by Bob Beranek
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This week is the 2017 Auto Glass Week™ in West Palm Beach, Fla., at the Hilton West Palm Beach Resort. Most of the time, this is the venue where industry friends and colleagues meet to renew friendships, discuss business and learn new things impacting the industry. I have been going to these events since 1991, but this won’t be a typical year. This year the industry will learn much more about Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and get a gut check that may change the way we do business going forward.

Changes have occurred in our industry before. In the late 1940s, the issue was curved glass parts.  Cutting tables disappeared, NAGS patterns started to deteriorate, and shops got bigger to handle the room necessary to stock large numbers of curved glass parts. Distributors became more important as our warehouse and as a “just-in-time” inventory provider. New skill sets were needed and those who had the skills required to cut parts became “just” installers. Slowly, the skills and art of glass fabrication became lost. Auto glass shops had to completely change the way they did business.

Then came the first glued-in auto glass parts in the late 1950s. A whole new industry was born in auto glass removal tools. Innovation and adaptation were the words of the day. Tools were designed and technicians needed to learn adhesion and sealing skills. What the heck is butyl? Can I get Polysulfide?  Again, the industry had to change and learn new skills.

Then this new stuff came along in the 1970s called polyurethane. Boy, was that stuff strong. I remember the first time I inserted my cold knife into that stuff and tried to pull it. I swore somebody tried to install the glass with liquid concrete. New questions and concerns emerged. We heard “What do you mean the vehicle has to sit for 24 hours?”; “Are you nuts?”; “I can’t provide mobile service if it takes a day to cure.”; “What about shop jobs?”; “I don’t have that much parking to hold a vehicle overnight.”  However, just like before, the industry innovated, and, with the help of our adhesive manufacturers, we overcame another curveball thrown by technology.

I suspect that each one of the trade shows that introduced those game changing innovations for our industry gave off the same feel that this upcoming one is giving me. The innovation that is going to change our industry is going to be every bit as big as the ones before. We have had some previews the last couple of years but ADAS and the new technology it spawns is going to be huge. It will develop new sister industries, it will demand new skill development, it will teach us new ways of doing things, and it will design new tools for us to use.

This year’s Auto Glass Week™ may go down in auto glass history like the ones mentioned above. If you can still find a hotel room, it will be well worth the effort to attend. This is a milestone that our industry sees only occasionally. Don’t miss it.