Estimating, AI and more covered at annual spring meet-up


The Saskatchewan Association of Automotive Repairers (SAAR) hosted its annual spring conference at the Temple Gardens in Moose Jaw on the first weekend of March, where industry participants gathered to discuss everything from future technology to how to effectively say no in a workplace. The event kicked off with an Advanced Estimating Class run by Stefano Liessi, training and Curriculum Coordinator Color Compass University. Liessi worked with a group of over 30 attendees in a presentation that was both interactive and informative. Saturday, March 2, 2024 was a full day of presentations starting off with a short Annual General Meeting where Joe Cardiff from Cardiff Collision was elected to the board of directors for SAAR. Here, Troy Kolish from SGI also presented special made lanyards from the First Nation’s company Feathers and Lace to SAAR President Terry Beattie and Tom Bissonnette. The lanyards were made to honour the Creator’s Story and were designed in SGI colors.

Ryan Taylor of Bodyshop Booster and AMP Bureau then gave a presentation on the potential value of artificial intelligence (A.I.) in the bodyshop. Taylor specifically discussed the “coming storm of A.I.,” and how the technology can be used to streamline customer communication to ensure that shops are available to customers 24/7 by helping to organize phone, email and texting systems as well as early damage detection and the claims process. With the use of A.I., Taylor reported that admin time could be reduced by as much as 30 percent.

Scott Kucharyshen, Program Head and Shane Roset, Auto Body Collision Technician Program Head at Saskatchewan Polytechnic then gave an update on student numbers, stressing that there will be many graduates looking for jobs in the industry in the coming months. This year also saw Saskatchewan Polytechnic implementing a level four harmonization, and Kucharyshen and Roset noted that the school has developed an estimating and repair planning course to take place in April.

From here, Ryan Smith and Ciaran Downes with Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) discussed the upcoming corporate transformation occurring at the beginning of April. This transformation will change the computer system that SGI uses, something that Smith and Downes noted is the biggest change that SGI has ever undertaken. The goal of these changes is to help build consistency and efficiency between customers and partners, and the duo reminded attendees to not feel overwhelmed with the process because training and awareness sessions will be provided through a series of technical bulletins, Lunch and Learns and town hall meetings.

After lunch, Christie Hall, Area Manager of Operations, CARSTAR Canada, returned to give a detailed presentation on how to effectively say “no” in the workplace and why being able to do so matters. She stressed that “it’s not what you say, but how you say it” that matters. Following Hall, Theran Bloudoff, one of the last high school full-time autobody teachers at A.E Peacock Collegiate in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, reassured that the next generation of students are interested in cars so long as the industry knows how to properly market itself. He discussed how 80 percent of the work his students do is hands-on and that he makes sure that their learning is interactive since they are a generation so used to the immediacy of technology.

Bloudoff ended his presentation by encouraging shops to reach out to their local high schools—especially those with automotive programs—because there is more than a fair chance that “a kid there is drawing cars on their notes and waiting to be exposed to the industry.”

Tom Julius, director of business development for then outlined the importance of using green recycled parts in the automotive and collision industry both from an environmental and economic perspective. He was followed by Peter Wrong, representing 3M to discuss new products and innovations from the company, including the 3M Skills Development Centre in St. Paul, Minnesota. Some attendees at SAAR have even made the trip to the facility for training.

“We decided to heavily invest in a facility to complete [collision repair training] for you guys,” said Wrong. “So much so that this [15,000 sq. ft.] facility is off-site. The reason being—the type of training we’re doing here, we didn’t want it to be strictly 3M-based training. This is standard operating procedure-based training.”

Wrong also stressed that, while the Skills Development Centre is qualified for I-CAR in the United States, courses and certifications achieved at the facility are yet to meet I-CAR Canada qualifications; though they will be soon, he added.

Patrick Demers, key account manager for Progi, was up next to discuss the benefits of ProgiSync, which is used by 2,800 collision shops in Canada. ProgiSync was originally developed for the Alberta market and hail claims, said Demers.

“Once they saw the benefit of a dedicated calendar for estimate appointments, they started to use it for regular collision estimates, too, becoming a powerful first-notice of loss (FNOL) tool for insurers.”

The event ended with a one-on-one interview between Tom Bissonnette and John Abu-Ata from APT Auto Parts, who delved into his business story to conclude the speaking portion of the event. The night continued—despite threats of a major snowstorm—with a banquet and acoustic performance by Jack Semple.

Don Pogoda serenades the audiences with his rendition of Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World.

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