Mike Monaghan is arguably the father of collision standards in the U.K.
Monaghan owned three U.K. body shops and founded the Motor Vehicle Repairers Association (MVRA). Starting in 1990, he helped create the MVRA Quality Assured (QA) standard, enlisting insurers, manufacturers and fellow shop owners to create a set of universal industry standards. That eventually led to the current U.K. quality-assurance program, PAS 125.
The result, according to Monaghan: The bad shops faded away, while the good shops flourished with more business.
Monaghan is now stateside, working as an independent consultant for Repair Plan Network (RPN), a Colorado-based consulting company that helps shops develop standard operating procedures.
Monaghan sat down with FenderBender to discuss his quest for universal standards in the U.K., why he stepped away, and his argument for the formation of similar standards here in the U.S.
What inspired you to carry the torch for the formation of industry standards in the U.K.?
As I did my apprenticeship years and then went through college to get my engineering qualification, it was apparent to me even back then—we’re talking way back in the 1970s—anybody could open a garage or a body shop and fix cars.
When you think about it, you can’t just suddenly put on a white coat and go and tell everybody that you’re going to practice medicine. And yet, we can work on products that are $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, and you put your wife and kids in it.
I owned three body shops in the U.K. I knew that I’d gone through my training. We were giving great customer service. We invested heavily in people and equipment to do the job we were doing. I also knew in my hometown, there were garages and body shops that I wouldn’t trust to fix a wheelbarrow, but I was competing with them as equals, and I was being paid by the insurance companies as an equal. I thought that was fundamentally wrong.
How did you come up with a set of standards and get all the competing interests on board?
I went at that point and drafted a skeleton framework document of what I considered a good body shop should look like. That was the quality of the premises; that the people working in that business were suitably trained and qualified; that they had the right equipment to do the type of repairs that they say they were doing.
I then took that document out to my insurance company partners, and I said, “This is where I’m at. This is what I drafted.”
So we sat down with those carriers, and it became one, and two, and three and four, and five, and eventually we had 13 insurance companies who helped contribute to the question set to build out this document.
We then went to the vehicle manufacturers, and we said, “Is it not in your interests to know that if your products are being repaired outside of your franchise dealers, that they are being repaired to a safe and proper standard?”
And they went, “Totally agree.”
So they then contributed into this build of the standard. It took me two years to build the standard.
Now putting my hat on as a body shop owner, I knew in my hometown, the good guys that were out there, guys who I thought were as good as I was and would do the job correctly. I approached these guys and said, “Will you stand up and be as good as you think you are and allow me and my team to come in and audit your company four times a year? From the front door to the back door—Is it clean? Is it safe? Is it healthy?
The good shops said, “I have no problem with you checking what I do. And if that means opening my doors four times a year for somebody to audit my company, then be my guest, providing that the insurance companies and the vehicle manufactures recognize that I am different, and they stop placing work with the idiots.”
How were the standards received?
Within three years, we had 11 insurance companies that placed all of their business with MVRA’s QA body shops. And the number of QA body shops grew from 75 within two years to 350. And within four years, it grew to 750. It changed the whole dynamic of our industry. Forever more, it created world-class repair centers.
How did PAS 125 come to replace the MVRA QA system?
In 2007, a number of other organizations decided [to create a standard] to compete with us. It then had to take on an entirely new life, and the most recognized organization in the U.K. was Thatcham. Thatcham is the motor insurance repair and research center.
So, Thatcham and the insurance companies said, “Mike, we want to embrace your standard. Yours is far more comprehensive than we can achieve, but we have to have a standard that the industry can own rather than you.” I understood that. Because my heart and my passion has always been in this industry about doing the right things first, I said, “I understand that that’s what we have to do. I’ll support you in that.”
And Thatcham created what then became PAS 125.
Would you like to see the U.S. collision industry develop a similar set of universal standards?
The U.S. collision industry has to have some standards, because it simply doesn’t know what good looks like. And I say that not in an aggressive or arrogant way. There’s a whole set of measures that we measure car collision body shops today, be it cycle time or customer satisfaction measurements, but not only are we measuring something that is infinitely variable, we’re measuring a variable that has no guidelines. Without a constant or a reference point—a north star—how do you know what good looks like?
If I am a franchise dealer and I have to repair an Audi, I have to use Audi’s methods. But another shop down the road doesn’t adopt those methods, and he just welds it wherever he thinks he can. He paints it, and it looks shiny. The chances are that his cycle time will smash mine out of the ballpark. But which car is the safest?
And the worst thing in the world is that the person who has to sign that the car is OK, being the customer, is identifiably the least qualified person to say that it’s appropriate. Once it’s painted and shiny, how the hell are they going to know what materials were used and if it was safe?
Tell me a little bit about your work with Repair Plan Network.
They built a standard operating procedure and a methodology that embraced all the things that are current and people talk about now, which is lean and theory of constraints type practices. But they focus really hard on culture, people, behavior to make sure that the shop could be as competent and as efficient as it could possibly be.
As we stand today, RPN has 16 member body shops in Colorado. They’ve all gone through our methodologies, systems and processes. It’s made a huge difference to those shops’ efficiencies and profits.
One of our strategic challenges today is to scale up our business resource to be able to go nationwide. But it’s a fantastic challenge to have and one we look forward to.