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.

 

After the most recent Auto Glass Technician Olympics (AGTO), I had an interesting conversation with some competitors and spectators about the judging procedures. There were some misconceptions that should be discussed. The discussions fell under a two topics: how do the judges handle any conflicts of interest and what little things influence point deductions?

Anyone who watches the competition knows that there are four judges and as many as 10 to 12 competitors at one time installing glass. Some of the competitors are from the same companies as some of the judges. At first sight, this seems completely unfair. How can a judge from the same company judge fairly? 

Judges do not review competitors where there may be a conflict of interest. For example, I did not judge those competitors that I have trained or competitors who were employees of my clients. The same goes for all of the rest of the judges.

Although all the judges walk the competition floor and watch everyone, judges don’t mark the score sheets of any competitor where there may be a conflict of interest, real or perceived. Once we are in the judges scoring room, we discuss every point deducted as a team. However, when we score a competitor who may have a relationship with a particular judge, that judge not only does not score the technician, but he will leave the room and provide no input at all.

Can a judge score another technician tougher so his competitor is given an unfair advantage? No. One judge cannot influence the team. The judges collectively deem a point deduction as minor, standard or major. If we see a major infraction during the competition, we will ask more than one judge to observe it before we deduct points. Those who watch the competition may notice us whisper to each other or gesture toward a competitor to confirm an observation.

How can four judges watch that many installations and catch everything?

There is no doubt that there is a lot to see. However, we are all technicians and know what to look for. Some procedures are more important than others and we know what we have to watch for. We know that there are other judges watching and 10 to 12 proctors who are briefed about certain procedures that they can witness for us. So, in reality we have not just eight eyes watching the installation, but 28 to 32 eyes watching. That frees up the judges to watch the important steps.  

The judges are human and we do make mistakes sometimes. However, we take pride in making sure that serious mistakes by the competitors are stopped and corrected before the installation can proceed. If we miss something on the floor but catch it in the judges’ room, it is corrected before the vehicle is put in service.

One thing is for sure, though—all the competitors are true professionals and they do an exceptional job under the circumstances. This year, the only difference between the first and second place finishers is that the winner completed his installation a few seconds faster. Simply put, these techs are good.

Congratulations to all competitors and I hope we will see you all back next year. Please keep in mind that you have the opportunity before the competition to ask the judges anything you wish. Never give up.