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March/April 2002

NAGS Notes  hot topics
HOWARD nags@mitchell.com

Bearing Standards
by Catherine Howard

We all know what standards are. These are the things we can always count on to be the same wherever we go—AA batteries, 35-mm film, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a fifth of Jack Daniels.

The glass industry has its standards, too—new ones like the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards (AGRSS) and ones that have been around for a long time like the National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS®) data. However, my personal favorite these days is the National Glass Association (NGA) barcode standard. It falls somewhere between ANSI and NAGS. It’s been around for about ten years now, but has never really come into its own. This is because it is one of those standards that is not quite standard.

When barcoding was noticed for its efficient handling of goods and for buying, selling and inventory management, it was a very good idea. This is why several interested parties from manufacturing and distribution companies got together under the auspices of the Product Identification Subcommittee (PIDS) under NGA’s auto glass committee. 

It hasn’t been widely applied or accepted for a number of reasons. First, PIDS never figured out what to do with the ever-so-popular “P” part (for Premium or Prestige, depending on who is describing it) indicator. Second, there was little to no involvement by retailers. And third, barcode labels were not (and still are not) placed on each piece of glass.

Of course, there have not been a lot of barcode systems implemented in the field at the retail level during the last ten years, which could explain the second and third points. But it’s sort of the chicken and the egg scenario. The true benefits of a barcode system can’t be realized if there are no labels on each piece of glass. Barcode labels on each piece of glass are useless if you don’t have a barcode system in place.

So what was so great about this concept in the first place? Well, we’ve all been told that in order to survive in these times of diminished profitability, we must do more with less, reduce or eliminate non-productive tasks, and, of course, automate.

People all like to work on billable hours. It’s not much different in a glass shop. Folks would rather put glass in a vehicle (for which they get paid) than receive glass into inventory, check it out, create an invoice or purchase order, bill out, post to accounting, acknowledge payments and balance the books. All of these steps are very necessary to get paid in the first place, but also constitute “non-billable” time.

That’s where automation and electronic commerce is supposed to come in and save the day. The promise has been made that information need only be entered into the system once and it will flow, untouched by human hands, throughout the life of the transaction. Of course, that also assumes it was entered correctly the first time.

Imagine a factory affixing barcode labels that look like “DW00000 GBNTMK” onto the glass as it comes off the line. The distributors scan the barcodes into their inventory systems, which match the numbers to the information in their wholesale databases. Based on the “TMK” part of the code, the distributor’s system will know the manufacturer of the glass. When a retailer calls for a piece of glass from a particular manufacturer, the distributor can easily find it in the system, pick it from inventory and ship it to the retailer. 

When the glass arrives at the retail shop, the retailer then scans in the barcode, which matches the information in the retail database. He then selects it for a specific job, creates an invoice, sends it electronically to the trading partner, passes it into the accounting system and issues a payment to the distributor without manually re-entering part information. No one had to go out with a pad and pencil, worry about transposing numbers or misreading the color or forgetting to write down the manufacturer.
Someday, maybe that will all come to pass. 

Catherine Howard is vice president/general manager of National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS®) of San Diego. NAGS® is a registered trademark of Mitchell International Inc. 

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