Are We Ready for Standards?
I recently attended the International Bodyshop Industry Symposium (IBIS) in London. The theme was "Raise the Standard." The event created many opportunities to network with industry leaders from around the world including shop owners, vendors and insurers. The sessions and keynotes were informative, thought-provoking and inspiring - an opportunity of a lifetime.
Prior to IBIS, Lesley Upham, director of commercial development of Thatcham, graciously hosted Denise Caspersen, ASA Collision Division manager, and me on a tour of their facility in Thatcham, United Kingdom, and gave us a thorough look at their standards for collision repair in the UK and the development process. The facility is a training academy for collision repair apprentices in the UK that covers all aspects of collision repair, beginning with vehicle damage appraisal, body repair, paint repair, welding, frame, etc. The three-year program - with a 95 percent completion rate - offers a fully functional body and paint shop to perform actual repairs, and an on-site test track for crash-testing vehicles.
Standards developed by Thatcham include all stakeholders and industry segments in the development stage including repairers and insurance companies, and have alleviated conflict between the two groups while ensuring each vehicle is repaired to specification from the vehicle manufacturer. One in four technicians is competency tested to achieve "Kitemark" status, a symbol of excellence recognized by consumers, insurance companies, repairers and shop owners - similar to the "Good Housekeeping Seal" in the United States.
We visited NCR body shops in Newbury, UK, that carry the Kitemark symbol and are owned by Christine Maskill. Recognized in the UK as an industry leader, she will tell you they are more efficient, have lower cycle times, less waste and are more profitable. We left her facility awestruck and inspired. Thank you, Christine.
This article barely skims the surface of the magnitude of IBIS and Thatcham, and the impact on attendees. I extend my gratitude to Chris Mann, IBIS chairman, for his heart for our industry and willingness to share his vision to make it better. To Lesley Upham and Thatcham staff, we thank you for the opportunity to tour your amazing facility and for the comprehensive look at Thatcham standards. By making yourself available to ASA and IBIS attendees, you are realizing your vision that, globally, vehicles are repaired safely, crash injuries are minimized and vehicle theft is eradicated.
We are in an industry where technology is ever-changing and can no longer rely on the old adage that we have been repairing vehicles for 20 years. Each vehicle is technologically unique and requires ongoing training and skill. I believe it's time for the United States to step up and begin developing standards as an industry to continue to ensure the safety of the vehicle owner and to enable relationships between repairers and insurers, making everyone more profitable. It will take time, commitment and hard work. I believe our industry has the most passionate and hard-working people in today's workforce. I look forward to the future and what it potentially holds for our industry.
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