One Man Versus Two Man Sets

I have been reading in the glassBYTEs.com™ forum about the debate between one man and two man sets. This is a ticklish issue because part of our industry is concerned about margins and profits and others are worried about safety and quality. How does one handle this sort of issue? Well I hate to disappoint anyone but I support both sides.

This issue is truly the perfect subject to put in my “Versus” articles. Why? Because I want to try to explain both sides and then offer some ideas on how we can come to some consensus.  Here we go.

Two Man Sets

Anyone who knows me knows that I care about safety.  I care about safe installations for our customers and safe working conditions for our technicians.  I was asked on the forum if I think that two man sets are better than one man sets. The simple answer is yes.

How could anyone deny the facts?  Two man sets allow for:

  • More accurate placement of the glass in the opening
  • The strength of two persons rather than one to reduce strain
  • Two sets of eyes to see problems before they occur
  • Reduction of the chance of installation breakage
  • Reduction of the chance of injury to the technician
  • Reduction of damage to the vehicle

Two man teams, if trained properly and working together effectively can also:

  • Speed up the installation time so more paying jobs can be done
  • Reduce tool costs because of sharing
  • Lower vehicle costs due to fewer units
  • Improve employee morale
  • Improve safety with one tech, on mobile units, acting as co-pilot for driving instructions and communications with customers and HQ without endangering themselves on the roadway
  • Be more effective because two minds can remember things like supply inventory, installation hints and procedures, or special instructions from boss or customer inherently better than one

Of course the problem is that in many cases, the shop owner cannot recoup the costs related to two man teams, either because of competition or because of the inability to pass on the higher cost. Would the owner prefer the two man teams? I am willing to bet that he does, but circumstances can prevent the implementation.

If there are a variety of suppliers for glass replacement services in your area, it is in the best interests of insurance companies to continually challenge vendors to do the work for less. The reality in competitive markets is that one vendor is usually played against the others to lower costs. For any shop to be competitive, it takes a concerted effort on the part of the shop owner to find a way to meet those demands.

One Man Sets

I remember the day I started as an installer. I was told that as soon as I could install by myself I would get a raise and a truck to take home. It was a big deal back then because the company I worked for had just switched from two-man to one-man trucks for mobile installation and delivery. I tried for weeks to learn how to set the glass. I broke at least one glass per day and one day I broke three. I thought for sure I was going to be fired, but my fellow installer said that my employer could easily cover my breakage costs because they were saving hundreds of dollars going to one man trucks. Sure enough, I eventually learned to install glass without breaking it and the rest is history.

When I was learning to install glass, companies actually made a good profit and could easily handle the learning curve. The only materials needed for safe installation were glass and butyl tape. No clips were necessary because back then clips were made of metal and more durable.  We didn’t need mouldings because mouldings were made of heavy chrome and never damaged upon removal. Those were truly the good ol’ days.

Today, shop owners have to watch every dollar and how it is spent. If the owner can get an advantage with a tool, a procedure or additional training, they will. However, to stay in business you need to beware of pitfalls. The advantage of a one man installation is the significant reduction in labor costs. The disadvantages can be many if precautions and equipment aren’t put into place to compensate for the elimination of a second man.

Can one man effectively install a windshield as well as two men? The answer is yes. However, there are issues that need to be addressed to assure that the installation is safe for the customer and the technician. These issues include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Training in ergonomics to improve the safety of the tech
  • Setting tools to improve the accuracy of setting the glass into the opening
  • Coordination of scheduling for those jobs that absolutely need two men
  • Technology for navigation and communication to improve tech safety while operating a mobile unit
  • More time to complete the installation safely
  • Equipment that will speed up the job but improve the safety of the tech

I encourage all shop owners to complete a cost analysis to determine if their savings are truly worth it. In many cases, glass shops dedicate themselves to one man trucks and end up incurring long term costs that eat up all the savings they think they’re getting.

My friend and colleague Rick Nelson shared with the readers on the forum an interesting Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) study put forth by Center for Disease Control (CDC).  In the study it shows that the act of installation is more taxing and detrimental to the body that many would think. Should we rethink two-man sets? I will let you make that decision for yourself. I will not make additional comments on it here because I think it should be interpreted by the reader. I have included the link for your evaluation.

In summary, I have a few suggestions that have proven to be successful.

  • One is to increase the percentage of shop jobs. This allows others to help in setting the glass and increase profits by increasing the jobs per day. Explain to the customer that their windshield is large and awkward to set with one technician and that the quality of installation will be greatly improved by bringing it into the shop for replacement.
  • Another is to use temporary help during your busy season. Try hiring high school juniors and seniors that may be interested in a job for the summer with the possibility of hiring them full time upon graduation. If they work out during the summer and they are interested in making auto glass a career, you already have them partially trained.
  • Finally, do the math. Really sit down and put a pen to the real costs of one-man versus two-man sets. You may be surprised at the results. And, you never know, you may be instrumental in reducing the unemployment rate in your state and making more profit for it.

Lastly, I wish to quote “ttech” from the glassBYTEs.com™ forum,

“…we let our techs determine if they feel comfortable doing solo sets on each job. If they feel two techs is best, we route accordingly or request the vehicle be in shop. Take care of the techs, [they are] your organizations greatest asset.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.