The 33rd CCIF meeting was held in Vancouver on October 6 and 7 and was attended by around 300 participants from the collision industry.
As part of this activity, the Canadian Collision Industry Forum (CCIF) allowed collision shops, suppliers, and other partners to reconnect while enjoying a rich conference program.
Prior to the reunion cocktail, a workshop led by Mark Nelson and Scott Wheeler of Axalta, addressed the issue of continuous improvement in collision shops. Recognizing that the industry is facing a number of challenges, these experts stressed the importance of reviewing tasks and processes to “do more with less”. They gave several suggestions on how to make the process smoother, including not having two people doing the same job, having tasks divided according to expertise level, or having all materials available before the vehicle enters the shop.
Another barrier to productivity, they say, is poor scheduling in the shop, which results in unnecessary vehicle movement. Continuous improvement also requires the involvement of everyone. “Setting quality standards or talking with the painter to determine exactly how they want the parts prepared will give team members clear goals,” Nelson said.
The two experts also stressed the importance of preventive maintenance of collision shop equipment and tools, while mentioning that it is necessary to be forward-thinking when it comes to materials to avoid stock-outs in the middle of operations. And when a problem arises, we must find the cause and tackle it. “We find that 90 percent of the problems on the shop floor stem from employees not following processes,” says Wheeler. “They want to do the right thing by taking shortcuts when this initiative, often stemming from old habits, causes problems down the road.”
A cocktail that brings people together
At the end of this first day, a large cocktail party was organized to allow the participants to meet and discuss. There was no doubt for these collision shop owners, network managers, and suppliers, that a meeting in person made all the difference.
On October 7, a full day of conferences was scheduled. At the outset, Paul Prochilo, outgoing President, thanked Patrice Marcil and Caroline Lacasse for their excellent work within the association as they recently announced the end of their respective mandates. Prochilo, with his legendary enthusiasm, also took the opportunity to announce the arrival of Jeff Labanovich of CARSTAR as President of the CCIF, a position he will hold beginning in 2023.
“It’s phenomenal to be able to come together like this,” Prochilo said in his remarks. “The changing of the guard within our organization heralds a wind of change. Our priorities remain profitability, our people and the adoption of new technologies.” Finally, he was pleased that nearly 20% of attendees were first-time attendees at a CCIF event, a sign of the organization’s dynamism.
Specialist Stefano Liessi, Technician and Trainer for Canadian Collision Specialist, opened the sessions by explaining how electric vehicle technology is already a major challenge for collision shops. “We’re still about 30 years away from having the entire light vehicle fleet in Canada run on electricity, but we’re already seeing EVs in our shops,” he said. “With these high-tech vehicles involving high voltage, there is no question of cutting corners. Their arrival requires an upgrade of our automotive repair processes and an improvement of our tools and technicians’ skills. If you add to the equation all the advanced driver assistance systems, you have to understand that the repair today must be of the highest precision.” He illustrated this reality by pointing out that an error of two millimeters on a sensor can extend the emergency braking distance of the frontal collision avoidance system by 55 meters.
According to him, not only the workshops, but also the networks, must adopt this technological shift. “Anything can be a profit centre in a shop. Yes, it’s going to require an investment. The question is more about understanding the price of not investing in that context.”
Hugo Breton, Business Advisor, took over from this brilliant presentation by addressing the notion of corporate culture. “The starting point is to explain to the whole team why the company exists, what its mission is. Employees want a reason to put in so many hours of work.”
He emphasizes that in a context of constant challenge, we must aim for continuous improvement of auto body processes. A goal that is built and achieved as a team. He recommends short meetings before and after the workday to listen to all workers and see with them how processes can be improved on a daily basis.
Mary Mahoney, Vice President of Enterprise, made an interesting point about vehicle connectivity. The rental agency, which rents cars in 90 countries, including 100,000 in Canada alone, explained how the flow of data from these vehicles will change the relationship with the customer.
“We hope that by 2030, all rental vehicles will be connected. This will allow us to schedule maintenance and offer a geolocated emergency breakdown service. For our partners, it could also be beneficial,” she continues, “by automatically taking care of tolls, for example. Of course, we have to be careful and set clear rules about accessing and sharing this data so we don’t shortchange the customer.”
For his part, Simon Wong of Ernest & Young spoke about automotive cybersecurity. He, too, has seen that all sectors of our economy are now dependent on computer data. This information, which is used for shop-floor accounting or to evaluate driver behavior, must be protected, he insists. He thus invited the networks, first of all, to make sure that these data are safe from malicious minds notably by discussing the measures put in place by their suppliers.
To conclude the conference session, teacher and automotive paint enthusiast Keith Mew of BC College explained the expectations of young technicians entering the body shops. He said he keeps in touch with several graduates who report some difficulties in entering the workplace. “Starting salary, safety deficiencies, but most importantly, lack of coaching are the most common irritants,” he notes. “Before you think about hiring, take a hard look at your company. Are you attractive, are you willing to take on these well-intentioned, but inexperienced workers? You also have to know how to show up in the community, on social media or even at job fairs to make careers in the automotive aftermarket shine.”
His presentation was followed by a discussion with Paul Prochilo, who noted that mentoring was possibly lacking in several shops. Be aware of your expectations when bringing in a new technician,” he said. “Be able to support them well. It makes all the difference.”
It was on this note that the CCIF meeting in Vancouver ended. Here are the highlights of this event in pictures.