by Bob Beranek
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A comment recently made on the glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR™ magazine Forum has raised a question we should all consider. In full disclosure, the comment was made regarding Auto Glass University (AGU), a training program I own, although this post is not meant as a commercial. I am giving you my opinion on the art of automotive glass training. I hope it can be used by everyone in the industry to be more effective in their training of new technicians, no matter where or by whom the training is conducted.

Here is the statement that made me consider the “best practices” of automotive glass training:

“Having gone from glazier to installer to technician in the past 50 years, taking the AGU course and then trying to go out and replace glass is like mastering the ‘See Spot Run’ book and then trying to read an encyclopedia. I trained many people over the years and it takes a minimum of six months of constant guidance and training to get them to the beginner level of doing replacements.”

Of course, no one will “master” automotive glass installation in a week. However, if it takes you six months to get your tech to the “beginner” level, you either have the wrong guy or you’re doing it wrong.

It takes knowledge of basic principles, exposure and practice on specialized tools, experience in different vehicles and skills developed over time. However, the quickest and safest way for a tech to get productive is by working with an experienced instructor who allows the student to study with a specific curriculum in a controlled environment at a comfortable pace and to learn from their mistakes.

I have spent most of my career training automotive glass technicians and one of the biggest hurdles I’ve seen to effective education was managers sending new techs on a “ride along” with experienced people but then prioritizing production over training. You might say, “Hey, the work has to get done.” Yes it does, but if the job completion takes precedence over instruction, don’t expect the trainee to be productive in a timely manner.

If the trainee doesn’t have the opportunity to do the work himself and to develop good habits and techniques because the jobs need to get done before dark, the training that day was worthless. This prolongs the training and the costs involved. It also shows the trainee how to short cut and make improper concessions for the sake of time. Training this way can and will take six months or more to complete.

While new tools and vehicle designs make the art of installation physically easier, the technology built into those vehicles means that doing our jobs right is critical for the safety of our customers. There is a place for riding in a truck with a productive technician, but it is only after the new tech as received a firm grounding in the basics. The ride-along-trainer may be excellent in teaching “how to” install given the proper time, but does he know “why” the glass needs to be installed in a specific way?

When decisions need to be made, the “how to” learner does not have the flexibility to consider options that the “why” learner does. Decisions are harder to make, and a poorly trained tech runs the risk of being wrong. A good training course gives new techs the facts and then backs those facts up with data. If your new tech steps into the field already knowing the “whys” of proper installation and then has the opportunity to practice the “how to” he will become productive in the shortest time possible.

“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.

In my last blog, I suggested that tracking callbacks leads to better management and quality control. Today I want to reinforce that argument with examples and explain how you can use the tracking data collected.

By now, if you did the exercise I suggested in the last blog, you know that callbacks can cost you a ton of money.  And, if you keep track of the numbers, you know the reducing these numbers can greatly improve your bottom line. So how do you reduce the callback percentage and increase profits?

First of all, I would suggest that you track the callbacks by each technician, then by branch/store and then by company in the form of a percentage of total jobs. If you completed 100 jobs and had five callbacks during that period you had a 5 percent callback rate. Don’t forget to back out repairs unless it led to an installation. Also, back out the callbacks that are frivolous, such as “my tail light burnt out right after you replaced my windshield.” However, frivolous callbacks can be a sign of some other problem that we will get to later.

The ideal callback rate should be zero but most certainly below 2.5 percent. The higher the rate, the more attention that store or individual should get. If a technician has a high callback rate, it usually indicates a difficulty based on the diagnosis and fix of the problem. For example:

  • Joe has several water leaks appearing above the rearview mirror. The diagnosis says that there was a hole in the urethane bead. This could indicate that Joe punctures the urethane bead while repositioning the wire cover. A quality control meeting led by the local manager or more training on proper placement of the wiring cover makes sense.
  • Same problem but the diagnosis says that there is a gap in the urethane near the glass surface. This could indicate that Joe does not paddle his urethane bead seams properly or at all. Same recommendation is suggested to solve the problem.

If there is a pattern building in a particular branch or store, then the cause could be improper training or lax supervision.

For example:

It is noticed that there is a problem of water leaks in the top driver side corner of the windshields at this particular store. It is not one technician, but several. Here are the possible causes:

  • The technicians use ungloved hands to set the windshield and the oils from their hands contaminate the top driver side corner of the windshield and keep the urethane from adhering to the glass.
  • It can be difficult to get a smooth clean strip back to the top corners, due to their sharpness. Flaps in the original adhesive bead can occur while stripping the existing bead thus causing a leak between the two pieces of urethane.
  • Or, it could be an indication that the vacuum cups and setting tools that were acquired for their use are not being used. It could be because the technicians were not trained in their proper use or that they have no trust in the holding strength of the tools due to past experience.

 

In all of these cases, increased training or stepped up supervision is necessary to cure the problem.

Other indicators will be just as obvious when callbacks are tracked and analyzed properly. For example:

Callbacks Part Two02252016

Tracked callbacks can be used to pinpoint training and correct problems that might otherwise go undetected, causing continuing problems. Through tracking you know what your callbacks are, and you will have the documentation to let you test theories until you have a solution. Undetected callbacks are unsolved problems and unsolved problems lead to unhappy customers and unhappy customers lead to … well you know.

P.S. Callback tracking goes for all of you one-man shops out there as well. If you want your company to be a success, you have to keep track of your callbacks and fix your problems quickly and the first time or your new company will suffer the consequences.