Aug 31 2015

Ian McIntosh, Kirmac Featured in Collision Management’s MSO Spotlight

Constant Improvement

Changing relationships often provide new opportunities.

(Article in Collision Management by Krystyna Lagowski – August 2015)
PDF Version

Ian McIntosh’s life change the moment he stepped onto a Kenworth truck factory walkway. “I saw trucks being manufactured out of bits and pieces of metal, rubber and plastic,” he recalls. “On one side, you could see the small pieces, and on the other, beautiful finished trucks.”

But what really struck him most was the cleanliness and finely-tuned organization of the facility. McIntosh had been working at collision repair shops, and decided he would apply what he saw at the Kenworth plant into his own enterprise.

Little Things

He founded Kirmac Automotive Collision Systems Inc. in 1973, and his brother Ken came aboard soon after. Now, it’s a family business involving their spouses and children. Kirmac Automotive Collision has also evolved as a result of constant improvements from McIntosh’s original vision. “It’s the processes and systems that interest me, as well as the technology,” says McIntosh. He credits the changing relationship between the collision repair industry and insurance companies as an opportunity to prove the effectiveness of his approach.

Kirmac currently has 14 locations in British Columbia’s lower mainland and the city of Vancouver. “Every time we’re planning a new location, I look for ways to improve all the little things we do.” McIntosh says. “Our latest store is only 7,500 square feet, but the output is equal to a 15,000 square foot store.”

He attributes the efficiency to his organization’s hybrid lean approach, which has been branded internally as the “Kirmac Accelerated Repair System” or KARS. “It’s how we approach the entire customer relationship during the time we’re doing the repair, and how we approach the repair itself,” McIntosh explains.

Kirmac expanded into the U.S. and over 15 years, grew from a $10 million to a $40 million company. “That kind of growth is hard to experience in Canada,” notes McIntosh. He sold the U.S. stores last year because the time was right. “The U.S. collision repair industry is consolidating at a rapid rate, with four companies poised to own 80 percent of the business within the next 10 years.”

Managed Trust

The kind of momentum witnessed in the U.S. hasn’t crossed the border yet, but McIntosh believes it’s coming. “If you’re in one of the larger Canadian cities and you’re not one of the top three or four operators, five years from now, you won’t be in the game,” he says. That’s because efficiencies between technology and data transfer have created a managed trust between insurers and the collision repair industry. “The insurer is letting us go ahead, get on with the job, and then monitoring the metrics.”

As a result, McIntosh says his shops can fix a car in a third of the time it took five to 10 years ago. “You have to provide excellent work on a constant basis. Those are the companies who are going to win.”

Original Equipment Manufacturers are becoming more involved in the business as they introduce new materials and new composites, as well as certification. “But at the end of the day, it’s all about the customer,” McIntosh says. “That’s why manufacturers are changing the way they build cards. And we have to service those customers buying new cares in the way they demand to be serviced.”