by Bob Beranek
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Since I started my career in the auto glass business, I have seen some serious changes over the years.  Some of them we might label as good and others as bad. However, what do those definitions really mean?

Consider the word “good.” Is it good for profits? Is it good for the technician? Is it good for the consumer? Or, is it good for the industry? Over the years, I have had many a debate with others in our industry on these issues but have never come to a consensus of what is good for all concerned. What might be good for profits, may not be good for the technician. What might be good for the technician, may not be good for the consumer. And so on.

Like any industry, when new vehicles are introduced, problems are identified and solutions are found.  Unfortunately, the solutions may very well satisfy one problem but cause another problem somewhere else. Rarely do the problem solvers take into consideration all of the aspects involved with the big picture. Their only duty is to solve the problem presented.

Case in point, recalibration. Who would have foreseen this issue coming ten years ago? Yes, we saw technology progressing. But could we see that those of us in the aftermarket would need to be involved with the tools, software and expertise necessary to recalibrate an entire vehicle after glass replacement? I didn’t.

When asked to estimate the cost of tools for auto glass replacement by my clients, I could estimate the hand tools, the power tools and specialty tools and come up with a price at retail of about $2,000 to $3,000. Now, with the necessity for recalibration, you may spend five or six times that amount. When asked to estimate the cost of starting an auto glass business, I was able to estimate the cost of a “bricks and mortar” business to be around a $10,000 to $20,000 to begin business, day one. Today, you must consider the infrastructure of the building and size of the service bays to have level floors and thirty feet in front of the vehicle for recalibration. This could double or triple that startup investment.

Now that this technology is here, decisions are being made to deal with this new challenge. Owners are asking, “Will my technicians need additional training and learn new skills sets?” Will my current way of doing business need to be changed to accommodate the new demands of technology? What about the future? Will my investments in the current technology pay off, or will new upcoming systems make them obsolete?

None of us can see the future. We can only use our experience, research future trends and act on what is best for our immediate needs. Owning an auto glass business isn’t always easy. In the short term, at least, it has become even more difficult. Successful business owners have to be realists as well as fortune tellers. Embrace the changes caused by recalibration because this need is going to “cull the herd” so to speak. The need for a professional auto glass shop is greater than ever, and those who pay attention to what that means will come out on top.

It’s the end of the year and most of us have already dealt with Christmas wish lists from our friends and family. I thought I would make a New Year’s wish list for our industry.

  • I wish that all the confusion over Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) would disappear.  Not completely—the technology will make us safer. Just make it easier for technicians in the aftermarket to understand. How about making it all self-calibrating so we don’t have to worry about it. I would love to see this on all vehicles equipped with ADAS.

“The calibration process for the front view camera system is necessary when a front view camera module is replaced by a new one. This process shall not be required when only replacing the windshield and the front view camera module has been mounted again properly.” -2014 Cadillac CTS Sedan AWD V6-3.6L Service Manual.

  • I wish all technicians were adequately trained. Make the hackers disappear and the rookies gain experience quickly. We are all sick of fixing other people’s screw-ups and repairing the vehicles they damage.
  • I wish that the insurance industry and the consumers would realize we are replacing a safety device and not a seat cover or molding. This is serious stuff. Why are we arguing about price when peoples’ lives and well-being are at stake?
  • I wish mobile installations would go away. I started in the auto glass industry when mobile service was young. I admit I liked the idea of riding around without my boss looking over my shoulder. However, the shop job is objectively better than a mobile one. Less cost, more productivity, better working conditions and a more comfortable work environment translates into better, more profitable installations.
  • I wish for two-man trucks. Realizing I can’t have everything, if mobile work is inevitable, then I wish for some company to share the work load. I’ll get better sets and be better off health-wise with some help. I’ll also have an added benefit to have someone to talk to during long trips and heavy traffic.
  • I wish that the glass companies will up their game in quality control. Crooked mirror pads, upside down camera brackets, PVB oozing out the edges, mirror pads falling off are all little annoyances the techs must fix before they can do their job.
  • Lastly, and more importantly, I wish all my friends, colleagues, competitors, suppliers, customers, clients and readers a happy New Year. From my family to yours, we wish that your 2018 and all the coming years are successful and profitable.

Happy New Year!

At Thanksgiving this year, I began to think of what I was thankful for as an auto glass professional. It wasn’t easy. I read and contribute to a lot of auto glass forums and discussion groups, and frankly, they are sometimes pretty demoralizing. But then I began to really look at my profession and came up with a few things I like about it.

At first, as an installer, I liked the idea of driving around the countryside and meeting new people. I loved looking at the sites and feeling the wind in my hair. Back then I actually had some. It seemed to me to be a cowboy existence. No bosses over your shoulder telling you what to do or how to do it. You could play your radio as loud as you wanted and sing along to your favorite song with no embarrassment of how badly you sang it. You can stop by bakery shops, ice cream stands and fast food restaurants with no one telling you how bad it was for you. You didn’t care because you had a job that would give you a good amount of natural exercise and clean air to breathe. I was thankful for that.

As I progressed to management, I learned a whole new challenge—growing profit against tough and very similar competition. We had to trim costs in the lean years but still produce quality work or risk losing good customers. As a manager, I met some great people who became my trusted colleagues and my fierce competitors. They taught me a lot as a businessman and as a man. I’m thankful for that.

When I started in college, I wanted to be a teacher. However, after doing my research and finding out what a teacher’s salary was, I decided to major in business. In the auto glass field, I found an industry that needed training as much as I wanted to teach. Auto glass training was truly a blessing. I could be in business as a CEO and make a good living and still be a teacher the way I always wanted to be. I met the best people in the industry and learned a lot. With the knowledge I gained from those many experts, I was able to help the new technicians and future leaders of the industry. I’m thankful for that.

The automotive industry is never boring. Every year we have new vehicles, new designs, new technologies, new tools, new procedures and new challenges. What better way to keep your attention and make it interesting? Anyone who likes to use their hands to make a living has to like the auto industry. I’m thankful for that.

I am old enough to remember when the new Ford Taurus came out in 1986. How do you get that glass out? What is that dual bead of urethane doing there? It doesn’t even have a pinchweld to put it on. This windshield is impossible. No, it wasn’t. It just needed our innovation and determination to figure it out.  The same can be said for any glass part that has found its way to our doors. Our first comment, because that was the way we are, this is nuts!!! But a little later on we hear, “That’s not so bad. Just do this….”  I’m thankful for that.

Auto glass has been good to me and my family for more than forty years, and it can be good for you, too. Ann and I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving and that you all have a wonderful holiday season. We’re looking forward to everything new in 2018, and we’re thankful for that.