by Bob Beranek
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It is time again to register for the Automotive Glass Technician competition (AGTO). This nationally recognized competition for quality automotive glass installation is being held at Auto Glass Week™ 2015 in Reno, Nev., on October 1-2, 2015. Technicians from around the world come to earn the title of “The Best Auto Glass Technician.” I have been honored to be a judge for this competition since its inception and I am privileged to do it again this year.

There are no differences in the criteria used to grade the competitors this year, but there is a big difference in the competition itself. The AGTO competition will be expanded with winners in two categories—regular company (10 technicians or less) and large company (more than 10 technicians). The reason for this change was to remove any question of bias toward large companies in the competition.

Previous winners have come primarily from bigger companies, and some have suggested the reason for this is because judges show bias towards competitors from larger companies or those from their own companies. This has never been true. From the very beginning, judges were told they cannot be involved in any way with the judging of employees or persons to whom they have a professional or personal connection. I personally know that this ironclad rule was followed even to the point of asking affiliated judges to leave the room while scoring is taking place. Even though I would take issue with the implication that I (or my fellow judges) would in any way be biased, I believe this change makes sense.

To be clear, all the competitors are top notch technicians. If any of the competitors violate safety principles, he or she will be disqualified immediately. The points taken away in competition are typically for non-safety issues like regulations, clean-up and running out of time. The difference between winning and losing may simply be missing some little detail or taking one second longer than a fellow competitor. Those who work for larger companies may have received more training in the specifics required to win, or they may have just had more opportunities to perform a specific installation, resulting in a quicker time to completion. It is not that one competitor is putting the glass in safely and another is not. It is that one competitor has every step drilled into his or her memory through continuing training and repetition, while the other may not have had the opportunity.

The art of automotive glass installation is made up of acquired collective knowledge of regulations and standards, adhesive usage, glass types and many detailed steps of the installation itself. It takes mastery of one’s tools and skills. It takes observation, research, updating changing data and concentration to do it right every time. A smaller company trains for productivity, quality of job and customer satisfaction. The larger company trains for that as well, but the scale of their operations may give them an advantage that has been proven by past results. As in any competition, training and repetition is what I believe makes the difference between winning and losing, not the overall quality of the installation. All the installations are completed correctly.

I think the changes in the format of the AGTO for 2015 will make the competition more representative of the market and give the smaller companies recognition for a job well done. I wish all of our competing technicians good luck.

 

Many modern day vehicles have eliminated or reinvented the gravity stop. What is a gravity stop? In my day we used to call them setting blocks, but the more accurate term is gravity stops. The gravity stop is a device that stops the glass from slipping off the freshly applied adhesive bead. It is needed immediately after setting the glass into the opening when the adhesive is still in its liquid state. Once the adhesive is cured to the point of holding the weight of the glass, the stop is no longer needed.

The short period of time that it is needed is one of the reasons carmakers eliminated the stop. In a carmaker’s reasoning, it is a device that costs money, must be installed and is not needed after the adhesive is cured, I believe. Because it is not needed after the adhesive is cured, it becomes obsolete. Plus, the gravity stop frequently was the cause of noise complaints by vehicle owners. Unibody vehicles have so much movement traveling down the roadway that the glass would rub against the plastic stops and cause squeaks and noise.

However, a gravity stop served another purpose for automotive glass replacement technicians. The stop aided in the act of setting the glass into the opening by providing a ledge on which the glass could rest while the tech finishes the operation. Whether the operation of setting the glass is completed by one or two men made little difference. The ledge was necessary to position the glass until the adhesive solidified.

So how do OE carmakers keep the glass from displacing while the adhesive cures? It depends on the carmaker, but most use guide pins attached to the top of the glass with a silicone adhesive or double-faced adhesive tape. The pins help guide the robot in the assembly plant to accurately set the glass into the opening. The pins insert into holes manufactured into the top of the pinchweld and hold the glass into position until the adhesive cures. Great idea for the carmakers, but it doesn’t work so well for the replacement techs.

Aftermarket glass rarely comes with the pre-applied pins. It is very difficult and time consuming to remove and perfectly position the pins on a replacement glass so the glass tech rarely does it. Most commonly technicians use adhesive tape to temporarily hold the glass in place until the bonding adhesive is cured.

Other carmakers use water soluble stops. The stops are used in the assembly plant but after exposure to rain and car washes they dissolve and disappear. Some glass technicians replace the water soluble stops with a hard plastic replacement stop but they risk the noise complaint the water soluble stops were invented to eliminate.

What about using generic stops that are fastened to the lower fire wall with screws or rivets? If the stops are going to be permanent, then consideration must be made towards the material the screws or rivets are made of. If the fasteners are aluminum or if the vehicle has an aluminum body, the fasteners must be of similar metal or galvanic corrosion could result. However, if the stops are meant to be temporary for setting purposes only, then once the stops and fasteners are removed, the holes created by the fasteners must be protected from oxidation by priming the hole with metal primer both on the top and the underside.

Hard to believe that the elimination of one little device causes this much hassle for replacement technicians but it is nothing new. All in a day’s work.