Certified Once, Recognized by Many
OEM (original equipment manufacturer) certification is a growing trend in the collision repair industry, and in Canada, programs are just starting to develop. Given the complexity of the collision repair business, any program that simplifies the certification process and unifies industry stakeholders is a good thing. This is why the time is right for a new national program.
Leanne Jefferies, vice president, Canadian Operations at Assured Performance Network, has just launched the “Certified Collision Care” program in Canada. The program has a long history of success with the company’s U.S.- based parent company. Assured Performance Network has certified over 2,000 collision repair facilities in the U.S. and had that certification recognized by U.S. OEMs. Certification is given only to repairers that meet or exceed OEM standards for tools, equipment, training, and facilities. Certification assures customers that these shops are able to properly repair vehicles to manufacturer specifications for fit, finish, durability, value, and safety.
Assured Performance Network’s motto is “Certified once, recognized by many.” It is the collaborative spirit of the program that sets it apart. “This is a unique opportunity,” Jefferies says. “We can work together in a way that’s not been done before in Canada. There are benefits for repairers, OEMs, consumers, and insurers.”
Providing a single avenue for certification is the simplest, most efficient way to ensure quality standards, safety, and high customer satisfaction
The Certified Collision Care program will provide a framework for OEMs to come together and agree on the standards that repairers in Canada need to meet to properly repair vehicles. Working together will reduce redundancy in program requirements, repetitious inspections, and unnecessary duplication of costs.
Providing a single avenue for certification is the simplest, most efficient way to ensure quality standards, safety, and high customer satisfaction, Jefferies says. The program levels the playing field. It gives all technically qualified collision repairers the opportunity to become certified and differentiate themselves from others who may not have made the same investments in quality. It is also open to all OEMs that want a proven certification program so they can assure their customers that their vehicles are being repaired at qualified repair shops. A certified collision repair program increases customer satisfaction and helps OEMs to protect their brand and promote customer loyalty.
“I see this program as an opportunity for our industry to create a standard,” explains Jefferies, “to recognize repairers who have stayed current and invested in training and equipment; to encourage more repairers to invest in I-CAR training, tools, and equipment; and, most importantly, to protect consumers. By working together, we can establish our own ‘seal of approval’ that lets customers and insurers know that we are qualified to repair vehicles.”
The process of becoming a “Certified Collision Care” provider is very straightforward. The program is largely run online. Other than an on-site inspection and audits, a shop can manage everything on the Certified Collision Care website: certifiedcollisioncare.ca
Once enrolled, shops are able to assess their business capability against a complete list of certification standards and receive an evaluation that shows any deficiencies. Shops can then make the modifications or investments required to qualify. Next, an inspector audits the shops to ensure proof of compliance through documentation and photos. Once certified, a shop has access to various marketing and promotional tools. Jefferies adds, “Our program is user-friendly, transparent, and open to all. Our website lists all of our certification requirements, so there is no guesswork involved. Our account managers are there to support repairers and answer questions every step of the way during the process.”
Benefits to Stakeholders
The Certified Collision Care program is an idea that has come along at the right moment, if for no other reason than the accelerating pace of change and the increasing complexity in the industry. Certification provides real benefits for shops. It tells insurers and customers that a business has all of the necessary skills, technical knowledge, and tools it takes to repair current and next generation vehicles. Used as part of a marketing campaign, it can help drive more sales, convert estimates into repairs, and, ultimately, produce happy customers.
We can work together in a way that’s not been done before in Canada
Ongoing participation and certification also allows shop owners to better plan future investment. By knowing what is coming down the road, they can develop a training plan to ensure their technicians stay current, rather than simply reacting after the fact. The Certified Collision Care program provides clarity and guidance on where to invest.
Having a shop with visibly high standards has an impact on the business in other ways — including recruiting and retention. “Shops with a reputation for quality are also able to attract better employees. The best like to work with the best,” says Jefferies.
“All together, the benefits of Certified Collision Care add up to the opportunity to earn a better return on a shop’s investment in tools, training, facilities, and marketing,” she says.
For insurers, Certified Collision Care offers the ability to easily identify the qualifications of repairers across Canada. This in turn gives peace of mind to their customers, assuring them that their vehicles are receiving safe repairs that meet OEM specifications. In addition, the program can help to identify repairers with advanced capabilities to repair vehicles that have aluminum and carbon fibre in their structure.
Certification requires shops to meet standards in the areas of business practices, technical capabilities, customer service, regulatory compliance, and advanced capabilities. Many shops can already check off a lot of the boxes needed to qualify. Here are some of the initial qualifications:
- Shops must have been in business for five years or possess a credit rating and service history. As well, they must provide proof of Garage Keepers liability insurance with a minimum of a million dollars of coverage. Shops must also give customers a limited lifetime warranty.
- Shops must subscribe to an electronic p-page (procedure page) logic estimating system. They must also be in compliance with locally, provincially, and nationally legislated operating requirements, including worker protection and hazardous waste disposal.
- Shops must measure customer satisfaction through a third party provider and have a process to follow up with unsatisfied customers. They must use a preferred rental car company or provide complimentary customer transportation. They are also required to deliver a vehicle with a clean interior and exterior.
- Shops must have a well-maintained, well-lit parking area and a professional, well-maintained customer waiting area. They must provide formalized customer service training to key office staff.
- Shops must have I-CAR Gold Class or Gold Class in Progress status with proof of ongoing I-CAR training quarterly. I-CAR Gold Class status must be achieved by the first annual certification renewal (that is, within 12 months). The facility must have provincially licensed technicians employed at all times.
- Shops are required to subscribe to current OEM repair procedures and be able to provide documented proof of this.
- Use of a frame rack or dedicated universal fixture bench with proper anchoring and pulling capabilities is mandatory. Also mandatory is an electronic 3D measuring system with a current data subscription and proof of the technical training to operate the system.
- Qualified shops must use a current refrigerant recovery/recycling system or provide proof of a subcontract supplier. They must have the ability to conduct and verify four-wheel alignment either in-house or through a subcontract provider.
- Shops must have the ability to remove, replace, and reinstall steering and suspension components, as well as engine and drive train units. They must have the ability to service passive and active restraint systems.
- Shops must have a spray paint booth with forced air drying systems, use an OEM-approved finishing system, and show proof of product training for that system.
- Shops must have a ground lift with at least 7,000 pounds capacity and use pressure-fed corrosion compound and application systems. They must have the ability to perform pre and post repair vehicle diagnostic scans and proof of calibration either in-house or through a subcontractor. Shops are required to have a documented quality assurance or quality control system in place.
- “Advanced materials are being used in all vehicles today,” says Jefferies. “With one certification from Certified Collision Care, you will get recognition from multiple manufacturers on advanced materials. With so much new technology and materials coming down the road at such a rapid pace of deployment, having a single stop certification is simply going to save everybody time and money.”
- To qualify for certification, shops must meet manufacturers’ specifications according to make, model, and year:
- Shops must have a 220-volt, three-phase inverter or functionally equivalent squeeze-type resistance spot welder capable of producing a minimum of 600 lb of clamping force and 10,000 amps of current at the electrodes. They must also have a 220-volt MIG/MAG welder for steel fusion.
- Shops are required to have a dent removal/pulling system for steel panels that contains a stud welder, stud pins and washers, wiggle wire, and pulling attachments. They must have completed I-CAR WCS03: Steel GMA Welding certification, have a MIG welder with silicon-bronze MIG brazing capabilities, and have proof of training in silicon-bronze MIG brazing.
- As far as standard certification goes, a considerable number of shops already qualify or are close to qualification with their current training and facilities. Others may already also qualify for optional qualification in composite materials and aluminum repair. To qualify for the optional composite materials certification, shops must meet additional qualifications:
- Shops must have the tools and equipment to repair advanced structural composite and carbon fibre components, and provide proof of training or certification in repairing those components.
- Shops must have a clean room and an air filtration and evacuation system. Shops must also provide proof of any OEM certification for advanced structural composites or carbon fibre construction.
Repairers can also add to their certification an “aluminum repair capable” designation. The requirements for this certification are straightforward:
Shops must have a separate work area for aluminum repair, either a separate room or a curtain system. They must have a designated set of special tools specifically for aluminum vehicles to prevent cross-contamination from steel-body vehicles. Their inventory must contain all the required hand tools per manufacturer specifications.
- Shops must use a 220-volt pulse MIG welder for aluminum work and an aluminum dent extraction system that contains a stud welder, a heat gun, a pyrometer, and aluminum hammers. They are also required to use specialized self-piercing rivet guns that meet or exceed manufacturer specifications.
- Shops must have an immersion-type wet-mix dust extraction system in place.
- Shops must have completed I-CAR Ford Structural Repair and I-CAR WCA05: Aluminum Welding training or have proof of functional equivalents.
Having a single stop certification is going to save everybody time and money
Once again, many shops may already qualify for these optional certifications or be very close to qualification. The full list of requirements is available on the company’s website.
As already stated, in the U.S., the program has grown to include more than 2,000 shops. Jefferies is aiming to have all qualified shops in Canada certified in order to provide coast-to-coast coverage and to have at least one certified repairer in every community. She expects that at least 800 to 1,000 shops will join the program.
The annual cost for basic certification is $2,950 CAD, which will include the OEM certification and recognitions that are added during the inaugural year. As an added incentive, participating shops are only required to pay a non-refundable $1,000 CAD deposit at the time of enrollment, with the balance due upon process completion and official certification.
Shops will have the option to select various OEM certifications and recognitions and marketing programs as they are added to the program in subsequent years, which could require additional fees.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to bring this program to Canada. The program is effective, efficient, and affordable,” Jefferies says. “By providing third-party, neutral certification, we’re bringing real value to all stakeholders in collision repair. By working together collaboratively as an industry, we can really make a difference. It’s a win for everybody.”
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Collision Quarterly.