process of standards development to achieve the consensus necessary for successful adoption and execution.
"There is no magic bullet and only a thoughtful, reasoned examination of all of the issues surrounding the development of industry standards will lead to the kind of discussion, cooperation and compromise that must occur if we are to end up with effective solutions that achieve the goal of improving the industry while delivering safe, efficient and quality repairs."
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