Archive for category OEM
Posted by "Just Sayin'..." in ADAS, aftermarket, AGRR, AGRSS, aumotive after-market, Auto Glass, Auto Glass Safety Council, Autoglass, Business, cars, Collision Repair Industry, Disruption, Disruptive Innovation, driverless car, Driverless Cars, ideas, Innovation, Leadership, OEM, Technology, Uncategorized on July 1, 2019
If you’re part of the automotive aftermarket repair industry you’ll find interesting an article titled “Car Safety Systems That Could Save Your Life” written by Mike Monticello (@MikeMonticello) for Consumer Reports. The article detailed a Consumer Reports study on vehicles with ADAS technology onboard and the effect it could have on your business. The study reported that, “ A majority—57 percent—reported that at least one advanced driver-assist feature in their vehicle had kept them from getting into a crash.” Considering that the study involved 72,000 vehicles the potential impact on the automotive repair industry in the years to come could be dramatic.
Mitchell International, an organization providing technology solutions to the insurance industry as well as automotive repair industry, reports that during the first quarter of 2018 the average gross collision appraisal value showed that the average cost of collision repairs was $3,512. When you then consider the Consumer Reports study showing that 57 percent of vehicles with ADAS technology managed to avoid a collision equates to 41,040 fewer vehicles needing repairs. The lost repair value would result in a revenue loss to the collision repair industry of $ 144,132,480. An amazing number considering the small overall size of the Consumer Reports sampling. Imagine the effect this lost revenue will have on the companies that supply the body parts, paints, auto glass and mechanical parts to the collision repair industry.
The Consumer Reports article goes on to explain that “48 percent for the 2019 model year, according to data compiled by Shawn Sinclair, CR’s automotive engineer for advanced driver assistance systems” have automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems. In 2018 “only 29 percent of new vehicle modes sold in the U.S. in 2018 had standard AEB”. Within the next few years it is expected that the majority of OEM car manufacturers will include basic AEB ADAS technology on new vehicles. Granted it will take a number of years for the automotive repair industry to feel the full effect of ADAS technology across the entire United States car parc of 289 million vehicles, especially with the average age of a vehicle in the United States at 11.8 years as reported by the web site statista. IBISWorld.com estimates that total United States collision industry revenues in 2018 totaled $ 47 billion.
You can just do the math to see what the ultimate effect of ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance System) technology across the entire car parc will have to the collision repair segment of the automotive repair industry. The effect to the companies that supply parts and services will also be just as dramatic. What is your company’s strategy to deal with the potential loss of revenue that ADAS technology brings because it’s coming?
Nationwide Windscreen Services – A Leader in Auto Glass Replacements of Vehicles with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)
Posted by "Just Sayin'..." in ADAS, aftermarket, AGRR, AGRSS, aumotive after-market, Auto Glass, Autoglass, Collision Repair Industry, Credibility, Disruption, driverless car, Driverless Cars, Leadership, OEM, self-driving, self-driving car, supplier, Technology, U.S., U.S. Govt., Uncategorized, Windscreens on July 6, 2017
If you’re in the automotive industry you’ll know that the complexities of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technologies are being utilized on more and more Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) vehicles rolling off assembly lines around the globe. What does ADAS mean to drivers buying or leasing OEM vehicles? As an article published by the research and consulting firm McKinsey & Company titled “Advanced driver-assistance systems: Challenges and opportunities ahead” explains,
“Demand for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS)—those that help with monitoring, warning, braking, and steering tasks—is expected to increase over the next decade, fuelled largely by regulatory and consumer interest in safety applications that protect drivers and reduce accidents. For instance, both the European Union and the United States are mandating that all vehicles be equipped with autonomous emergency-braking systems and forward-collision warning systems by 2020. A recent McKinsey survey also suggests that car buyers are becoming even more interested in ADAS applications that promote comfort and economy, such as those that assist with parking or monitoring blind spots.”
Another article titled “Driver Assistance System Market to Grow..” that appeared in the online Digital Journal stated,
“Increasing government regulations such as mandating usage of driver assistance systems in the vehicle and emerging high-end vehicles market in developing countries has an important quotient in the growth of driver assistance system market. In the coming years, it is expected that the driver assistance system market will advance with higher growth rate as compared to previous years. The current challenges for the market are training the professionals on the software due to its complex and expensive features. Therefore, steadily changing process of manual workflow to digital workflow, will result in long-term benefit when the advance features of driver assistance system services are implemented and would be used on regular basis by various industries.”
Consumers buying vehicles with this technology onboard, who will require aftermarket services that could alter the original calibration of ADAS technology, will need to be aware of the importance of choosing service companies that are not only knowledgeable on these safety systems, but that also have service technicians equipped and proficient on the use of all required tools to ensure that the ADAS technology works properly. It’s critical that OEM car manufacturers, companies developing ADAS technology, governments, along with a myriad of automotive aftermarket service industries work together to ensure consumers are kept safe.
One aftermarket service organization in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the United Kingdom is a leader in ensuring consumer safety. That company is Nationwide Windscreen Services (NWS). NWS began in 2006 and in just over a decade they have 70+ locations that provide auto glass repair and replacements, with 500+ mobile fitting vans and 600+ staff offering a 24/7/365 call center operation and service coverage to insurance, fleet and consumers across the United Kingdom.
NWS has taken dramatic steps to ensure that the replacements they do are done properly. On August 1, 2015, NWS opened its first ADAS center in Leicester, England, and Stuart Sole, Managing Director of NWS said:
“The windscreen of the future will no longer be a piece of glass protecting occupants from the elements and offering structural support for the vehicle, safety systems are being developed with driver aids to help avoid collisions and accidents. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems technology will manage the cruise control, automotive braking, adaptive lighting, GPS, smart phone, lane departure warning cameras, collision avoidance system. This technology continues to influence vehicle design at a great pace, with more and more of these systems being introduced onto new vehicles. NWS will continue to invest in future technology within the automotive glazing industry; ensuring that the NWS customer base continues to receive a market leading product in all areas of our business.”
Since opening their first ADAS service center in 2015, NWS has invested more than £ 300,000 (US$ 380,000 prox) to ensure that NWS provides proper calibration when required on replacements that have ADAS technology. Today NWS is fully capable of providing recalibration for replacements which require this service across their platform. NWS has been awarded the Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance ISO 9001 for their processes.
I asked Philip Homer, Operations Director at Nationwide Windscreen Services, who has responsibility for developing the service delivery model at the company to answer a few questions regarding the commitment to the safety of their customers at the time of replacement and when recalibration is required:
- You’ve made a huge commitment to safety in time and treasure to ensure that you provide a complete drive-away solution when you complete a replacement for customers whose vehicles have ADAS technology. What drove you to decide to provide a solution internally versus utilizing the OEM dealer network after you replaced a glass where ADAS was involved?
Answer: A one stop solution for the driver and vehicle down time, standardised pricing throughout the United Kingdom. Assurance for fleet and insurers that the vehicle has been calibrated following a replacement.
- I’m sure that you spent a great deal of time researching the best solution for your customers. What is the name of the recalibration system that you chose and what were the main reasons you chose their equipment?
Answer: Hella Gutman – We feel their system is the most practical available at present providing a solution for static or dynamic calibration. The equipment also prints off a certificate to confirm a successful calibration.
Hella also provide training for our technicians at their facility in Banbury Oxfordshire, once completed the technician is also issued with a certificate to confirm that they have attended a training session and competent in how to use the equipment.
- Are you able to complete recalibration with the Hella Gutmann equipment that you’ve chosen on all vehicles in your marketplace?
Answer: Approximately 75% of vehicles requiring some attention can be calibrated using the equipment we use.
- Within the United Kingdom are there AGRR installation and/or automotive recalibration standards that have been determined and approved by a governing body that your company follows?
Answer: We are not associated to any governing body but do feel we have considerable experience in the field as we were the first to market in the UK.
- You’ve received the Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance ISO9001 rating. What does this mean to your company and staff?
Answer: We have been accredited by Lloyds QA for over five years and our team are very proud of this accreditation. We are currently working towards ISO9001 // 2015.
- Do you provide recalibration services at each of your centers? Do you also provide the service on a mobile basis?
Answer: We currently have twenty sites across the UK and during 2017-2018 we are planning additional sites in strategic locations
- What is the time required for completing recalibration – shortest, longest and average?
Answer: Approximately forty-five minutes for static or dynamic calibration.
- Do you charge customers for recalibration? How much do you charge for a recalibration? Are you able to bill insurance and fleet customers for this service or do the customers pay for the recalibration directly?
Answer: Our standard price is in the region of £130.00 (US$ 165.00 prox) plus vat. We have a number of billing routes into insurance or fleet customers
- When you complete a recalibration is it always 100% effective? How do you know that a proper recalibration has been completed?
Answer: We have had a small number of unsuccessful calibration. This has been largely down to the relevant software release. In the event that we are unable to recalibrate we would advise the driver to take their vehicle to a franchised OEM dealership.
- NWS is committed to providing this service to your customers. For those companies in other parts of the world who are interested in providing a similar service to their customers and wonder what the return-on-investment is, can you tell me how long will it take you to get a return on your investment?
Answer: Provided you have access to the vehicle park you should have no problem in obtaining an ROI in under 12 months.
- Do you provide this service for other AGRR companies that you compete with or does NWS make the service available solely to your customers?
Answer: This is under discussion now as we feel if has further potential.
- ADAS has been called an interim technology. Do you feel this is the case and, if so, what do you think will replace it?
Answer: We have been informed that the technology is at stage three and the vehicle manufacturers or those providing the equipment are aiming for fully autonomous vehicles which would be stage five.
- How have you been able to determine which makes and models require recalibration?
Answer: Manufacturers with an ADAS enabled windscreen, but on several occasions they aren’t activated or the camera mounting has been blanked off. We feel that the best identification point is by the technician during installation
- How do you handle makes/models where the vehicle owner is instructed to only use the OEM car dealership for calibration?
Answer: We have a robust process in place to organise any calibration should we need to use a franchised dealership. However, we would always recommend a calibration to be carried out during the glass installation to avoid any inconvenience to the driver.
- How knowledgeable do you find consumers are about ADAS and the need for recalibration?
Answer: Their understanding is gaining momentum largely due to the vehicle manufacturer selling the driver aid technology as a safety feature
- How have you educated your insurance and fleet customers, as well as consumers of the importance of proper recalibration of ADAS after you’ve completed a replacement?
Answer: Yes, we feel have taken an active role in educating the insurance and fleet sectors. We have presented to number of customers and a “best practice” session at the 2016 Fleet Management Live event at NEC in Birmingham.
- Are there any learnings from your experience with providing a complete ADAS solution to your customers in the United Kingdom that you can share with other auto glass companies interested in recalibration systems?
Answer: Good technical support is the key to successful calibration in the initial stages of use.
Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions that I’ve asked today Philip. The commitment that Nationwide Windscreen Services has made to customers they serve is highly commendable and provides a roadmap to AGRR companies that are looking to provide an ADAS solution for vehicles with this technology that requires recalibration after the installation. The commitment that NWS has made in investing in calibration equipment, employee training and facilities allowing the company to deliver a complete ADAS solution to is highly commendable and delivers a strong statement that safety is paramount to their customers. Congratulations to you and your company for being a leader in the industry.
As more and more OEM vehicles have ADAS technology onboard we need to ensure that aftermarket automotive companies are fully prepared to properly recalibrate vehicles they service if recalibration is required. The consequences could be life or death for consumers when an automotive aftermarket company provides service and doesn’t recalibrate the vehicle when required. Is your company taking the proper steps to ensure that you’re fully prepared?
Posted by "Just Sayin'..." in aftermarket, AGRR, AGRSS, aumotive after-market, Auto Glass, Auto Glass Safety Council, Autoglass, Business, Collision Repair Industry, Innovation, Interviews, Leadership, OEM, Retail, Service, Sika Corporation, supplier, Tools, Uncategorized, USP, Windscreens on October 28, 2014
John King is retiring this year as the Vice President – Aftermarket at Sika Corporation. In his role at Sika John has been a key influencer in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry both in North America and the world. I wanted to get John’s thoughts on the industry prior to his retirement and he agreed to talk.
Thank you for taking the time to talk again John. I know that you’re going through some changes in your life. You saw an auto glass installation for the first time in 1997 and a lot has changed since then to today. As you prepare to depart an active role in the AGRR industry can you tell us your view of the state of the industry as it relates to the safe installation of auto glass?
John King: For Auto Glass Retailers that continue to provide their Customers with Safe and Cost Effective Glass Replacement and Repairs, the future is bright, as there will always be a need for quality work.
Do you feel that there are more safe installations done today for consumers versus when you first entered the industry in 1997?
John King: Statistics like this are difficult to define, as it becomes more of an observation and opinion, than fact based. However, Economics always drive business decisions, and unfortunately, for the Auto Glass Industry, the Economics of today are much more stressful, than in 1997. For a number of reasons, the size of the Replacement Industry has shrunk over the past 7 years, resulting in a competitive climate that has far too many Glass Shop Companies and Independent One-Off Installers making Installation decisions based solely on the Revenue then need to survive. When that happens, Safe Installations take a back seat, to getting the job done cheaply. While “cheaply” does not necessarily mean incorrectly, it can mean that shortcuts in an installation may occur; “Slipping the Cowls, Short Urethane Beads, Incorrect Use of Priming Systems, No use of Priming Systems, and Not Holding the Vehicle until it is safe to Drive, are all symptoms of an unsafe installation”.
Unfortunately, I still believe that far too many Installers sacrifice a Complete Job, for a Quick Job. Therefore, my answer is that today, that are still far too many unsafe installations being done.
On the bright side, those Shops and Installers that are doing a Complete Job, have vastly improved since 1997. There is more adequate training available today, and for quality installers, who have kept up with training, and who are using the latest technologies of Urethane and Installation Equipment that better equip the Technician for making a Safer Installation, they are light years ahead of the best installs of 1997.
Do you think more needs to be done to ensure that replacements are being done correctly and are there any further steps you feel should be taken to ensure that auto glass is installed safely?
John King: No one likes or wants Government Intervention. However, unless the Industry takes it upon themselves to collectively raise the “bar of performance” when it comes to proper installations, it will only take a high profile auto glass installation related death, to raise the awareness of the Public and those that Govern to actively do something about it.. The Television Program 20-20, that aired 12 years or so ago, raised awareness for a period of time, but unfortunately, that awareness petered out and the public is still at risk. Quality Glass Shops who can “prove” to the Insurance Industry that they do perform Safe Installations, will be rewarded with business in that segment of the market. Glass Shops who implement and use “Net Promoter Scores” and track their Customers’ Satisfaction and Continue to Train their Technicians will be doing what the Consumers need them to be doing.
The Cash Market is another issue, and because it is structured differently and because there is “little to no quality barriers” for someone to enter the Auto Glass Industry, Consumers that utilize the Cash Market vs. the Insurance Market are subject to the unknown.
Have you any advice or hopes for the industry?
John King: Again, there will always be a need for Quality Work in an Industry. Just look at what 2014 has brought to the Automobile Manufacturers, with record numbers of Recalls. Consumers now have the lowest confidence ratings ever for Car Companies and those Manufacturers will only change that conception when Recalls are reduced. Auto Glass Retailers, Glass Manufacturers, Installation Equipment Makers and Urethane Producers need to work together to ensure the Public gets quality installations. There are many great people within the Auto Glass Industry and I believe that those committed to providing Safety will win their fair share.
Fill in the name of who is replacing you at Sika. I know that you’ve been transitioning him into your role as you are nearing retirement. Will there be any changes in direction for Sika?
John King: Mr. Marius Mavrodin replaced me, effective July 1, 2014, although I have still been consulted on important issues. That followed 5-6 months of us working very closely together so that he understood the Industry and our Customer Needs as much as possible. Marius has been with Sika for a number of years, so he knows our capabilities and he is blessed with an Organization that works very hard to provide Quality Products, Services and Support to our Customers. I know there is still room for improvement in what we do and Marius will lead this cause.
As an avid golfer I’m sure golf will play a major role in your retirement. Do you have any other plans you’d care to share?
John King: For the short term, my wife Marilyn and I will take a couple of months to catch our breath. The last 45 years together have flown by and we have been blessed with 5 wonderful children, with the Grandchild count, now at 4. They have been and will continue to be our major focus. It is not so much that I want to retire, but rather, I don’t want to work 50 hours a week anymore.
Fortunately, there are some opportunities for me that might take root. While deciding that, Marilyn loves to play golf as much as I do, and that is a major blessing. We will stay active in Church and Charitable Activities and perhaps do a little travel, but the one thing I will not miss are Planes, Trains and Automobiles, if you catch my drift. I will miss the People, for they have made it all worthwhile, and to all whom I have encountered over the years, I am truly grateful. And lastly but most importantly, I thank My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for looking after My Family and I. We would have been lost without Him.
Thank you very much for your thoughts and insights John. You have provided great leadership to the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry and I’ve certainly valued both our business and personal relationship. You will be missed by our industry. I’m sure everyone wishes you the best in your retirement and/or the new opportunities that await you.
I was honored at Auto Glass Week™ 2014 to present John with an inaugural AGRR industry award. The award begins a new tradition through which the industry honors an individual for the body of their contributions through the years. The award was once known as the Len Stolk Award (as you will remember Len was an individual focused on the advancement and education of all facets of the AGRR industry). John was an excellent choice to receive this inaugural award.
Photo courtesy of http://www.glassbytes.com
Welcome John King, Vice President – Aftermarket at Sika Corporation. Sika celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 2010, a true testament to the quality of their products and dedication to their customers. Sika has developed product systems in the automotive, construction, and industrial markets with a continuing focus on safety and sustainability. In the AGRR world, Sika produces adhesives for sealing and bonding windshields in the aftermarket auto glass industry that meet and/or exceed OEM (original equipment manufacturer) requirements.
What changes have you seen in the auto glass world since you first joined Sika and began working in this industry?
John King: My first exposure to an Auto Glass Installation, was in 1997, in Zurich Switzerland, where I saw the Technician wearing a shirt and tie, and a smock. This was how this tech dressed every day. To him, his job was his profession. While I certainly do not think that USA Installers need a dress code, I do see that many glass shop companies want to “raise the bar” of customer perception, installer performance and the glass shops’ commitment to safety, within our industry. I firmly believe that this country has many technicians who are committed to this cause, and take pride in their work. Unfortunately, over time, I have seen far too many technicians that care little about quality work, and even less about safety. We have an Industry with an extremely low “barrier of entry”, meaning that anyone can put a phone number on the side of their truck and advertise auto glass repair and/or replacement. However, that does not mean that they know what they are doing, and both the Public and Insurance Industry, know little about how to discern the difference between those who care and those who do not. As our country’s economic conditions have worsened, our industry has become a haven for persons looking to find some type of income. While it does not mean that those techs necessarily perform improper installations and repairs, we have to ask ourselves, have these new industry participants been trained? How are they kept abreast of the ever changing details of vehicle glass replacement? How many of them even care to know anything about “doing it right”?
What changes would you like to see in the future?
John King: Some States have talked about “Licensing” of auto glass technicians. While I do not want glass shops to have to spend any more money then necessary, we have to ask ourselves, “How can we raise the barrier-of-entry into this industry?” Licensing may be one avenue of doing this, while at the same time, providing a means of “raising the bar of safety” within AGR. In any industry where the safety of the public is at stake, there are usually steps that those industry participants must take to first, truly understand what their work is to accomplish, and then secondly, prove they are worthy of doing the work. In essence, become Industry Certified. In AGR, the goal should be to provide correct and safe auto glass installations, meaning the vehicle’s passengers should not be placed at risk after their vehicle is returned to them. Today, responsible Glass Shop Companies take this task upon themselves. They see to it that any new technician receives adequate training, and spends time observing experienced and qualified technicians, before turning the new techs loose, to do jobs on their own. The question to all of us should be, “How does the Public and or the Insurance Industry know that adequate training has taken place?” In today’s AGR market, Glass Shop Companies spend their CSR’s time or their Outside Sales Rep’s time trying to convince prospective customers that “their installations are safer than their competitors”. Unfortunately, there are many Glass Replacement Companies that are either ignorant of a truly safe and quality installation, or they are outright lying. Licensing, which would include testing and certification, may be one of the ways to accomplish industry wide compliance of correct installation standards.
How long have you worked at Sika, and what do you find most rewarding about your job?
John King: January 1997 is when my career at Sika began, and I must admit it took me a while to have an understanding of how this industry works. However, without a doubt, the most rewarding part of the business is getting to know people. There are always business issues, business problems to solve, and strategies to implement, but at the heartbeat of this industry, is its’ people. For me, there is nothing I like to hear more, than an unsolicited positive comment about how our Sika people are perceived by customers. Whether Distributors or End Users, if our salespeople, or our customer service department are liked and appreciated by customers, that means that more than half the battle is already won. The bottom line, is that most people, want to do business with good people. Therefore, if we can hire honest people with good interpersonal skills, and then adequately train them, and provide our customers with quality products, in the end, our sales people will provide excellent service and support to those customers, which would be ultimately rewarded with an ongoing business relationship.
Sika recently created a great animated cartoon called, “No Shortcut to Safety.” It’s a wonderful tool for glass installers and consumer alike, and describes the process of safe windshield installation without using laymen’s terms that can sometimes feel unfamiliar to people who don’t speak AGRR garble.
John, why did Sika Corporation feel it was important to develop this animation video?
John King: The AGR Industry is a cross section of groups. We have the makers of product, the distributors of products, and the users of products, and those who need those products and services, who are collectively the Consumers, or Fleet Customers, or Insurers. Communicating to a wide array of groups, with a single message, is always a challenge. Our message needed to be part technical, part educational, part logical and if possible, part entertaining. Most groups can understand all 4 parts of the message, if the message is short, and studies indicate, even with very intelligent persons, that 4 minutes is tops, to maintain someone’s attention. We investigated a number of ways to develop and communicate our No Shortcut to Safety message, and when we came across the animated concept, it made sense to use the video’s simplicity. We also found from experts in video communication that presenting a new message with an entertaining format, also maximizes the listeners retention of the subject matter; hence a cartoon format.
What were your goals and target audience for this important message, “No Shortcut to Safety?”
John King: The message was still the key objective, and a message of a Safe and Reliable auto glass installation needed to be created and delivered to the Shop Owner, the Technician, and their Customers. .
How would you like to see this video utilized? In other words, what do you feel is the most effective way to reach out to drivers to educate them about safe windshield installations?
John King: Ideally, it is a combination of utilization of the video. First of all, we know safety is important to most consumers. This video has been shown in glass shop waiting areas to hundreds and hundreds of vehicle owners, and feedback from them has been exactly what we desired. They have told those glass shops that they understand what they are doing for them. Nothing has been more rewarding than reaching the Public with this message of No Shortcut to Safety. Currently, glass shop waiting rooms are still the most common place where the message is shown. However, with smart phones and the internet, we would hope to experiment with some glass shops being able to forward this video, to their customer, once they have scheduled a job. The video then acts as an explanation to that customer as to what they should expect, when the job gets done. This approach could then create a real value added marketing piece for shops to make the whole glass replacement experience, an even better one for their customers.
Thank you for joining us John.
Today I’m talking with Eric Asbery, President of , an undisputed premier provider of innovative for the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the world. The company was founded by Eric’s father in 1987. Ray unexpectedly passed away last September 27th at the age of 67.
Over the years Equalizer has received many awards, including several “Best of Show” awards. Company executives have also received a variety of industry awards including Eric’s being recognized in 2007 by the (NGA) with its prestigious NGA “10 Under 40” award; in 2005, Equalizer Vice President of Sales, Gilbert Gutierrez was awarded the prestigious Len Stolk Award” and Ray was honored by being awarded in 2004 the “Carl Joliff Award” by the , in 1994 the NGA’s “Professional of the Year” and in 1992 Inc. Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award. In fact, Auto Glass Week 2012 will be dedicated to Ray’s legacy.
Equalizer is headquartered in Round Rock, Texas which is about 15 miles north of the Texas state capitol of Austin.
DR: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions Eric. I’m a big fan of Equalizer and I only wished that the tools that your company has developed and brought to the market over the past 25 years would have been available when I first started as an auto glass installer 40 years ago.
Eric Asbery: I hear that very often. As I was growing up, my Dad was transitioning from being an auto glass technician to a manager over several locations. I can remember him always talking about how there were no specific tools that technicians could use and that the taking glass out of automobiles was getting harder.
DR: I know that your father got his start in the AGRR industry with U.S. Auto Glass. How did long did he work for Joe Kellman and what were his responsibilities while at U.S. Auto Glass?
Eric Asbery: Actually, Dad got his start in AGRR as an installer in Louisville, Kentucky in the early 1960’s. He was hired in 1985 by Joe Kellman to manage the Austin, Texas market for U.S. Auto Glass. He worked there until late 1987.
DR: What was the impetus for Ray to start the company and how was he able to envision the tools he developed over the years?
Eric Asbery: Early in 1987, Dad and his technicians encountered the problematic 1986 Ford Taurus. It was a radical new design and the lower part of the windshield was attached by a thick, heavy bead of urethane that was nearly impossible to use conventional tools to remove it without breaking the windshield further. Many technicians were so frustrated by it that they resorted to just breaking it out with a hammer. One Saturday morning, after several of these tough jobs had come through his shop, Dad woke up with the design for the original Equalizer tool in his head. He went to work that Monday with the first Equalizer after building it over the weekend in our garage.
Dad was always inventing. He was a working man that really enjoyed working with his hands. He was always trying to improve upon any working situation he encountered. He listened to those around him, when they encountered a problem with their daily work; he always tried to make their job easier. Whether it was a tool or technique, it was very enjoyable for him to make work more productive for everyone.
DR: Equalizer is known for its products all over the world. How did that happen and what are you planning to maintain and grow that presence, especially beyond North America?
Eric Asbery: In the early days of Equalizer, we received a lot of attention on a worldwide scale. Every trade show we exhibited at or magazine we advertised in, people who did auto glass anywhere in the world were drawn to us because we were producing tools that hadn’t existed before. The timing was right and we knew it. We were fulfilling a need, right when it was needed the most. We simply focused on providing great customer service and the world came to us.
We now have over 100 different distributors worldwide; we are constantly traveling, researching current automotive glass installation trends and training the appropriate people necessary to satisfy the needs of technicians everywhere. As the global economy allows, we are always in search of new areas to market and support our products.
DR: Equalizer has always been known as the dominant company for auto glass replacement tools. Do you plan to do the same for repair?
Eric Asbery: The auto glass repair market is something we have always invested in. There are several great repair systems out there and we have carried several of them over the past several years. If our coverage of this market is consistent, then there is a chance we can become the dominant supplier. However, our primary goal is to ensure that any product we offer gives the auto glass technician the best opportunity to do their job effectively and easily.
DR: Many people are always looking forward to the new Equalizer catalog. In the last several years, you also established a great presence on the internet. Do your customers still like to look through a paper catalog or is there a shift to see the products through electronic media?
Eric Asbery: We have found that even though there is an ever-growing part of the industry that is becoming electronically inclined, most people still like to “flip through pages” of our catalog and that will be the direction we will continue to go until we sense that a major shift to electronic media is on the horizon. We think our catalog will continue to stay in printed form for quite some time but we always alternately develop and make available electronic versions of our promotional or marketing materials.
DR: When did you join Equalizer and what areas of the company were you responsible? How did your responsibilities grow over the years?
Eric Asbery: I have been at Equalizer since day one. My role at Equalizer, until 2005, had been directly related to developing Equalizer’s brand, image and marketing presence. In 2005, Dad (then 61) and I began work on my transitioning to the daily management of Equalizer. We both considered that transition complete in late 2010. Although Dad had never had any definitive plans for retirement, we all figured he’d work at Equalizer into his 80‘s. In retrospect, I am very relieved we had this foresight.
DR: I know that many of the tools that Equalizer has developed over the years have unquestionably helped reduce countless injuries of auto glass technicians. The number of cuts, lacerations, back and neck strains requiring visits to hospital emergency rooms has had to have gone down by those using your tools and products. I know many companies supply auto glass technicians with Equalizer tools just for that reason. Hopefully this question doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, but do you hear from those who buy and use your tool thanking you for how Equalizer tools make it easier for them to do their jobs?
Eric Asbery: It is a very humbling experience to hear from someone who has benefited greatly from something you created for them. We receive feedback from hundreds of technicians each year thanking us for offering these products to them. My favorite memories from over the years have been when a technician has walked up to my Dad or any of us working at a trade show or open house and proceeded to tell a “before and after” story about our one of our tools and how it has greatly impacted their life in a positive way. It is truly the best part of my job.
DR: When new car models come out each year they often have auto glass parts factory-installed in ways that many responsible for replacing those parts feel were designed by diabolical design engineers who seem to try to cause problems. How quickly do you start looking for replacement solutions for those parts that could cause difficulties?
Eric Asbery: We have a network of “Equalizer Inventors” who are mostly auto glass technicians who have worked with us to design or create products over the years that we sell and/or produce for them. These technicians will encounter new design problems during their job on a daily basis and within a very short time they inform us of it. In many cases, they will offer a potential solution based on their experience and that’s what gets the ball rolling to create a product that will simplify the experience.
DR: With the sudden great loss of your company’s leader, mentor, friend and your father, what plans do you have in the future to continue to grow the business and provide the AGRR industry with leading edge and innovative products in your leadership role?
Eric Asbery: Since the beginning of our company, our focus has been to serve the needs of auto glass technicians everywhere. We developed relationships and processes to ensure we have been on the leading edge of technology for this industry. Nothing has changed or will change in this area. This is why Dad founded this company, this is our purpose.
We are always on the lookout for the next big thing, the next viable trend. Be it a tool, a process or just an idea or concept. We will travel, learn, adapt and teach. We will continue to gain from the experience of technicians in the smallest auto glass shop to the biggest national chain. We will always listen, respond and provide the best products available. This is what we do.
Thank you very much for spending the time to answer my questions Eric. You have a great company and I wish you continued great success. You and your team have provided the AGRR industry with amazing products. I know that many join me in anticipation of the next great product that you develop to further improve the installation process as well as the safety of technicians around the world. Thank you for all you and your company do.
It’s my favorite time of year for sports!!
The 2012 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Basketball Tournament known as ‘The Big Dance’ offers 68 Division 1 basketball teams (27 teams are automatic qualifiers for the tournament by winning their individual conference tournaments and an additional 37 teams that are selected by getting the nod of the tournament ‘Selection Committee’ based on the teams “body of work” during the 2011 – 2012 basketball season), along with 4 additional teams that get a chance to play enduring an elimination round at the University of Dayton Arena the opportunity to lift the Championship Trophy and be crowned the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champion. To become the Championship team, they will have to win all 6 games they play in the tournament. The teams that will be playing this year will be announced beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern on CBS television this Sunday, March 11, 2012.
March Madness takes us to and from various arenas around the country ending up in New Orleans from March 30th-April 1st for the Final Four. The teams are ‘seeded’ ranked from 1st to 68th in 4 regional brackets with 16 teams in each bracket (1 plays 16, 2 plays 15, 3 plays 14,…….8 plays 9, I think you get the idea), along with the 4 play-in teams.
It’s a fairly complicated process that pits the best teams in Men’s NCAA Division 1 Basketball against each other in competition for the title of National Champion. If you’re not fully engrossed in March Madness you can follow this link to learn more (2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Principles and Procedures).
‘The Big Dance’ is the culmination of an endurance test that starts in the fall of each year. NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball is composed of 346 teams in 32 conferences plus 4 independent schools all starting the season working to get there’. The chances of reaching the tournament are 1 in 5. Those really don’t sound like bad odds. What makes March Madness a great sports event is the opportunity for an ‘underdog’ to reach the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, The Final Four or even make it to the Championship Game Final.
It happens. In 1983 the North Carolina State (NC State) Wolfpack, coached by the legendary Jimmy Valvano (nicknamed Jimmy V), won what is considered to be one of the best Championship Final Games in the history of the sport on a last second tip-in by Lorenzo Charles after a miss by Derrick Whittenburg beating the favored University of Houston Cougars. NC State’s team was a ‘Cinderella Story’.
Last year the number 11 seed Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rams made it into the Final Four by beating the number 1 seed Kansas in an Elite Eight game. The Butler University Bulldogs, a number 8 seed, made it into the Championship Game (two years in a row – in 2010 they were a number 5 seed) where the team played the number 3 seed University of Connecticut (UConn) Huskies. UConn was the highest seed making it to the Final Four. What happened to all the number 1 and 2 seeds? They were all obviously beaten by lower seeded teams. UConn ended up beating Butler in the Championship Game 53 – 41.
I think that there are similarities between the March Madness process and the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. Perhaps a stretch to compare the two, but it’s my blog so here it goes…..
Imagine if the AGRR industry had a Division 1 Tournament (there are 3 NCAA men’s basketball divisions, but Division 1 is made up of the top colleges). Would the company that you work for be invited to the tournament based on how you rank in the market or markets you serve? If your answer to that question is yes, then what ‘seed’ do you think your company would receive giving you a chance to get to the Championship Game? Does the level of work and the service you provide match up to those you compete with in your markets? Yes? Great! You’re invited to ‘The Big Dance’!!
Another prerequisite for participating in the tournament is one that the NCAA tournament has too. You can only play one team from your company. If you happen to be one of those companies that operate under multiple company names in the same market you can’t expect to get them all into the AGRR tournament as that wouldn’t really be fair, so pick the one that you think can take you all the way to the end and quit trying to manipulate your odds.
Now that you’ve done all that work to make it into the big dance, is your company a highly seeded contender or are you a lowly seeded ‘underdog’? In ‘The Big Dance’ the underdog has a fighting chance. Not a great chance, but look at how the Butler Bulldogs and VCU Rams did in last year’s tournament. It happens.
Oh yeah….I forgot to also mention that the big difference with games played during March Madness versus the regular season is the tournament rule that there is never any home court advantage. Home teams often get more fouls called against the visiting teams by officials who have a tendency to do so to keep the hometown fans off their backs. All games are held on neutral courts so there is no home team advantage. Sadly that rule is suspended in the AGRR tournament to give one team an advantage. Safelite® Auto Glass gets to play all its games on a home court.
When you look at the 4 different brackets of my imaginary AGRR tournament who do you think will be the number 1 seeded company? How will it do versus the number 68 team do you think? Obviously the number 1 seed in the AGRR tourney is Safelite® Auto Glass. One of their star players is a gentleman named Ryan. You see him on television all the time (someone told me that they were going to cut those TV ads way back starting January 2nd…..guess not).
A potential problem for all of you who’ve made it into the AGRR tournament is that Safelite® Auto Glass decided to take the number 1 seed in all four brackets. Remember I mentioned earlier that no company could play under different names, but I didn’t say that there weren’t advantages to being the big guy and they have so many players that they get into all 4 brackets as the number 1 seed. And Safelite® owns most of the basketball courts (markets) and it has cornered the basketball market (insurers, fleets and cash customers, even suppliers) so they get to make most of the rules in the tournament. Now who do you think has better odds to win? The chances for a ‘Cinderella Team’ getting into the Final Four are tough as the odds are Safelite® is going to make it in with all 4 of its teams. You can imagine the odds for my hopeful Cinderella making it into the Championship Game. Sadly non-existent.
It seems to me that it’s a foregone conclusion that Safelite® has achieved the ‘dynasty’ status that the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins achieved from 1964-1975 (except for 1966 when the University of Texas, El Paso – UTEP Miners won and 1974 when the NC State Wolfpack won). The Bruins were coached by the legendary Coach John Wooden. But I’m still holding out hopes that someone, somewhere will be up to the challenge of taking on Safelite®. After all, since that 17-year run where the Bruins won 15 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championships….they’ve only won one Championship Game since and that was in 1995.
One of President Ronald Reagan’s favorite jokes was,
Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist. Trying to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse manure. Yet instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to all fours, and began digging.
“What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked.
“With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”
So I am optimistic that something will happen to level the playing field and give others a fair chance to realize their dreams of winning an AGRR Championship Game.