“The bad repairers went away. The incompetent and inefficient and illegal repairers went away,” Monaghan said. “The insurance carriers got more integrity, better safety, better customer service. They got better value from their supply chain.”
Monaghan spoke at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) in Las Vegas in November. As a three-shop operator in the United Kingdom in 1988, he said was discouraged with having to compete with other repairers that he didn’t feel had made the investment he had in equipment and training. He wrote a white paper outlining what he felt a “good shop looked like,” and over the course of three years helped craft one of the first set of collision repair standards in the U.K.
Though some others have pointed to some downsides to the standards program in the U.K., Monaghan was unequivocal about the positive impact of the standards. He began his argument for standards in the U.S. by noting that change is inevitable, and that too often collision repairers allow themselves to remain only on the receiving end of that change.
“The tragedy for our industry is we react too late. We react to everything and then we seek to blame,” Monaghan said.
“Can the collision industry take control of its market and its destiny? Yes, it absolutely can, but what it can’t do is constantly wait and react. It has to take control.”
Are minimum requirements enough?
He challenged whether repairers or insurers clearly have defined what “good” looks like. He pointed out one example in a draft revision of CIC’s definition of the minimum requirements for a shop, which calls for shops to have a minimum of one technician certified in welding. Monaghan asked about a shop that has six or eight technicians, only one of which who is certified and who is gone for a day when welding is done on vehicles.
“Is that safe? Is it right? I seriously don’t think so,” Monaghan said. “If you’re welding a car, you should be tested before you get to weld.”
He said that part of the problem with not having standards is that repairs are too often designed based more on negotiated cost.
“You need to understand there is an independent correct repair, and that has to come first, and only… then do you figure out, and if necessary negotiate, the cost,” he said.
Monaghan said over the course of three years, he took his white paper to shops, insurers and automakers for input, and by 1991 it was ready to be implemented as a standard.
“The good shops that wanted to differentiate themselves stepped up and said, ‘If that means I have to be audited four times a year, front door to back door, looking in every dark corner, then that’s the standard I want to be identified with,’” Monaghan said.
The standard was eventually adopted by 13 insurers (who required it be met by shops on their programs) and 11 auto manufacturers, Monaghan said.
Though Monahan didn’t mention that another set of standards was also vying for adoption by shops and insurers, he did say that in 2007 he stepped aside and the current single standards program in the U.K., implemented by the insurer-funded research firm Thatcham, moved forward.
The issue of costs
Monaghan returned several times at CIC to the topic of the impact of standards on costs. He acknowledged that in some instances in the U.K., repair costs (and the percentage of vehicles declared total losses) have risen. But he said the reduction in costs associated with variability and other issues declined.
“If you get the right people, the right repairers with the right materials and the right skills and training—if you get all those things more frequently—then you reduce the variables,” he said. “There is less rancor, less rework, less supplementaries. All those factors were contained and scaled back considerably.”
Monaghan, who recently moved to the United States, clearly has an interest in playing a role in the development of standards here.
“I’m living here now, and I’m willing to help CIC or anybody else in this industry with my knowledge and background,” Monaghan said. “I think the U.S. can achieve something quite spectacular (and) does not need to go through the pain we went through…
“If the repair industry does not embrace this and take charge of its own destiny, then it will be a victim of change.”