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.