Setting the Standard
Though I’m slightly off topic this month, my thoughts come from a recent visit to Denver as well as hosting a great friend of mine from the U.S., Brad Fukui from Repair Plan Network (RPN), during a very wet and cold U.K. winter.
While discussing the challenges we face on this side of the pond, it became even more abundantly clear how the collision repair industry operates in such different ways in each of our locations, yet we all deal with customers, insurance carriers and staff on the shop floor. I’m often asked about differing markets around the world and, being fortunate enough to travel to many far-flung places, I suppose I have a unique view on the good, the bad and the ugly.
One of the significantly different aspects to body repair in the U.K. market comes from something we call standards. What I mean by this is that we effectively have licensing for bodyshops based upon meeting criteria in process, staff competence and safety, and it’s strictly audited. A body shop that reaches our standard has many benefits and is also seen by insurers and the general public as being at the top of their game.
To give you a bit of history: In 2001, the U.K. repair industry realized that if we weren’t able to police or license ourselves, government would probably come in and do it for us, and in that case, we would probably end up with a more detrimental solution. That fired up a group of us to look at standards that would be acceptable to the repair community, and with cross-industry support we set up a working group that operated under an organization that sets U.K.-wide publicly available standards in all walks of industry. The working party used the next available number, 125, and the standard became known as PAS125 (Publically Available Standard 125).
This standard covered many aspects of vehicle body repair, but essentially focused on four areas: man, materials, machine and methods. After significant study, it became very clear that in order to carry out safe and accurate repairs, we needed to ensure that repairers are competent, and therefore set about a program of training and certification at all levels—metal, electronics, paint, glass, refrigeration and estimating.
We also looked at the materials side of the repair. Because of environmental legislation, the materials being used included high-strength steels of many types including aluminium, composites and plastics. New jointing techniques such as riveting, bonding and laser welding, and structural glass were also seen in common vehicles. This meant we needed to include an understanding, or identification of this in the standard.
Without understanding the structural composition of a vehicle and all of the idiosyncrasies around the active and passive safety systems, it would be almost impossible to return a vehicle to pre-accident condition. Therefore we needed to find a way of obtaining methods, but also to ensure that techs and estimators can demonstrate that they have read them and understood them for each and every repair.
Finally, we ended up with the equipment being used for the repair process, in particular around welding, calibration and diagnostics of damage assessment. This led us to integrate the equipment side of the equation into the standard.
Jon Parker is managing director of the Byteback Group, a U.K.-based information technology and services company aimed at advancing the collision repair industry. Parker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.