• Shop Grading – What’s it all about?  
    Rob Mildenhall Headshot

    - by Rob Mildenhall, National Panel Manager & BDM, Capricorn

    With all the activities and talk around the consolidation and changes within the crash repair industry, there is the topic of Shop Grading which probably gets a mention here and there, and there are certainly opposing views on whether it’s good, bad, important or a waste of time.

    Here’s some background from my perspective:
    Let’s start with some of the history I have worked through around the topic of shop grading whilst in South Africa.
    As you may be aware, there has always been a strong vehicle manufacturer base in South Africa, and this still exists with most major brands being present for many years - Mercedes, BMW, Ford, Mazda, Nissan, VW etc. With such a strong manufacturing base, together with very high vehicle accident rates, the collision repair industry featured strongly. As experienced here, the insurers started their program of “reducing claim costs” and the rush to be an accredited repairer was in full swing...only this was in the late 90s and the same battles raged between the Retail Motor Industry’s’ (same as MTA) body repair association SAMBRA, the consumer vehicle association Automobile Association, The Towing Association and of course the supply chain. The large dealerships oscillated between having their own panel shops to utilising “Manufacturer Accredited” shops. The need to differentiate, compete or bluntly, exist saw the need for investment at the same time the industry had to recognise that there were repairers undertaking work that was way beyond their capabilities with neglect towards training, equipment and obviously poor customer satisfaction flooding the RMI with complaints.
    After many hours lost in meetings the industry under SAMBRA’s lead embarked on essentially a 3-tier grading program consisting of Non-Structural Repairer (NSR) later tweaked to include a second Non-Structural Repairer (NSR) Manufacturer Approved, Advanced Structural Repairer (ASR) and Major Structural Repairer (MSR). Lessons were learned as equipment suppliers volunteered to be auditors. Insurers competed with trying to keep their selection criteria under wraps of smoke and mirrors.
    Sound familiar?

    Well the outcomes certainly have parallels and here are a few below. Most businesses conducted self-audits against the accreditation criteria within the grading document and:

    Some businesses complied immediately
    There were those who conducted the self-audit and realised that they could with planning and resourcing reach the targets fairly easily and embarked on the journey

    Some opted to refocus into niche areas away from the mainstream insurer environment

    Some fretted and bemoaned their lot and thought selling up was the best for them
    But overall, the whole industry benefitted from the introspective focus by the repairers on improving quality and efficiencies within their own businesses and they were able to compete for work from a wider workflow supply line. Some of these businesses did not join SAMBRA or any franchise group of repairers, but in recognising the benchmark that the industry grading program offered, moved ahead and made fundamental changes within their businesses improving staff competencies, workflow and productivity improvements as well as their customers experience.

    I attended the recent Holden Collision Forums and noted that they had taken the AMGRA grading program as being one of the measures for their recently launched repairers network. I have attached for your information here the latest grading document from AMBRA, and I thought we could get some feedback from you, our Capricorn panel members, on your thoughts over at The Workshop.

    I also discussed this topic with Mike Killen from Killen’s Smash, and he had this to add:
    “I believe that the problem many repairers have with shop grading is that they see it as another layer of Licencing/Accreditation, but I also believe that many are unaware that since the MVRIC (Motor Vehicle Repair Industry Council) was absorbed into NSW Dept of Fair Trading the “minimum shop equipment standard” no longer applies and even though this was very basic, even this is no longer enforced, as it stands now, all a business needs to start is a council approved premises (to obtain a shop licence) and Licenced Tradespeople to commence trading.  

    I see shop grading as a logical tool to enable shops to compare “apples to apples” and be aware of their capabilities in relation to facilities, Training & equipment and how they stand in relation to their peers/competition , Also then the logical extension of this is the pressure than can then be applied to Insurers to ensure that the appropriate category shop is allowed to do the appropriate category job!
    The long-term outlook for the Industry should also result in tradespeople being accredited in the same way, and this could potentially create new pay structures to give Staff incentive to upskill and learn in their trade, and allow business owners the ability to provide a clearer career path beyond the trade apprenticeship.”

    To provide your thoughts on this article, head over to Capricorn's dedicated engagement platform - The Workshop