Posts Tagged state govt.

Help Wanted: Writer Wanted for Social Media Conversation Page on Auto Glass Repair & Replacement

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An interesting email hit my inbox on Monday from a company representing Service AutoGlass, a part of Safelite Group, Inc. The email came from Fun Online Corporation which is headquartered in New York, New York. Mike Schoenback  (and his partner Ron Luks) sent the email and it started with,

“Hi David,

I came across your contact information through Glassbytes.com.  Our company (Fun Online Corp) is working with Service AutoGlass®, a national provider of wholesale vehicle glass products and installation materials, to launch a social media conversation page in the fall of 2014.”

So the wholesale division of Safelite wants to interact with its customers via social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, along with numerous other social media sites? The email went on to say,

“We are interested in connecting with a person with good writing skills who has technical experience with auto glass repair and replacement and a familiarity with the industry. We are looking to hire such a person on an ongoing (freelance) basis to respond to posts on the social media page and work with us to develop conversation starters. Experience as a blogger is a big plus. This is a paid position.”

I guess I tick a couple of the boxes they’re looking for. I’ve spent my career in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry, I am on some social media sites so I’m familiar with how those work and I blog. Even though it looks like the opportunity is being “outsourced” to Fun Online, the fact that it is a paid position is also great to know. The email ended with,

“I’m writing to see if you may be interested or if you have a colleague who may be interested in this opportunity.  We’re happy to have a phone or email conversation if you’d like more information about this.

Thanks very much!

Mike Schoenbach

Ron Luks”

Their email didn’t mention Safelite, just Service AutoGlass. I replied to let them know that I really appreciated the email letting me know about the opportunity, but I didn’t think I would be an appropriate person for the role they were looking at for a variety of reasons and I guess they didn’t look at some of my blog posts. I replied to Mr. Schoenback explaining that I was pretty sure that Safelite wouldn’t want me to fill the role even if I was interested. That being said I was once a part of Safelite filling a number of positions in the mid to late 1980’s leaving as the regional vice president of New England in late 1989; so I do have some familiarity with the company. I just didn’t think I’d be a good person to help “develop conversation starters” for them at this point in time. I’m sure that I could come up with a few “conversation starters” though. Here are some possibilities:

“If an auto glass replacement somehow slips through the hands of Safelite and you’re lucky enough that the opportunity comes to your company would you consider giving us a call so that we could sell you the part?”

“Here at Service AutoGlass we’re your all-in-one source for products and service, even if Safelite is spending countless millions on television and radio ads and is your biggest competitor. Come on…..give us a call. Won’t you?”

“We know that Pilkington, PGW, Mygrant and other wholesale distributors aren’t in the retail AGRR space installing auto glass in competition with you, but that shouldn’t stop you from giving us a call should it?”

I’m sure that you can come up with a few of your own. I asked a friend in the industry for a social media conversation starter for them and he suggested,

“They say you get what you pay for…. What did you get from us?”

I wished Fun Online success in finding someone to fill the social media role for Safelite…  er’ I meant Service AutoGlass. I found out that they sent the same email to a few other people in the AGRR industry as well. Imagine my disappointment hearing that. Perhaps they contacted you to see if you were interested? If not and you’re interested in the freelance position you can contact Mike and Ron to find out more. The Fun Online web site states:

“At Fun Online Corp. we’re your eyes and ears during business hours, evenings, weekends and holidays. A round-the-clock business infrastructure is expensive and can be a logistical nightmare. We can create a social media team or expand your current team and save you money. You’ll have 100 percent full coverage.”

It seems like a great opportunity.

Just sayin’.

 

 

* Cartoon courtesy of TomFishburne.com/Cartoons

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Hobson’s Choice (a Free Choice or No Choice at All?)

I recently read the argument that attorneys for Safelite Group Inc. (Safelite) made relating to Connecticut’s Public Act-13-67(c) (2) in a glassBYTEs.com article. They argued that,

“it puts appellants Safelite Group Inc. and Safelite Solutions to a Hobson’s choice….”

Hobson’s choice[1] refers to a businessman by the name of Thomas Hobson who ran a livery in Cambridge, England in the 1600’s. Hobson required that every rider asking to hire one of his horses to always take the horse nearest the door. If a patron didn’t want to use that particular horse no other horse could be used. A “take it or leave it” choice. As another source on the origins of the phrase states[2], “A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered.” I thought using “Hobson’s choice” in this particular instance an interesting one considering the origins of the term. More on that later.

This link to the summary of the act that was first introduced in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee of the Connecticut House and ultimately signed by the Governor of the State of Connecticut required that in the handling of any insurance auto glass claim in the State of Connecticut that:

“The act requires that a glass claims representative for an insurance company or its third-party claims administrator, in the initial contact with an insured about automotive glass repair services or glass products, tell the insured something substantially similar to: “You have the right to choose a licensed glass shop where the damage to your motor vehicle will be repaired. If you have a preference, please let us know. ” By law, appraisals and estimates for physical damage claims written on behalf of insurers must have a written notice telling the insured that he or she has the right to choose the shop where the damage will be repaired (CGS § 38a-354).”

Fairly straightforward.

A public radio program called “A Way with Words” talked about Hobson’s choice on one of the program segments. One of the hosts of the radio program, Martha Barnette tells us:

“The phrase Hobson’s choice goes all the way back to 17th-century England. For 50 years, Thomas Hobson ran a stable near Cambridge University. There he rented horses to students. Old Man Hobson was extremely protective of those animals. He rented them out according to a strict rotating system. The most recently ridden horses he kept at the rear of the stable. The more rested ones he kept up front. That meant that when students came to get a horse, Hobson gave them the first one in line—that is, the most rested. He’d let them rent that horse, or none at all.”

Perhaps you see where I was thinking that Hobson’s choice was an interesting phrase for the attorneys to use in their argument. First, Public Act-13-67(c) (2) is a duly enacted Connecticut law so their client really doesn’t get a choice in deciding whether they wish to follow it or not. As is their right, they can dispute the law which is obviously why the company is filing the appeals to the act which provides Connecticut consumers a choice in what company repairs or replaces their damaged auto glass. It’s just that at his stable Hobson didn’t want the same horse(s) being used each time by his patrons. Hobson wanted his patrons to use only the horse(s) that he wanted them to use. You can understand why Hobson wanted to rotate his horses so that each got equal use. Safelite wants Connecticut consumers to only use the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) company that Safelite wants them to use. In this case it would appear that Safelite is Hobson.

By enacting Public Act-13-67(c) (2), the State of Connecticut took steps it deemed appropriate to protect consumer choice for residents of the state. There are any number of AGRR companies operating in the State of Connecticut for consumers to use when they sustain auto glass damage. So is it “A Matter of Self-Interest or Consumer Choice”? Isn’t it Safelite that is attempting to provide Connecticut consumers with a Hobson’s choice?

Just sayin’.

Take it or leave it

Another example of a Hobson’s choice would be from Henry Ford’s book titled My Life and Work and written in 1922 referencing options available for the Model T Ford.

Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

 

[1] Merriam-Webster.com meaning of Hobson’s choice

[2] Wikipedia.org description of Hobson’s choice

Other sources:

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/07302014SafeliteLettertoCourt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson’s_choice

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobson’s%20choice

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Rube Goldberg Machines and Business

I was recently sitting in an airport waiting for a flight and for 30 minutes I stood mesmerized watching an amazing sculpture designed by George Rhodes known as a ball machine. This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen one of these ball machine sculptures. The first one of Rhodes designs I saw was in the late 1980’s while walking through a terminal at Boston Logan Airport. I remember almost missing my flight watching and listening to the sculpture. This Rhodes sculpture at another airport attracted young and old alike. The sculpture really doesn’t serve any practical purpose, but is an intriguing piece of kinetic art. It’s hard to pull yourself away from watching all that is going on – a sculpture that often uses a combination of drums, cymbals, gongs and depending on your point of view makes either a virtual cacophony or euphony of sounds.

In a way these sculptures remind me of a Rube Goldberg machine. Wikipedia defines a Rube Goldberg machine as follows:

“A Rube Goldberg machine is a contraption, invention, device or apparatus that is deliberately over-engineered or overdone to perform a very simple task in a very complicated fashion, usually including a chain reaction. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg (1883–1970).”

An Example:

Rube Goldberg Guinness World Record by Purdue Society of Professional Engineers

________

Rube Goldberg and Business

While watching the steel balls that roll endlessly though the intricate Rhodes sculpture I started thinking about examples of how some businesses work effortlessly and continuously in a similar endless fashion. Businesses that provide the same exacting levels of customer service and delivery of a product (or products) over and over again that are a key to success. Some businesses have developed very simple processes to find success while other companies tend to overcomplicate processes in an attempt to achieve success.

While at the sculpture I was holding a Starbucks coffee and that company certainly comes to mind as a business that invariably delivers both simple and very complicated orders efficiently and effectively. This Seattle based company that got its start almost 40 years ago has today become the largest coffeehouse with over 23,000 locations in 64+ countries. I just order a Venti black coffee when standing in line at Starbucks. I can never tell if the barista is happy or somehow saddened by my straightforward order. A Huffington Post blog titled “The Most Obnoxious Starbucks Drink Orders“ details some of the complicated orders at Starbucks such as a ‘Venti Iced Skinny Hazelnut Macchiato, Sugar-Free Syrup, Extra Shot, Light Ice, No Whip’. Now that order would be a challenge to any barista fulfilling Starbucks “delicious, handcrafted beverages” mantra. It makes me smile when I hear someone standing in line ordering a similar concoction. It really doesn’t matter where in the United States or the world you place your order; Starbucks seems to always deliver the same level of consistent service regardless of the local. The company has obviously spent a great deal of time and effort in perfecting the delivery of consistent levels of service, but it all seems pretty simple to the casual observer ordering coffee. Everyone knows that you’re going to have to wait a bit when ordering one of the “delicious, handcrafted beverages” mentioned earlier versus my Venti black coffee order, but those who order the complicated drinks don’t mind. They know they are going to be rewarded with a delicious drink made to order by a barista that has perfected his or her craft. In plain sight the platform seems pretty simple. Do you think that behind the curtain there resides a Rube Goldberg machine? Doubtful.

Can you think of other businesses which deliver products consistently in a simple straightforward manner? Maybe FedEx, Amazon.com or even MacDonald’s could come to mind. Fortune Magazine lists 50 of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” and the top 5 are:

  1. Apple
  2. Amazon.com
  3. Google
  4. Berkshire Hathaway
  5. Starbucks

I’m sure you’d agree that each of these companies is the polar opposite of a Rube Goldberg.

I’ve worked in a business or two that have taken great steps to simplify business processes through employee training and the use of technology in an effort to reduce back office costs that keep company investments focusing on people and growing the platform. And I’ve worked in a business or two that seems compelled to use a Rube Goldberg machine mentality. I think that those who insist on making simple processes overly complicated could find greater success by streamlining operating procedures, but as long as shareholders are pleased with the return on investment, changes in operating styles aren’t likely to happen. In a highly competitive industry companies that are overcomplicated ultimately could be disadvantaged versus others in the same industry that have found ways to reduce the Rube Goldberg machine mentality.

Do you know of businesses in your industry which operate more like a Rube Goldberg machine (deliberately over-engineered or overdone to perform a very simple task)? I’m sure that you do. Noted management doyen Peter Drucker is quoted as saying:

“Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”

It has to be frustrating for people who work for companies that use complicated procedures or policies in an industry where other companies have found a simpler way of delivering the same service. I’m sure you can come up with some examples in your industry.

So, what’s it like at the company you’re working? Does your company operate more like an Apple, Amazon.com, Google, Berkshire Hathaway and Starbucks; or does it operate more like a Rube Goldberg? Imagine the potential for those companies that operate using a Rube Goldberg machine mentality that pivot to find a better way to provide the services or products they offer. If you look at your company and think you see an area of the business that might resemble a Rube Goldberg machine, perhaps you should seek ways to make it a little less complicated. Isn’t that what leadership is all about?

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Road Trip

A few weeks ago we decided to take a road trip. The trip has taken us through Indiana, Michigan, Canada, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina and now onto South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and then back to Illinois. We could add a couple of other states to the trip. It has been a great road trip. Besides keeping my eyes on the road I also kept an eye out looking for windshields in need of repair or replacement as I have since I entered the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. I was also looking for mobile auto glass vehicles along the way.

Road_Signs2

In an article titled “April Miles Driven Increases” that appeared in glassBYTEs.com last week, the web site reported that there was an overall 1.8% increase in miles driven in 2014 versus 2013. Only the Northeast reported fewer miles driven. Based on our experience, the number of vehicles of all types on the road has been pretty amazing. We’ve encountered very heavy traffic everywhere we’ve been so far and, since one of the three key drivers for the AGRR industry is miles driven (the weather and the economy the other two), perhaps this is another good sign for glass breakage and future business….at least in the states visited on this road trip.

I’ve spoken with a number of people who either own or work for AGRR retail and wholesale companies; regardless of the area in the country in which they compete, each says business has been great this year! In other road trips over the past few years there have always been a plethora of windshields in need of repair or replacement on the drive, along with countless plastic and tape wrapped broken door, quarter or back glasses (the “do nothings” – those who break glass and don’t repair or replace it). On this road trip I have been surprised to see very few broken windshields or taped up door, quarter or back glasses. Hopefully this is a sign that people are repairing or replacing glass when it breaks.

I saw the first AGRR mobile van on the road trip in Canada – a Speedy Glass van (I was the President and CEO of Belron Canada in the late 90’s and early 00’s). I didn’t see my next mobile van until I saw a Tiny & Sons Auto Glass mobile van in Massachusetts. I have driven by a number of glass shops on the road trip (and stopped by a few) and I didn’t see any mobile vans parked at the shops so I assumed (hoped) that each was busy doing mobile replacements. I’m in North Carolina now and I haven’t seen any more mobile vans. Odd I think as I see them in Chicago all the time.

After the strong winter season across much of the country we experienced some “Wind at our Backs” which was discussed in previous posts. Perhaps with a steady increase in year-on-year miles driven, and if the economy will come out of the doldrums we will see some positives for the AGRR industry. You still have to have to figure out how to deal with the big guys increasing market share and the brand recognition programs in play. If this year’s weather provided and continues to provide AGRR opportunities, if the miles driven continues to grow providing further opportunities and if the economy going forward gains strength and provides further opportunities; you’ve got something to work with. Not always easy I understand, but if it was easy you’d have a lot more competitors to deal with. You just need to continue to figure out what you can do to push and pull consumers to your business.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Disruption Innovation in Business

 

Clayton Christensen developed his disruption innovation theory studying the computer industry. Disruption in virtually any industry will determine winners and losers in business. If you visit the Christensen Institute web site you’ll read that:

“The theory explains the phenomenon by which an innovation transforms an existing market or sector by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability where complication and high cost are the status quo. Initially, a disruptive innovation is formed in a niche market that may appear unattractive or inconsequential to industry incumbents, but eventually the new product or idea completely redefines the industry.”[1]

Image

Courtesy of TomFishburne.com

At the annual Code Conference held at the Terranea Resort, located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California that brings together some of the world’s geekiest folks; Google’s Sergey Brin debuted Google’s driver-less car (link). These cars were designed without a dashboard, steering wheel or a brake pedal. Why? A driverless car doesn’t need any of those accessories in the cars of the future as seen by the visionaries at Google. Could this be an example of “disruptive innovation” that could affect multiple industries?

This Google designed driver-less vehicle is very different from the self-driving vehicles that Google equipped with the driver-less technology installed on the Toyota or Lexus models that Google first began using. The initial self-driving cars Google used were off –the-lot models made by original equipment manufacturers so each came equipped with a dashboard with all of the typical accessories you’d expect to find both on and under the dash. But this new Google car comes without many of the accessories deemed required, up until now, and Google added a few other things that you will find disruptive long-term. It evidently is equipped with a flexible plastic windshield.

The car can only top out at 25 miles per hour and you’re not going to be seeing it on the highways anytime soon, but nonetheless with Google behind it one can only assume that the company’s long-term goal is to dramatically change driving habits. Will this technology be successful in disrupting the car industry? It would take time and a lot of treasure, both human and monetary. Google certainly has the wherewithal to attract the best and brightest to make this project a reality and money isn’t an issue.

Experts believe a self-driving car will make driving safer. Imagine that you can text or talk on your phone to your heart’s content as you won’t need to be concerned about distractions. Human driving errors should be greatly reduced if all the other cars around you are interconnected resulting in greater safety. Older drivers would have more freedom which would be good for them and great for everyone else concerned about grandma and granddad getting behind the wheel. Disabled drivers would also gain new freedom to rely on themselves versus others. An EY Automotive study says that autos with Autonomous Vehicle Technology will surge from 4% in 2025 to 75% by 2035.

There are going to be winners and losers as self-driving cars gain traction in the coming years. What will greater safety and independence for everyone mean to the insurance industry and all of those in claims departments today if the number of accidents drops? To the collision and automotive parts repair industry? To the rental car industry? To the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry? To the trucking industry? Countless industries will be affected. There’s going to be a lot of businesses that will rise and fall with this disruptive innovation and a lot of people at risk of losing their current job in an industry affected by the self-driving car.

There will probably be a day when those who want to drive their own cars could be viewed similarly as today’s drunk driver or someone that is texting as they are putting self-driving car riders at risk.

What will the likely outcome be if Google’s self-driving cars become a “disruptive innovation” and disrupt car manufacturers, the transportation industry as a whole and change the habits of the driving public in the years to come? We’ll have to wait to see.

So is there something a company or companies are doing today (or will be doing) in the AGRR industry that is (or will) disrupt the way things operate? Are there innovations that will “completely redefine(s) the AGRR industry”? I think the answer is yes to both questions. There are plenty attempting to disrupt what it is you are doing today and I know that there are those trying to disrupt the future of the industry with new innovations.

Here is another definition of disruption innovation:

“A disruptive innovation[2] is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in a new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.”

You probably think we already have enough disrupters in the AGRR industry, but what is your plan going to be if you’re not one of the one’s who has designed or is designing a “disruption innovation” in the industry? Something is certainly coming.

Just sayin’.

 

 

 

[1] http://www.christenseninstitute.org/key-concepts/disruptive-innovation-2/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_innovation

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Becoming Somewhat Extraneous

Let’s face it, the National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS) List Price™ used in the auto glass replacement (AGR) industry for decades that has a pricing (and parts numbering) mechanism seems to have become extraneous.

Glasslinks.com has information that was detailed on a NAGS™ web site from 1998 that provides the following historical information on the company:

From N.A.G.S. Website of 1998:

National Auto Glass Specifications was founded in 1927 by Madison Tracey who made patterns to cut flat glass for automobiles. He assigned part numbers for these patterns to ‘catalog’ them for his inventory purposes. NAGS Part Numbers were soon adopted as the industry standard to identify glass.

  • The first NAGS glass pattern (#1) was for a 1926 Model K, Series 5, Touring and Roadster Chevrolet.
  • The oldest car for which NAGS has a pattern is a 1915 Touring and Roadster Ford; Pattern #49 is a 2-part (upper and lower) windshield pattern.
  • NAGS first “bent” glass Part Number was #XXX1 for the back glass on a 1940 Lincoln Zephyr
  • The first curved windshield for which there is a NAGS Part Number is #XX22, for a 1941-42 Chrysler.

In the 1940s, curved glass appeared and the pattern business declined. NAGS continued to assign Part Numbers to catalog curved and flat glass and published the ‘NAGS Catalog.’ NAGS also published a chart to ‘calculate’ the price of flat glass.

In the 1950s, manufacturers were in conflict over their published list prices. As a neutral party, NAGS was asked to assign list prices to NAGS part numbers, establishing the NAGS List Price. These list prices reflected the industry practice of discounting and were based on manufacturers’ truckload prices. NAGS started publishing the part numbers with prices, establishing the ‘NAGS Calculator’.

Through the 1980s, NAGS information was available exclusively in print form. There was little change in the industry business practices. In the late 1980s, change started happening quickly as advances in technology produced more curved, tinted and coated parts. Networks began operations and electronic commerce was introduced to the industry.

In 1991, NAGS joined the global information marketplace through its acquisition by Thomson International, a world-wide publishing and information services company, and began development of the GlassMate® Database. Today, this database is used in many ways in support of the Auto Replacement Glass industry; e.g., part identification, inventory management, purchasing, invoicing/billing, EDI, auditing, etc. The vehicle configurations in the database have been adopted as Code Source #474 by the X12 Accredited Standards Committee of the American National Standards Institute.

 

* In 1991 NAGS™ was sold to Mitchell International and Mitchell International was acquired in 2013 by KKR and Co. L.P., a large global private equity investment firm.

When I first entered the AGR industry in the 1970’s the NAGS™ list price was factored by the auto glass truckload discount listing produced by the then leading industry auto glass original equipment and replacement manufacturer. The NAGS™ formula for computing the suggested NAGS™ list price was easily understood by everyone in the industry. As a retailer you could calculate a new NAGS™ list price by using the truckload pricing list that manufacturers provided to retail customers. There was always a lag period between the time the manufacturer provided its current truckload price list and when NAGS™ then published a updated list price schedule making it available to the AGR industry. Life was certainly much simpler then.

With the rise of the “global economy” over the past several decades, the subsequent improvement in quality (certainly debatable) of auto glass manufactured from countries with lower cost from around the world, along with cost cutting achieved by domestic manufacturers; many auto glass parts have become a commodity at the wholesale level. With the mix of manufacturers the long-used NAGS™ formula to determine the list price of NAGS™ parts may have become somewhat outdated. The vaunted formula for determining the NAGS™ list must have greatly changed over the years. It was once a very open and transparent pricing mechanism.

I found an article on glasslinks.com from December 1998 titled “NAGS™ Announces Benchmark Pricing for 1999”. It’s a great article that in detail describes the “Benchmark Pricing” model NAGS™ used when the company reevaluated the list price for auto glass parts (and at the same time made changes to NAGS™ labor hours). According to the article, the revaluation that NAGS™ made reduced the list price for windshields by 68% and tempered by 53%, with NAGS™ labor hours reduced by 20%. The reduction in NAGS™ list price was intended to eliminate the large discounts that retailers were offering to insurance, commercial and cash customers off previous NAGS™ list price schedules. Discounts at the time ran as high as 65+% off the NAGS™ list price schedule with the thought that the revaluation and new re-engineered NAGS™ list price schedule would become the actual price charged by retailers to the retail customer base. That was the idea anyway…. We all know how well that worked out for retailers.

When NAGS™ was sold in 1991 to Mitchell International there was a concern raised by many retailers at the time that the treasured independence of NAGS™ pricing, that was sought out by manufacturers’ in the 1950’s, would be at risk. A major customer of Mitchell International was the insurance industry.

It’s difficult enough to fully understand pricing offered from AGR manufacturers and suppliers to retailers. Pricing is rather fluid, meaning that you receive whatever pricing you can negotiate with manufacturers and/or suppliers and there is no consistency upon what pricing is being offered to retailers. So how does or can NAGS™ have a formula today to determine suggested NAGS™ list price for auto glass parts which can be consistently used across the industry?

In an “open letter” dated May 5, 2014 written to Mitchell International/NAGS and signed by Independent Glass Association President Matt Bailey, the company was asked,

“What are the specific sources that you have collected data from since independent glass retailers and the referenced suppliers have all confirmed wholesale price increases?”

I haven’t heard if Matt received a reply to his question.

The question was a reasonable one and was related to an industry wide 5% +/- price increase put in place by a number of AGR manufacturers/suppliers to retail customers instituted on April 1, 2014. It is difficult to understand how a 5% +/- price increase from AGR manufacturers/suppliers could result in a reported .7% increase in the NAGS™ list price for the top 100 NAGS™ parts as detailed in a glassBYTEs.com™ article titled “NAGS Spring Calculator Released, Average Price Increase of Top 100 is 0.7 Percent” written by Jenna Reed. The article stated,

“The Spring 2014 National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS) International Benchmark Calculator has been released and shows the average price change of top 100 most popular parts was a 0.7 percent increase since the last catalog. The total average price change of top 10 parts was an increase of 0.4 percent.

To view the top 100 parts, click here.

In a comparison from the Winter NAGS Calculator 2014 to the Spring NAGS Calculator 2014, the largest price increase by percentage was on the 2005 Honda Civic windshield (FW02184GGYN), which increased 4.5 percent. To view this analysis of largest price increases by parts among the top 100, click here.

In the same comparison from Winter to Spring, the largest price reduction was on 2012 Ford Escape windshield (DW01684GTYN), which is down 3.07 percent. To view an analysis of the biggest price reduction among the top 100 parts, click here.”

It seems odd doesn’t it that prices from suppliers would go up 5%+/- and the top parts would rise less than 1%.

There are countless retailers that use either a cost plus, flat or tiered pricing models to consumer and commercial/fleet customers adding a “mark-up” to their actual cost of the glass being replaced. Often those prices include both the labor and kit charge required to complete the installation. This provides those that use these models comfort that they have a consistent profit margin to operate under. Networks and TPA’s still use a discount to NAGS™ pricing model to most of their clients.

A group of industry leaders formed The Chicago Auto Glass Group over 10 years ago to address industry pricing. The group worked hard at developing a “white paper” on benchmark pricing and suggested that the AGR industry move to a pricing model they detailed as follows,

“This Guide is intended to serve solely as a recommendation for establishing benchmarks and is in no manner intended to set or determine actual prices for auto glass replacement or to reduce open competition in the local, regional, or national market place.”

You can click on this glassBYTEs.com link to read the entire Chicago Auto Glass Group proposal. The Chicago Auto Glass Group wasn’t successful in pushing the benchmark pricing proposal, but many in the industry viewed the proposal as a positive step in making industry pricing fair to all stakeholders.

AGR industry stakeholders should, on occasion, evaluate the pricing model(s) that they use, discard old or outdated ones and replace them with ones that are relevant. What do you think?

Just Sayin’.

 

 

Reference materials:

   http://www.glasslinks.com/newsinfo/nagsbnch.htm

   http://www.usglassmag.com/AGRR/Backissues/2003/0305/future.htm

   http://www.glassbytes.com/newsNAGSWinter20130114.htm

   http://www.glassbytes.com/2014/05/nags-spring-calculator-released-average-price-increase-of-top-100-is-0-7-percent/

   http://www.glassbytes.com/2013/09/mitchell-international-owner-of-nags-purchased-by-kkr/

   http://www.glasslinks.com/newsinfo/nags_history.htm

   http://www.usglassmag.com/AGRR/Backissues/supplement/NAGSNOTES.htm

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Is it Time for Licensing?

I read an article relating to the Novus Super Session at the organization’s Annual Franchise Conference held last week in Tucson. A representative from one of the networks that operate in the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the United States attended the conference and discussed industry related issues and ideas. One of the issues discussed related to the responses to survey questions that the network had asked of some number of in-network shops that either are:

    1. required to bill through the network for the insurance or fleet work that these shops do for an insurance company that utilizes this network as an administrator or
    2. shops that are asked by the network to do work on the behalf of the network for an insurance company or fleet account that the network either can’t or doesn’t want their own company owned technicians to do for some reason.

The survey question that the representative said received the most comments related to unlicensed and/or unregistered AGRR shops. The network representative reported that when the survey responders were asked if they would support the regulation of auto glass shops in their states a resounding 74.2% responded with a yes. I think the question relating to regulation of auto glass shops an interesting one and I support the regulation of auto glass shops that do replacements.

When you consider all of the various “services” that are regulated by states, it is inconceivable to me that auto glass replacements (and other automotive repairers) are not. I looked on the web site of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR) that oversees and licenses those considered “professionals” by the State of Illinois. There are 237 professions that are regulated by the IDFPR starting first with those who provide “Acupuncture” services. That seems like a profession that should be regulated. If you’re going to have someone perform acupuncture on you, would you want just anyone off the street be allowed to stick needles in you? Probably not. The listing ends with “Veterinary Technician”. The professional listings include some in the medical profession, but not every specialty is listed so if you add every regulated and/or licensed professional’s in the medical field to the list on the web site would be much longer. How does the state you live regulate those they consider professionals? Do you have 237 different professions regulated and/or licensed by your state?

I think it’s interesting that some of the professions that are regulated and/or licensed by the State of Illinois include:

Real Estate Appraiser                                             Athlete Agent

Cemetery Customer Service Employee                    Community Association Manager

Detection of Deception Trainee                                Nail Technician

Shorthand Reporter                                                Timeshare Resale Agent

Understanding that a few of the professions on the truncated list above taken from the IDFPR web site could, for instance, certainly cost you money if you had a bad appraisal via a Real Estate Appraiser, but in all likelihood none of these licensed and/or regulated professions are going to put your life at risk. A faulty windshield installation, on the other hand, could cost you and/or passengers riding in your vehicle serious injury or in a worst case scenario a life.

If you visit the AutoGlassSafetyCouncil.com or SafeWindshields.com site you’ll find a variety of information regarding the importance of windshields in auto glass safety. A question on the SafeWindshield.com site asks:

What role does my windshield play to ensure my safety in an accident?

The windshield provides a significant amount of strength to the structural support in the cabin of the vehicle. For instance, in a front end collision the windshield provides up to 45% of the structural integrity of the cabin of the vehicle and in a rollover, up to 60%.

There should be no dispute regarding the importance of a windshield in ensuring the safety of auto and truck passengers, asking that those who install your windshield to be licensed and/or regulated doesn’t seem unreasonable to me? If in the State of Illinois the state government feels that there is sufficient need to regulate and/or license Nail Technicians, Athletic Agents or Shorthand Reporters, wouldn’t you think that the same state legislature would take a look at various automotive repairs that if not done properly, could cost someone a serious injury or death?

The network representative at the Novus meeting was quoted as saying that for those that the network surveyed:

“By far, the largest problem was unlicensed/unregistered shops.”

You can certainly downplay the network that provided the survey results when asking the question “What was the largest problem in the AGRR industry?” (some might suggest the right answer to the question is the network providing the information is actually the largest problem in the AGRR industry), but is it time to consider the licensing and regulation of the AGRR industry considering the importance of the windshield to occupant safety? Perhaps that licensing or regulation could include adherence and verification of replacements to the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard®. That might be an unpopular position for some, but would it be so bad? As auto glass professionals what are we afraid of?

Just sayin’.

 

AGW 2014 Free Admission

Link to Free Admission Ticket to Auto Glass Week 2014

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Wind at Our Backs? – Part III

Last September and December I wrote blogs titled “Wind at Our Backs?” and “Winds at Our Backs? Part II” writing that “it appears that we may have some wind at our back” when looking at the key drivers (the weather, the economy and miles driven) of the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. If you focus mainly on the weather as a key driver and look at what we’ve experienced in the United States this past winter, many would describe it as harsh or brutal in much of the country. Based on the weather over the past week, even though the vernal equinox or the first day of spring arrived on March 20, 2014, our winter really hasn’t seemed to have ended yet. I live in Chicago and this past winter was the coldest (December – March) ever on record and snowiest (9.7 inches from snowiest on record – 1978-79 as reported by the WGN-TV Weather Blog) I’ve ever experienced anywhere, except maybe for one when I lived in Montreal.

Chicago Lakefront 2014x

Chicago/Lake Michigan February 2014

The Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasted that the 2013 – 2014 winter season would bring us colder weather and heavier snowfall in many sections of the country and for those who were hoping that the forecast would come true they weren’t disappointed. Stretching from the Rockies to the East Coast the weather has been a big boon to the industry with extreme or unseasonably cold weather that included snow and ice storms. I’ve talked with a number of retailers and suppliers who had a great first quarter of 2014 which followed a rather lackluster 2013. One supplier told me, with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, that on a trailing twelve months he looked like a genius since all the strategies that his company had used in the past year to increase business had really paid off.

Starting in 2011 The Weather Channel started naming winter storms that are strong enough that meet the criteria set by the prognosticators. For the winter of 2013 – 2014 The Weather Channel’s list of 26 alphabetical names were developed with the help of a Bozeman, Montana high school Latin Class. The potential storms this winter began with the name Atlas and will end with Zephyr. Through today there have been 24 named storms with the current storm that hit the Upper Midwest with up to 18” of snow before heading off to Canada. Since it is now the first week of April and a couple of weeks since the first day of spring winter storm Xenia is dumping snow in parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. Enough already. Although this winter may have been good for some in the AGRR industry I’m thinking of it more like a Dr. Seuss book I read countless times to my sons when they were growing up – “Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!

 

When you look back at this past winter named storms starting out with Atlas in early October that delivered feet of snow from the Rockies to the Upper Plains winter storms kept hitting almost every week including some areas that haven’t seen much in the way of winter weather for a few years. In early February starting out in Georgia and hitting especially the Atlanta metroplex were a couple of storms that CNBC described as a catastrophic ice storm that effectively shut down Atlanta for several days before continuing on up the east coast wreaking havoc along the way. In early March the greater Dallas-Fort Worth and North Texas area got hit with an ice storm that crippled the metroplex. The Carolinas got hit by a couple of storms in February and March with the last one being Ulysses hitting around March 10th. If you live in the North you expect to get snow and you’ve learned how to deal with it, but it’s not quite the same below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Every year there is a contest that awards a trophy called The Golden Snowglobe that recognizes the snowiest city with a population of 100,000+. The trophy typically goes to Syracuse, Rochester or Buffalo, New York each year, but as of today it appears that for the winter of 2013 – 2014 the winner for The Golden Snowglobe will be Erie, Pennsylvania with 137.2” of snowfall.

For this blog I’m not going to address the economy or the miles driven. Neither of those has really changed all that much since my December blog. Regardless whether you feel the wind is at your back or not, you and your employees are the key driver(s) in your business. How you’re dealing with the various opportunities and obstacles that you face each day in your business determines the success you achieve. All that really matters is what is going on in the market or markets you operate and I hope that you’re achieving success in the markets you compete.

As good a predictor that The Old Farmer’s Almanac was for this past winter, the prediction for the 2014 – 2015 winter season from this long-time source hasn’t been published yet, but I recently saw a very detailed prediction made by The Weather Centre for next winter. Please take the time to read and interpret all of the information and let me know what you think what the upcoming winter will be like.

Since weather is so important to the AGRR industry, in the coming months I’m hoping that you get some hail in the markets you compete. I know a couple of suppliers that think that could be their winning strategy for 2014.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Now and in the Future

Last Tuesday, February 4, 2014 there were two items in glassBYTEs.com™ e-Newsletter that I read with great interest. The two articles got me to wondering about how technology could be developed to increase passenger safety in the auto glass replacement (AGR) industry by alerting passengers of potential problems.

The first article I enjoyed reading was the “View From The Trenches” blog post by Neil Duffy. His blog post titled “Nightmare on Stevens Creek” pointed out those in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry who are portrayed as “hacks” in the article; those who lower the quality of installations and how our industry is viewed. Many of these “hacks” don’t follow or worse are even aware (an even scarier nightmare) of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® and what is required, on their part, to ensure that those they install auto glass for are safe in an accident. The second article was an Associated Press article that appeared on TribLive.com titled “Feds want cars to be able to talk to each other“. Seems like a great way for the cars we drive not to run into cars that others drive. This technology will have to be in full use when we move to driverless cars, but in the meantime it could greatly reduce collisions today if rolled out in new cars.

jetson

Everyone in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry across the country has seen someone who isn’t following proper installation standards and put drivers at risk when auto glass is replaced. There are those in the industry who think the drums are beat too loud about this topic, but it is an issue and Neil rightly points to the concern that he sees with the acts of some lowering the standards which could bring us all down at some point in the future. As Neil wrote,

“This drains the resources and profitability of shops who value quality. By allowing hacks to contaminate our industry we are putting both the public at risk and our own livelihoods. The sad fact is that there is an unwillingness to seek regulatory constraints or to somehow cull the worst offenders in the AGRR industry. Why would a glass manufacturer or wholesaler try to cut the number of sales they could make by calling for the removal of incompetent or illegal customers? Why would a third-party administrator (TPA) demand stringent certification and high-limit liability insurance over negotiating deeper discounts from the same vendors? Furthermore, we, in AGR, play into the hands of our largest competitor who promotes its technician’s training and employee character via the media over smaller companies – the local unknown local glass purveyors – that may prey upon potential clients. That alone can create a bad dream or two.”

Are there auto glass suppliers or urethane suppliers that would walk away from a sale if the supplier is aware of bad behavior on the part of a customer? I for one would like to believe that there are. But would some suppliers step in and provide the products versus losing a sale? Sadly probably yes.

I appreciate Neil Duffy pointing out that there are those in the industry who shouldn’t be installing auto glass in any vehicle because they either don’t know how to properly do a replacement or they don’t care that they are installing a part in an unsafe manner. Bad apples that exist in our industry can lower the value that the vast majority of us in the industry who are doing it right receive as Neil suggests. Consumers believe they are getting a quality product regardless of what company they use. When a company that is doing everything right competes against those who don’t, how could a consumer know that they could be choosing a company that delivers the service and/or products in an unsafe manner which could ultimately cause serious safety issues? They don’t.

The second article that I referenced that appeared on the glassBYTEs.com™ web site on February 4th dealt with the United States government push to require automakers to equip vehicles with technology that will reduce accidents by having vehicles “talk with each other”.

The Associated Press article details the work that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been doing in cooperation with automobile and truck manufacturers since the early 2000’s to prevent accidents via new technology.

The article quotes David Friedman, the head of the safety administration saying that NHTSA “estimates vehicle-to-vehicle communications could prevent up to 80 percent of accidents that don’t involve drunken drivers or mechanical failure”. Imagine the lives that will be saved with the implementation of new technology. Mr. Friedman goes on to say the goal is “to prevent crashes in the first place”. Historically the government’s focus has been on passengers surviving accidents. On the NHTSA web site the department’s mission reads:

“NHTSA was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970 and is dedicated to achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety. It works daily to help prevent crashes and their attendant costs, both human and financial.”

The technology that is being developed and installed on vehicles today across the globe is pretty amazing and has been a dream going back over 50 years.

In 1956 General Motors showcased their cars with a traveling show featuring the company’s fleet at events in major cities across the country. The first “Motorama Show” was held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. This “Key to the Future” video was a “featured film at the exhibit that looked into the far distant future of 1976 which predicted a jet age future with electronic digital displays and an On Star like central command that would guide us along our uncrowded path to adventures.”   

The view of the cars of the future from 1956 obviously wasn’t reality in 1976, but we will be seeing more and more technology installed in all types of vehicles. This CarScoops.com article talks about an “Augmented Reality System (that) Allows Drivers to See Through Large Vehicles”. The ‘See-Through’ developed by a team from the University of Porto, in Portugal, is directed by Professor Michel Ferreira. The technology is a great advancement in driving safety and will undoubtedly save life’s’. Imagine being able to “see-through” a large vehicle such as a bus in front of you in order to safely pass on a two lane highway.

Virtually every car on the road today has on-board technology that informs drivers of mechanical issues that have been detected.  Additionally, mobile telephone hands free devices and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technologies are available for most vehicles further helping to improve driver safety. Government authorities, driving safety advocates and organizations in cooperation with automobile manufacturers continue to build on technology that improves passenger safety. The ever changing availability of new safety technologies being developed for vehicles is rapidly changing how we interact with vehicles, how the vehicles we drive interact with us and even how the vehicle interacts with everything near the vehicle. A Bloomberg.com article titled “Talking-Car Systems to Be Required as U.S. Weighs Rules” briefly discussed future technologies being developed by CISCO Systems and others for connected cars, along with companies such as Google and Telsa Motors working to employ that technology in driverless vehicles.

So, after reading both of the articles that appeared on the same glassBYTEs.com™ e-Newsletter I began wondering if future technology could be developed to let auto and truck drivers know if the auto glass in the car they are driving or are passengers has been properly replaced. Perhaps a farfetched idea you’d say, but since we all know that a windshield that is being replaced has to be properly installed to ensure that the passenger side air bag deploys correctly to protect occupants and to also maintain structural integrity of the roof; maybe not. As I’ve heard a number of people say over the years, “It’s going to take some politician’s family member or someone important to be killed for something to be done to ensure the safe installation of auto glass.” Certainly no one wants that to happen. As Neil so aptly wrote:

“This writer is truly tired of having nightmares that “Freddy the hack” is becoming the ugly face of today’s automotive glass industry. I see it more and more each day and most worrisome is the complete lack of concern by many within our industry. How can we police ourselves or be policed is the $ 64,000 question that has to be addressed and answered some day, hopefully sooner rather than later. If we continue to bury our collective heads in the sand, it will be our own necks that get hacked, as well as more unfortunate windshields.”

I know of countless AGRR professionals who strive to ensure that auto glass is installed properly and spare no expense to do so. But without either the industry as a whole taking a more active interest or governmental authorities taking a regulatory role in the AGRR industry maybe someone can develop a technology to alerts drivers and passengers alike that the car they are riding in is indeed safe to drive, or not.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – A Matter of Fairness

Recently I was forwarded a letter that Safelite Solutions (“Safelite” “SGC Network”) sent to an auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) company.  The letter related to work that the company had done for a consumer that happened to be insured with a company for which Safelite manages glass losses. The AGRR company had done a replacement and was required to send the bill for the work that was done for the consumer through Safelite in order to receive payment. The letter that was received started out stating:

“The SGC Network is currently in the process of performing a random fast cure kit Audit.”

The letter went on to state:

“Please fax copies of the work orders/invoices that include the urethane lot stickers. Do not send proof of purchase or receipts. The only acceptable documentation is the urethane lot sticker attached to the invoice or work order. Please forward to ATTN: SGCNetwork at 614-210-9941 within the next three business days.”

Have you seen or received one of these letters? I hadn’t seen one before. What was requested certainly seemed reasonable to me and the company also thought the request was reasonable. The company had the information readily available since the information is required under various sections of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard that is administered by the Auto Glass Safety Council™. What was interesting about the request was that Safelite was taking on the role as an independent 3rd party auditor in asking for the information. Who do you think performs that function when and if Safelite audits its own use of a “fast cure kit”?

Take a minute and look up the word “fairness” on dictionary.com and you’ll find the following:

Noun

“the state, condition, or quality of being fairor free from bias or injustice; 

evenhandedness”

            Adjective

“free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial”

            Adverb

“in a fair way; correctly: act fair, now!”

It’s also interesting to see the word fairness shown via TH!NIKMAP’s Visual Thesaurus®.

 Fairness 2

 

So does it smack of “fairness” that a retail auto glass company that competes for auto glass repairs and replacements in the United States is also given responsibility for performing audits of competing AGRR companies to determine if they are using a “fast cure kit”? It doesn’t seem that Safelite would be the appropriate entity to audit others if you applied the definitions of fairness:

“the state, condition, or quality of being fairor free from bias or 

injustice; evenhandedness”

“free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial”

“in a fair way; correctly: act fair, now!”

They certainly aren’t “free from bias” and it doesn’t seem as though they would have a strong desire to adhere to the idea of “evenhandedness”. I don’t see how they could be “impartial”. And it would seem impossible that the act of their being the auditor would be accomplished “in a fair way”.

To me it seems to defy logic when the corporate mission of any company must be to grow market share and produce increased value to its shareholders for it to be possible for them to be an independent auditor of others in the industry in which they compete.

Safelite’s company web site states:

We must do what’s right, even when no one’s watching

This means living by our values and being accountable. It is about how we treat our staff, our customers and members of our local community. We reinforce this throughout our corporate structure with legal compliances and ethics training, an employee ethics hotline and numerous channels for feedback and concerns.”

Certainly words any company would be proud to adhere. It seem appropriate to ask “who’s watching” those that are watching us? Do you think that there’s a 3rd party auditor that’s auditing the auditor?

I think you can ask the same question relating to the “pre-inspections of auto glass claims” that was discussed in a glassBYTEs article titled Safelite Solutions Accepts Recognition for Pre-Inspection of Auto Glass Claims” in May of last year. Does that practice seem to smack of “fairness” to you?

As most everyone on the planet knows, Super Bowl XLVIII is coming this Sunday, February 2, 2014 between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. The officiating crew this year is led by veteran referee Terry McAulay. What if for the game this year a crew of Denver Bronco fans is allowed to officiate the game instead of the impartial officials that have been selected by the NFL? If that was allowed to happen how many calls do you think would go Denver’s way? Even the most ardent Bronco fan hoping for a win for their team would see that as both blatantly “unfair” and “unjust” to the Seattle Seahawks team.

So as “A Matter of Fairness”, who thinks that how Safelite operates as an auditor and/or inspector is:

“the state, condition, or quality of being fairor free from bias or 

injustice; evenhandedness”

“free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial”

“in a fair way; correctly: act fair, now!”

Just sayin’.

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