When I started in the auto glass replacement business, 90 percent of our work was completed through mobile installations. I had regular runs that started with an hour and a half of driving before I began my first job. At that time, and with our gasket sets, I believed that any auto glass part could be installed on a mobile basis just as it could in the shop. Under reasonable environmental conditions, it was understood that if a technician had the proper tools, a mobile installation was equal to a shop installation.
However, over years of experience and through extensive research, my early beliefs and those of industry experts have changed. There are valid reasons for rethinking mobile installations. There have been tools and products developed to promote mobile service and one man installs, but that does not mean that the installation itself is better for those developments.
Yes, urethanes have been formulated to cure to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and there are cordless power tools that allow installations anywhere, away from any access to shelter or a power source. There are ergonomically sound setting tools that allow for one-man sets. But really, do you think an installation like that is as good as one in the controlled conditions of a shop environment?
I think not. If you add wind blowing contaminants around a properly prepared part, the uncertainty of stable footing, and the effect of variable temperatures and humidity on today’s urethanes, you cannot guarantee a mobile installation will be equal to a shop job as far as safety goes.
I’ve heard many glass shop owners say they wouldn’t survive in their market if they didn’t offer mobile service. You’ve heard the arguments. “All my competitors offer it.” “If I wish to keep up with my competitors, I have no choice.” Is that true?
I would suggest those who market a different way demand attention and will usually benefit from that difference. Think about this a minute. Who was responsible for introducing mobile service to the consumer in the first place? We were. If we could convince the consumer that mobile service is good, why can’t we convince them that shop installs are better? It makes perfect sense and smart consumers really know it already. Add to that the new technology built into the glass and the electronics that power the modern vehicle and the common sense of environmentally controlled installations is a no-brainer.
I predict more sophisticated technology will be built into the glass of future vehicles. I predict glass design will include larger areas of space on the vehicles surface. So large, in fact, that it may take a machine or at least two people to lift and place it into the vehicle’s windshield opening. I predict the auto glass of the future will have more drastic bends and shapes to reduce vehicle drag and the awkwardness of setting the glass properly will be very difficult. I predict mobile service will be eventually phased out as an option due to size, shape, technology and electronic calibration. Your glass shop can be proactive and begin planning for these changes now. You can work on educating your customers, or be reactive when everyone else is doing nothing but shop jobs. It’s your choice.