by Bob Beranek
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The last post discussed the decision to train. We talked about tracking results and conducting a needs assessment to determine specifics. Once it is determined that training is needed, the next step is to determine the type of training and who will facilitate it. The first person a business owner thinks of for doing the actual instruction is he. Why? Who knows better what needs to be done than the guy that designed and tracked the problem? The question is does he know how to fix the problem? It is one thing to find the problem, but it can be a whole different thing to correct it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many problems that the boss can fix with thoughtful and well developed training programs and many can be successfully facilitated by him. But there are just as many that should be conducted by others for various reasons, such as a lack of expertise, time, training skills and organization or for the sake of a new voice or a new way of looking at things.  Don’t be afraid of bringing in outside persons to get your point across. Many times it hits home much more effectively than you saying the same thing over and over again.

One more thing about trainers, I mentioned in the last post that your most productive technician may not be your best trainer. He may be the greatest installer in the world but if he can’t relate to the trainee with empathy and patience, he can cause more harm than good. Your best tech is geared and is expected to produce blank amount of quality installs a day. A trainer is geared and expected to produce a quality technician in the least amount of time possible. To do that he cannot be expected to produce and train at the same time. It is obvious that if a trainee is watching a senior tech working to produce, he is not learning how to produce himself. Learning auto glass installation requires doing the work and not watching the work. The more watching he does the longer it will take to learn it and the longer it will take to be productive.

So, how do you deal with new trainees?

  1. Anticipate your labor needs early.
  2. Hire to allow for training and development time.
  3. Pick a trainer that has the skills necessary to relate to the trainee.
  4. If there is not an in-house trainer, then look outside. It will pay off.
  5. Utilize vendors to break up internal instruction for a change of pace and voice.

To summarize, I have a few observations that must be understood for success in training an individual to high productivity.

  • The longer it takes to train a technician to high productivity, the more revenue is lost.
  • A professional trainer is more likely to have success than a non-professional.
  • A structured training program will produce a productive employee faster and less costly than a sink or swim method of training.
  • Auto glass installation cannot be learned by osmosis. It must be experienced and practiced to be learned.

Ben Franklin said it best, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I will remember. Involve me and I learn.”

I would like to start a discussion on the pros and cons of training. Obviously, as a professional trainer, I believe that training is important to the success of any business. However, shop owners in the past have told me that training is a waste of time and money and the same result can be accomplished by time and experience. What say you?

During this series of posts, I will take the side of training as a benefit to individual advancement and business success. I would like to hear from those out there that think that training is unnecessary or a waste of money and time. However, if all of you think that training is necessary to build a successful business and promote qualified employees, then please take note of my phone number and email address. I will be glad to help!

A good shop owner will have one basic question, “Will training improve revenues?” It seems simple, but you have to really do your homework to answer that question honestly. It is easy to say, “We can’t afford training right now because of the poor economy,” or “My guys know how to install so we don’t need training.” Those are copouts. The truth is you need to do comprehensive needs assessment to determine what your technicians know and what they don’t know. Teaching your people something new will increase your revenue. Anything else is a waste of time and money.

How do you define “Success”?

Do you really want “success” (wealth) or do you just want to “own your job?”  Success means that you have to do the hard work to fine tune your operation to maximize profits and grow your business. “Owning your job” means that while you may still work hard, you are not accurately measuring your successes and failures. Training is probably relegated to initial installation training and periodic safety training to satisfy OHSA. If true success is your goal, then it begins by measuring specific key performance traits and keeping track of trends up and down continuously throughout the years of operation. Then when there is a downward trend in any area, training is commenced. This is how profits are maximized and wealth is attained.

 What is the difference between “working hard” and “working smart?”

Hard work is not only doing eight jobs a day in 90 degree temperatures and driving 100 miles one way to complete the job that no one else will do. Thousands of small business owners do this every day and should be commended for it. But have you ever stopped to question what will be the most profitable course of action? It is also hard work to put in place measurement systems that will truly tell you what is happening day to day and keeping track of trends. It is determining what to do when those trends skew one way or another and making tough decisions.

Will Training Improve Revenues?”

To determine if training will improve revenues, you must measure your problem areas. How many of you keep track of warranty work or callbacks? Track callbacks? We don’t keep track, but we don’t have many warranty calls. How do you know? How can you keep track of quality when you don’t track mistakes?

How many of you keep track of scheduling errors that cost you time and fuel costs? If we don’t do it, we’ll lose the job. Never mind that all profit was lost to get it. How can you save fuel and labor costs and increase profits if you don’t correct scheduling problems?

How many times did you send out a new tech with your top producer only to have the new guy take months to become productive? You mean my trainer? He’s my best guy, he’ll train him right. Who says he wants to be a trainer?eHe’s Your most productive technician should be your producer not your trainer. The new guy slows your producer down and the rookie will take twice or three times as long to be productive. Does that make sense or cents?

The bottom line is that training should not be done simply for the sake of providing training.  Training should be done to improve a condition that is necessary for success. Good targeted training will pay for itself two or three times over due to improved conditions, productivity, safety or quality.

I have to thank the many regular contributors to the glassBYTEs.com™ forum for ideas on the content to this blog. I have noticed that “pulling cowls” was being debated hot and heavy on the forum, so I thought I would put in my two cents worth.
Do you pull all cowls or do you merely “lift the wipers” as they say? Quality minded technicians might say that removing the cowl panel is the only way to get a solid and safe installation. As a quality minded technician, I agree. But, like many of my recent writings, the word “however” usually comes up. This post is no different.

Do I remove every cowl panel? No, I don’t. Even though I am a quality minded technician, there are some vehicles in which complete removal of the cowl is unnecessary and in some cases wrong. I think a good rule of thumb in determining which vehicles necessitate pulling the cowl is to ask “What is the goal?” The goal is to recreate the OE bond originally designed in the vehicle to assure safe crush-zone performance in the event of a collision.

Since 1973, when many of the domestic and foreign vehicles changed the role of the glass in a vehicle, unique designs have caused the glass to take on a more important role in occupant safety. Some of these designs are well known to the industry because of association with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards such as passenger side airbag deployment (FMVSS 208), windshield retention (FMVSS 212), and roof crush support (FMVSS 216). Other design requirements, like the support of the firewall and other body panels are less well known but are equally important. If any of these panels lose support of the glass, they fail in a crash and people get hurt.

I remove the cowls I must, displace the ones that make sense and leave on the ones that don’t matter. A good bonded glass part is one that is set onto the urethane bead and not into the urethane bead. If this cannot be accomplished without removing the cowl panel, then the cowl panel must be removed, period. If it can be accomplished another way, then it should be considered to save time, money and possible damage to the vehicle. It may mean displacing the cowl like on some of the Range Rovers or not removing them at all because the actual lower pinchweld is above the top edge of the panel like on the old Ford Aerostar.

I look at it this way, if the panel is flush or attached to the glass edge by hooks or retainers, I remove the cowl panel. If the cowl can be displaced enough to apply the urethane properly and place the glass onto that bead easily, I will do that. If the cowl is mounted far away from the glass surface and I can set the glass onto the bead without removing the panel at all, I will do that.

And, obviously, if the glass and its moulding sit atop of the cowl panel—like the Cavalier/Sunfire of old—and are not designed to be removed, I will do that. Too many auto glass installers worry about leaks, but then completely discount the safety part of their installations. Is it because they don’t care? I think it is because they don’t know.

Technicians are pushed to get jobs done faster and faster, but frequently they are rewarded for the number of jobs completed, not the quality of the installation.

Don’t get me wrong. I always look for short-cuts and ways to shorten the installation time, but I will not choose a short-cut that will endanger my customer. I need all the customers I can get. I can’t go around maiming and killing them and expect to stay in business.

However, to those installers out there who never do more than “lift the wiper” and “tuck” the glass, please heed my warning. You will regret the consequences. It could be an air or water leak that jeopardizes your job, or it could be as serious as the death or crippling of a customer that could lose you your freedom.