by Bob Beranek
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Those of you who attended the recent Auto Glass Technician Competitions (the “Olympics”) in West Palm Beach may have noticed that we threw our competitors a little curve this year. Instead of having the competitors replace a windshield in their first heat, we had them remove and reinstall (R&R) a quarter glass.

What surprised me the most were the various ways the competitors removed the parts. Everyone saved their quarter glasses, by the way. Not one participant broke the glass removing it which, in my eyes, proves they all deserved to be there. However, several people did damage the paint during the process.

A few scratches are not important when the body panel from which the glass is removed is going to be professionally painted anyway. That is usually the case when you are asked to remove a glass part whole. In addition, most of the quarter and vent glasses manufactured today are either encapsulated with decorative trim or have trim moldings that will cover scratches caused by the removal and primed by the technician. I understand this.

Please be aware, though, more and more quarter and vent glasses are coming out with exposed edges like the ones we had in the competition. The vehicles we used were Nissan Versa Notes with exposed edge quarters. Exposed edge glass not only leaves the most vulnerable part of the glass exposed to possible fracture, but it also exposes the wall and part of the floor of the pinchweld for the customer to see easily. If scratches are present or damage was primed with urethane black primer, it will be unsightly to the vehicle owner, which brings us to the purpose of this post.

When an auto glass technician is asked to R&R a part, he or she must determine the circumstances surrounding the repair. Is the body panel going to be painted, or is it being removed to make it easier to repair the body panel? Does the glass part have moldings or encapsulation that would cover possible primed scratches? These questions must be answered at the outset, so the technician can pick the method and tools to be used in the removal.

In the past, the success of an R&R procedure was determined by the steadiness of a technician’s hands while pulling a cold knife or by adding a helper who could assist in pulling the other end of a cut-out wire. Recently, we have had an influx of tool designs that have eased the cut-out procedure drastically.  The new wire-out tools and paddle-bladed hand and power tools have increased the success rate even among less experienced techs.

So how do you make sure your R&Rs go smoothly?

  • Understand the problems that could arise. Pay attention to the exposed-edge problem described above, or to undue stress on the glass part that may cause fracture during the removal.
  • Pick the right tools that the job demands. Figure out ahead of time if you want to use a wire-out tool, a cold knife, paddle tool or power tool.
  • Lastly, have the patience to do the job right. Too many times productivity pressure causes bad decisions to be made for the sake of quick removal.

If you are losing your dealer and collision customers, is it because they can’t overlook the damage caused by the R&R procedure anymore? That is a problem that can be fixed.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both mobile and in-shop installations. However, the introduction of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) has again brought this issue to the forefront, and added another reason why in-shop installations may be better than mobile. It is possible to reverse a consumer demand for mobile installations to a demand for in-shop installations if you make the decision and change your marketing efforts.

In Europe, glass shops have never stopped practicing in-shop auto glass installations and they don’t have a problem convincing their customers to choose quality over convenience. Their customers don’t demand mobile service because it is not offered. In the United States however, we have a problem of our own making. Mobile service began in the United States in the 1950s and we have been doing it ever since. Even with the introduction of moisture curing polyurethane, larger glass parts, one-man sets and now ADAS, we still feel that if we don’t provide mobile service we will not succeed.

Think for a moment how much you pay for tools, supplies, vehicles and equipment for delivering mobile service. Think for moment what problems mobile service creates for the delivery of your product. Think for a moment how many callbacks were caused and how much time was wasted because of mobile service. Think about the long-term injuries that result in one-man trucks and mobile service.

I challenge all of you owners to put a pencil to the calculation of what mobile service costs you. Then take that revenue saved and see where you could put that money to better use. Would it be in marketing in-shop installation quality?  Upgrading your facility to make your customers more comfortable when they are waiting for their vehicle?  Renting cars for those that must leave?  Buying faster cure urethanes for faster turnaround time?  Of course, you can just put that saved revenue directly into your pockets as profits earned.

Winter is coming, and in many parts of this country glass shop owners worry about business, both in the number of jobs booked and the weather related issues revolving around the mobile install. If you communicate the importance of a controlled environment installation to your customers they will be more apt to bring their vehicles to your shop for service. It seems like common sense that their vehicle will be serviced better in controlled conditions than to have glass replacement done outdoors in inclement weather.

I do realize that mobile service is not going away completely. Some of you don’t even currently have a shop. I also realize that it would be foolish to flip a switch and change everything overnight. However, I feel that through the right planning, training, and implementation, in-shop installations can be increased and eventually take over the percentage of installs now taken by mobile installations. This is not pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking; it does work. I will wager that the analysis you make will open your eyes and you will see the benefits of changing your business plan from primarily (or only) mobile service to primarily in-shop installations.

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.