The benefits of being on the same page when it comes to collision industry credentialling.
When we look across the country, collision repair standards continue to be inconsistent. Some provinces have adopted a basic collision shop accreditation/standardization while others have not. Additionally, there are some provinces where estimators and image desk staff are also required to be licensed while in others, it isn’t mandatory.
Adding further confusion is the growth we’ve seen in OEM Certification programs over the last decade. There is no question these certification programs have benefited the industry, the problem is that on their own, they focus on specific repair procedures for specific vehicles and may not be following a standardized rule, such as I-CAR Canada Gold Class or Platinum recognition, or provide a complete training path for technicians and estimators. And in today’s environment, where many collision centres are looking for more work, higher labour rates and greater profitability, being certified by an OEM doesn’t necessarily guarantee that.
Lack of motivation
Furthermore, there are collision centres that do not see the value in training beyond an OEM certification or trade licence, unless it is a mandated requirement. And, because training is not incentivized or standardized, there are situations where some unqualified collision centres are still participating in DRP programs even though they do not regularly train their staff or update their equipment to properly handle those repairs.
Another big issue facing our industry in Canada is the knowledge gap among estimators, whether it’s from one shop to another, between the shop and the insurer or even between multiple estimators within the same shop or insurance company. These knowledge gaps create inconsistencies, which impact both repair quality and cost. These inconsistencies also lead to shops being scrutinized via average severity instead of estimate content and safe and proper repair procedures. Also, because the overhead for many shops is drastically increasing due to the investments required in repairing today’s vehicles, they need to be paid more for those repairs. Shrinking margins make it difficult for shops to adapt to fast-changing workloads because they can’t pay staff when things are slow, or hire new team members quickly enough when repair volumes ramp up.
So, what can we do to improve the situation? One way is by setting clear and strict credential requirements for industry personnel, something that goes beyond a Red Seal trade licence (which although a good starting point, doesn’t require updating to maintain proficiency).
If we look at an international standard set by the collision industry (I-CAR Canada) training represents a good example. Developed by OEMs, insurance companies, collision shops and vendor suppliers, I-CAR Canada represents a defined industry standard for collision repairs and there are notable benefits in being part of this standard. Firstly, the content and training meet standards set by the collision repair industry, secondly, those enrolled in I-CAR Canada training Gold Class and Platinum Standard programs can get equivalency credit for outside programs that are part of the I-CAR Industry Alliance Program. Thirdly, credentialing of all shop and insurance staff results in a better understanding between different parties of what is required to repair today’s vehicles. This, in turn, enables more consistent estimates and work quality, as well as provides a more level playing field for those who adopt best practices.
Additionally, for such a standard to work effectively there need to be incentives and one way this can be achieved is by shops who invest in I-CAR Canada credentialling and achieve a specific level of proficiency (I-CAR Canada Gold Class for example), charging for things such as vehicle storage or repair planning. Doing so would help cover their increasing operational costs, such as administration, training and researching OEM procedures.
Because plans like this would help shops cover their increasing administrative costs, it would also provide them with an opportunity to bring gross profit margins back in line without a dramatic increase in labour rates, while encouraging them to follow a standard set of credentials that could ultimately benefit the entire industry.