The History of CIECA: Recollections from Founders
Posted on Mar 9th, 2021
Memories from Erick Bickett
Founder of CIECA
CEO and Co-founder of Fix Auto USA and Founder of Auto Center Auto Body
Looking back, the formation of the Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA) in 1994 was tied to a business need for the collision industry. CIECA was formed to address one of the challenges at the time— there were three different estimating systems that used different data structure. Depending on which insurer a shop was working with would dictate the system they had to use. This resulted in an enormous challenge to re-key the estimate data from the estimating systems into the body shop management systems and any process and related systems.
In the early 1980s, Direct Repair Programs (DRPs) were introduced to the collision industry. I believe Allstate was the earliest adopter of the DRP concept and coined the term Preferred Repair Organization. By the late 1980s, I was working with several collision shop owners with companies like Farmers, Southern California Auto Club and 21st Century to help build and develop the DRP program agreement.
At the same time, ADP, Mitchell and CCC were all working on building out their electronic commerce solutions, leveraging technology to connect service providers with insurance companies. Meanwhile, insurance companies were implementing claims systems built by companies that delivered the estimating solutions.
An insurance company would choose one of the three solution providers and the body shop needed to use the same one to communicate claims information. As result, if a shop conducted business with the top 10 insurers, it needed all three estimating systems. Some collision repairers had implemented those systems and soon realized the need to implement and pay a subscription for all three. We also learned that in order to communicate with all three information providers in a DRP scenario, we were going to need three different computers because the applications wouldn’t run on one PC.
For those of us who had implemented management systems, we realized we would have to rekey the data from the estimates into those systems. We all felt that was unacceptable. We were pretty frustrated and upset.
This was a very hot topic during the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) for several years. Several shop owners worked closely with Scott Biggs, publisher of BodyShop Video Magazine and president of Business Development Group. He had been a partner in a leading management system company of the day and encouraged me and others to get vocal. He wrote the resolution and helped form a work group.
Dusty Womble, a shop owner in Austin, Texas, presented the resolution during a CIC meeting. In July 1991, the work group of stakeholders was ready. We raised the issue and presented the resolution to form a CIC taskforce. The CIC body unanimously agreed to form CIEDIS (the Collision Industry Electronic Data Interchange Subcommittee) in 1991.
The committee consisted of strategic decision makers in the industry, which included repairers, insurers, parts and material suppliers, rental car companies and other service providers. I headed up the committee and actively worked to encourage companies to get behind what we were doing. This is when I learned that a small group could change an industry.
We ultimately identified 17 different segments of the collision industry and tried to have representation from all of them.
I reached out to Jeff Milch, who was the CIO of Insurance Auto Auctions (IAA), to co-chair the committee. Initially, we thought the CIC committee would take on a project to enable all three estimating systems to operate on one computer, so we began to study how to eliminate the rekeying of data. That’s when we came across the problem of having electronic data information standards that were proprietary and not standardized. We needed to create an open standard for our industry.
At the time, I was running the CIEDIS committee out of my body shop office and did so for two years. We realized that this was not a problem that would be solved without having ongoing collaboration as technology continue to evolve. We decided to raise money to set up an office, establish a not-for-profit organization and find an executive director.
We started doing some research on EDI transactions and talking about costs. I became involved in standards organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X12. That’s when I met Roger Cadaret and Fred Iantorno, who ultimately became the first and second executive directors in 1994 and 2002 respectively.
We went ahead and founded the 501c6. Roger was brought in as the first executive director. He helped us until 2002 when we hired Fred who was on the original CIEDIS committee and the original Board of Trustees.
In the early years, we created the Estimate Management Standard (EMS), which is CIECA’s original data standard. It was the first electronic communication standard designed by CIECA and implemented throughout the industry in 1994. Since then, the organization established the Business Message Suite (BMS) in 2004 and is now working on a new initiative to create JSON-based CIECA OpenAPI Standards (CAPIS).
In 1997, CIECA was running out of money. As a result, the initial founding board members were forwarding their annual membership two to three years in advance to maintain the organization. We were developing the standards and distributing the intellectual property (IP) at no costs for those who were not involved with no funding mechanism.
There was a lot of discussion about only making the intellectual property available to members. Some members of the organization felt that a non-profit can’t lock down the standards and not make them available to non-members.
Ultimately, we decided that we would make it available to members at no cost (except their membership dues) and to non-members for a single use, single project cost. We made it economically advantageous for companies to join CIECA, but you could use the intellectual property as a non-member. That was very controversial, and many were upset that we wanted to charge for the standards. However, it was an important move we made. We were out of money and it was questionable whether we were going to continue.
Since then, the organization has been financially healthy and we’ve been able to serve the industry for many years.
Erick Bickett has been a leader and innovator since the mid-1980s, devoting countless hours to the collision repair industry. He co-founded Auto Center Auto Body in 1984 and FIX Auto USA in 1997. Both companies were sold in 2020. Erick founded CIECA in 1995. He remains a lifetime board member and is still active in the association today.