Strong and Getting Stronger: The State of I-CAR®

Strong and Getting Stronger: The State of I-CAR®

To kick off 2015, we sat down with Jeff Peevy, the Senior Director of Field Operations and Segment Development at I-CAR®, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the knowledge and skills required to perform quality repairs. Peevy leads a team of over 2,000 volunteers, instructors and field managers who team up to conduct over 15,000 instructor-led classes and certification in the U.S. each year. He also oversees the strategic development of I-CAR support and services for the “Repairer” market segment.

During his 32 years in the automotive industry, Peevy has worked as a technician, shop manager, instructor, National PBE manager for a large U.S. supplier, and director of Technical Training and Application Research for an automotive paint manufacturer. He holds a business administration degree and a position on the board of directors for the National Auto Body Council. He is also a member of the Society of Organizational Learning.

Peevy has a passion for promoting the critical role that knowledge plays within repair operations. Over the past five years he has been leading a team studying the impact that knowledge and skills have on operational performance. The research findings directly correlate knowledge acquired through training with gains in business Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and improved competitive advantage. A “learning culture” is a necessary element to the future success of collision repairers.

One Major Misconception about I-CAR: “A lot of people don’t realize that I-CAR is a not-for-profit organization and that means that we are a very vision and mission focused organization ever since our founding in 1979. We have approximately 2,000 volunteers who are from different segments of the industry and 315 volunteer committees in the United States. They believe in the organization and the value of training to the extent that they give up their personal time to really help the organization in a variety of ways, including helping us find classrooms to use and assisting with promoting and scheduling classes. Without these highly driven and very dedicated volunteers we could not be where we are today. We also have approximately 480 part-time instructors; most of them have other full-time jobs. They are paid employees of I-CAR, but they go above and beyond the regular call of duty. Most of them started out as volunteers like I did and they got bit by the bug. There are definitely some benefits to being an instructor. Besides the pay, there’s the access to the updated technical information, and the networking is a big plus as well. Most of these people get bit by the training and it’s pretty addictive.”

The Re-ignition of I-CAR: “Today, I-CAR is spearheaded by our CEO and President John Van Alstyne. He joined the organization in 2010, bringing with him 20 years in the OEM and vehicle technology sector of the automotive industry. His is a truly a strategic leader and visionary who is dedicated to preparing the industry to repair the vehicles of tomorrow. Before he joined, though, it was a real challenging time for the organization from 2006 to 2008. We were limping along and struggling to develop forces. Everyone rolled up their sleeves and just started looking at ways to be better. There was a core group of us and it was kind of do-or-die at that point. And there were two things that needed to happen--one was to organize and capture the feedback in meaningful ways and the second was to build the mechanisms from which that feedback could be disseminated into a place that would lead to action. So, we started implementing a formal project management system, and then we developed a program we call ISAC and that stands for Industry Segment Advisory Council. We went out into the shops and asked questions. A lot of these people had been very critical of us in the past, and we wanted their feedback. We asked them to sit down with us and we picked their brains. We asked them if we could meet with them regularly and they agreed. It’s been wildly successful for us and the industry has been extremely kind. Many of those people who really had lost faith in I-CAR had come to the table and helped us develop a direction. And that was how we developed part of the same professional development program that we use now. Between these actions and John’s leadership, we have definitely turned the organization around and are on the right path.”

Role Relevant Training: “We had hundreds of collision repairers, insurance people, tech schools, suppliers and automotive manufacturers working with us. By using the information they shared with us, we developed the roles that we now have in our role relevant training. The goal was to develop a standard of knowledge and we simply facilitated that process as staff. We did not manipulate it or make it something that was pre-conceived; rather, we listened closely to the industry and then acted on it. We launched it in July of 2010 and it has been a success. In the old system, the classes weren’t based around roles, so people just took the classes for the points. People needed the points for the recognition program so it didn’t matter what class they took and that was one of the main criticisms. Now, we analyze every class to make sure it’s relevant and we drill down into those knowledge areas. From a legacy standpoint we wanted to make sure that anyone who had taken classes in the past would receive credit for that. It was a mixture of current courses and new courses and that model is still implemented today. It’s a very dynamic system and there is a process of continually updating courses and building new courses and making sure each one is relevant to what’s going on. Our CEO & President points out every chance he gets about the ‘technical tsunami’ of new vehicles, new technologies and new materials– each year, roughly 65 vehicles are debuted or redesigned, many of them manufactured with unfamiliar materials and systems. This requires a pretty robust process, and we’ve had to expand our organization to keep up with it.”

I-CAR Today: “People say that I-CAR is in the best position it’s ever been in and I would say that’s true--and not just financially. Our leadership team is outstanding, we get things done. We are in the best position we’ve ever been in with OEM relationships, and turning these OEM relationships into courses. Our overall ability to develop relevant courses and the talent we have at the I-CAR Tech Center has grown dramatically. We’ve redesigned and invested in our processes to develop and update courses.  We implemented a state-of–the art Learning Content Management System to help us develop new classes better and faster. To better support the industry, we’ve greatly expanded our customer service support and marketing programs. We are now much more responsive to the industry, doing the things that we desperately needed to do. And all of this is greatly helping the collision repair Inter-Industry as a whole, including front-line technicians, shop owners, estimators, insurance specialists and field educators.”

The Professional Development Program transition: “It took about two years to transition to the I-CAR Professional Development Program™ (PDP), which trains collision repair professionals in essential role-relevant knowledge and skills. The PDP had tentacles into the I-CAR Platinum Individual® recognition program, which is for collision repair professionals who achieve and maintain high levels of role-relevant training that contributes to complete, safe and quality repairs. For businesses, the I-CAR PDP provides collision repair and insurance businesses with a reliable training framework for acquiring Gold Class® and maintaining the up-to-date knowledge and skills that contribute to proper repairs, improved business performance and risk reduction. It took about two years for the shops to get aligned in that transition and we have a little over 3,000 or so shops that have gone through the three levels of training for the Platinum designation, each referred to as an I-CAR ProLevel®. Each ProLevel progressively
builds upon prior learning to continually advance each professional’s knowledge and skills. We’ve seen a growth in training since the development of PDP and especially with the ‘technical tsunami’ of new and redesigned vehicles.”

Reparability Technical Support: “Following months of extensive development, I-CAR officially launched the Reparability Technical Support (RTS) portal this past July. The portal was designed to improve accessibility of critical repair information for the entire collision repair industry. I-CAR collaborated with OEMs and others in the industry to improve accessibility of critical repair information. The portal houses thousands of pages of OEM repair information specific to vehicle models in a user-friendly format that can be accessed by smartphone, desktop computer and everything in between. A key element of the portal is the ‘Ask I-CAR™’ features, where technicians can submit a question online or call I-CAR technical experts for advice on their toughest repair questions. In addition to the portal, the RTS initiative is working to bridge the gap between OEMs and the collision repair industry by acting as a linking pin between the two, and hosting summits and Industry Segment Advisory Councils.”

The Learning Culture: “To be effective, training programs should not be positioned as a requirement or simply a box to be checked. Rather, a learning culture should be established within each organization in the collision repair ecosystem. Training should be encouraged, accomplishments should be rewarded, and those trained should be viewed as achievers and role models. After years of studying the connection between training and improved performance, I-CAR has identified that ‘Learning Culture’ is the secret sauce to becoming a top performing shop.”

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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