by Bob Beranek
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Back in 2013, I wrote an article for Technically Speaking called “The Seven Steps of Installation Pre-Inspection.” 2013 does not feel that long ago, but new technology has underlined the importance of pre-inspections beyond even what they were in the past.

Interaction with the customer before work begins and the inspection of the vehicle for pre-existing defects are still very important. To review, the tech should look for:

  • Early signs of corrosion. If corrosion is visible before mouldings are removed, it is an indication that there is more corrosion present under the glass or moulding. It may be necessary to discuss bodywork or the possibility of refusing to complete the installation entirely.
  • Moulding fit. If the moulding is not fitting flush to the body or glass, it could indicate a hidden problem with a previous installation. This also should be discussed with the customer.
  • Missing or damaged parts. This also can indicate a previous installation. It could mean the installation may take longer to complete to the customer’s satisfaction.
  • Aftermarket paint jobs. Usually appears as “orange peel” texture, improper color matching or over spray on mouldings. This can indicate previous bodywork. This may cause problems with glass fit or paint peeling by removal of the moulding or protective tape.
  • Interior or exterior stains or damage. Check the seats, floor, headliner and interior garnish mouldings. Some stains may indicate a leak that should be addressed before work begins. While others can mean that some exterior parts may be loose or misplaced causing water or air seepage.
  • Electronic and mechanical items. These include wipers, washers, radio, lights, window regulators, power door locks, rain/light sensors, remote start, etc. Make sure all mechanicals are in working order before beginning work or inoperable mechanicals are discussed with the owner.

Today there is even more to look at and deem suitable for auto glass replacement. With the advent of the Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) and the increased complexity of modern vehicles, the importance of pre-inspection or “Vehicle Assessment” is more important than ever.

We also now have more to consider when approaching the vehicle for glass replacement. Be sure to look for:

  • Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. Is there ADAS present? How do I handle it with the customer? Do I recalibrate or pass it along to the local dealership? If I am doing the recalibration, are all conditions correct for accurate calibrations? Does this vehicle require static calibration, dynamic calibration or both? Does it need a wheel alignment before the recalibration can be performed accurately? Your CSR or dispatcher can be trained to pre-qualify the customer and schedule accordingly, but pre-inspecting and customer interaction is the best for all concerned.
  • Pre/post scans. It is becoming common to pre- and post-scan a vehicle whenever it is repaired or maintained. The scans can pinpoint issues before they become bigger. Some of the items found on a scan cannot be remedied by an auto glass technician but should be found and communicated to the customer prior to doing any work on the vehicle. Post-scans can indicate if something you did caused a fault code to be triggered. This will alert the auto glass technician of possible concerns before leaving the keys with the customer.
  • Tools and their usage. We have a wide array of tools at our disposal. Power tools, new hand tools and setting tools all made to make our job easier and safer. The pre-inspection time should also be used to determine the best tool for the job based on what is observed and investigated by the customer interview. If the vehicle demands zero damage to the pinchweld due to exposure to the painted surfaces, then possibly a wire-out tool rather than a power or hand tool would be better to use. If the glass and installation expose a prior installation, then expect issues like corrosion, vehicle damage and missing parts to be part of your installation.

Modern installations are becoming very complex and technologically advanced. We must be on top of the new changes and be prepared to adjust our pre (and post) inspections to document any existing problems and preserve a record of the work that was done, both for the safety of the customer and to protect yourself from liability.

“I read with interest the article recently printed in Automotive News and linked on glassBYTEs.com™ “Automatic Braking Standard: ‘New Model’ or ‘Safety Sellout’?” The article outlines the debate between having regulatory mandated braking systems in new vehicles versus a voluntary buy-in by carmakers. Either way, this change is coming and the automotive glass industry needs to be prepared.” —Bob Beranek

As you may expect, the argument is political. One camp wants carmakers to voluntarily equip new models with the lifesaving system by the 2022 model year and the other wants the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to go through procedural steps to make it law and force the system to be included in all vehicles sold in the U.S. I’ll let the article speak for itself, but my question is, will the automatic-braking systems be a friend to the automotive glass industry or will it make our installations more difficult and less profitable?

If you run an automotive glass shop that replaces broken windshields, you are already in the business of restoring a safety device. Most of us would not put money over the safety of our customers. There are more than 32,000 lives lost on the roadway every year, and we all should be looking to save as many of those lives as possible, no matter what the circumstances.

However, when every car sold in 2022 has a camera to detect obstructions and stop the vehicle, there will be changes to the way we do business. When every vehicle has Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), there certainly could be some benefits, but there is no doubt that businesses will have to adapt.

Here are some challenges that may occur if you decide to take on calibration as an added service:

  • It could cost thousands of dollars in investment to add calibration services to your business’s offerings.
  • Additional training will be needed for technicians to complete the calibrations properly.
  • It could lead to higher insurance costs to cover liability if calibration is done incorrectly and for coverage to drive the customer’s car during calibration procedures.
  • No more mobile installations on ADAS vehicles. Calibrations must be done in conditions that are controlled and manageable.
  • More OEM glass used. This could be a benefit due to better fitting parts but could cost more with lower mark-ups.

The positive side of this development:

  • Added revenue generated from your new added calibration services.
  • Fewer trucks on the road and fewer expenses that come with mobile service. This would reduce fuel, insurance and maintenance costs on trucks and wasted manpower driving from one location to another.
  • Fewer poorly fitting parts and resulting customer complaints.
  • By developing a relationship with all of the dealerships in your area, you could convince them that you could do their glass work on their site and bring customers to them.
  • A benefit may be a reduction in competition. Many competing service providers do not have the finances to invest in equipment, facilities and training necessary to offer calibrations. However, added competition may come from the local dealerships.

I know that change is never easy. However, if handled professionally and correctly, this change could work to your benefit. We have been given an opportunity to look into the future. While many of us may not like what we see, we can make plans to deal with the change before it happens. In life, we rarely get these warnings in advance. Let’s be thankful for the power of forethought.

It is that time of year again when the college football bowl season begins and the NFL starts their road to the Super Bowl. During the season, our teams raise our hopes through inspired plays and then deflate some of those hopes with bad performances (with the possible except of the Carolina Panthers). We have cheered when our teams played well and cried when they fumbled the ball. We understand that wins and losses are part of the game.

We have been part of another competition lately that many of us didn’t even know we were in—“The Recalibration Bowl.” The glassBYTEs.com™ article on Monday reporting that Belron has found a way to calibrate Advanced Driver Assist Systems in the shop has brought ambivalent reactions. On one side, we as an industry have found a way to provide our customer a way to drive a safe vehicle immediately after their windshield is replaced. That is a good thing. On the other hand, of course, the provider of that valuable service is our industry’s biggest competitor, and that presents a dilemma that may put some of us behind the eight ball.

We have to give credit where credit is due. Belron used its ingenuity, vision and action on an issue that concerned us all. They did the job. Like in football, the team with the better players and game plan usually wins and “Team Belron” won this one. Team Belron, with its global presence, financial resources and dedicated research and development team, put together a game plan that looks like it might be a winner. The consumer thanks you and congratulations.

However, sometimes when the chips are down and the game is on the line, the smaller team (call them “Team Independent”) develops competitive advantages in their own right, and still win.

What does your replacement team do better than the competitors in your area? Maybe your system of supervising and managing your team provides better quality control. Do you excel at scheduling efficiency? Are your customers aware that your technicians are certified, and what that means to the safety of their families?

Team Independent may be smaller, but that may allow for better and faster reaction times than the behemoth they compete with. Team Independent are local and usually the fans’ favorite—the crowd noise can be deafening. They are there when you need them and can provide service when others won’t or can’t.

Just like the football games coming up this Holiday Season, the “Recalibration Bowl” will be fun to watch but don’t bet on the results. As Tony D’Amato said, anything can happen “on any given Sunday.”

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from my family to yours,

Bob Beranek