By Mike Davey
North Bay, Ontario — July 27, 2016 — Fix Auto North Bay has the prestigious honour of being the first Fix Auto in Canada to achieve full I-CAR Gold Class status since I-CAR has moved to their new “role based” Gold Class recognition. The facility received the recognition in June. Fix Auto North Bay was also the first Fix Auto to receive the Honda ProFirst designation in Canada, serving as the pilot shop for Ontario.
I-CAR Gold Class status is an accomplishment for any body shop, but North Bay, Ont., is somewhat off the beaten path. It’s one of the largest communities in its part of Ontario, but very far from the major urban hubs that crowd close to the American border.
Kelly Roberts is the manager of Fix Auto North Bay. He has been tenacious and relentless about organizing and getting classes to the North Bay area.
“We are extremely proud to have this prestigious certification. We worked really hard as a team to make sure we would complete the certification,” Roberts said. “It was truly a great team effort.”
Roberts has a unique and unusual background, having experience in both collision repair and in aviation. His family are “tradesmen by nature” in his words. A large part of his family were, and still are, working technicians. Brothers, father, grandfather and his uncles all worked in the trades.
Like many people in the business, Roberts was more or less born into collision repair. His father served as his first and best mentor in the craft. However, his aviation background has given him a wider perspective than the average repairer.
“I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of years working on helicopters and fixed wing aircraft,” Roberts said in an interview with Collision Repair magazine. “It’s very interesting to see the parallels that are now coming into the automotive business.”
There’s a mantra Roberts picked up from his aviation days, and he says it helps to inform everything they do at Fix Auto North Bay. It’s just three short words: “In accordance with.”
“In aviation, they always say ‘in accordance with …’ and match it up with the right directive,” Roberts said. “For example, if something goes wrong with a plane, they’ll investigate by talking to the aircraft mechanics that worked on it. They’ll ask, ‘What did you do first?’ The mechanic might reply with ‘I put the prop on, in accordance with …’ and then name the specific directive and procedure that they followed. They just keep going like this, grinding the process down to the very finest principles.”
“In accordance with,” is simple on the surface, but it’s how the aviation industry makes sure that everything is done by the book, according to the exact right procedure.
Roberts sees similarities with the need to follow recommended OEM procedures. Simply knowing the job isn’t enough anymore. Models change frequently, and the procedure used for a 2012 model may differ greatly from the procedure recommended for a 2011 model.
“A representative of one of the insurers came by one day. While we were chatting, one of the techs came up with the specs for a job he was working on,” Roberts said. “The insurer jumps in and starts asking him some pretty specific questions, trying to trip him up. The tech explained how we check the procedures every single time, and the insurer asked ‘What if you get last year’s model in next, or the exact same car?’ The tech replied ‘Yeah, we check every single time.’ You never know when the procedure might have been updated.”
Roberts is quick to acknowledge the importance of training, as you might expect from a shop owner whose facility has achieved I-CAR Gold Class. However, Roberts believes that culture has a very significant role to play as well.
“We’ve built and continue to instill that culture of ‘in accordance with,'” Roberts said. “Everything we’ve taken from aviation has given us great results. It builds a process that’s transparent, open and honest, and provides predictable consistency.”
For more information, please visit fixautonorthbay.com.