Glass Shops Begin Lining Up Behind
New AGRSS Standards
by Leslie Shaver
Three years ago, James Bushnell’s auto glass business, Bushnell’s Auto Glass in Arcata, Calif., seemed to be going well. He had 25,000 square feet in garage space and employed both his son and daughter-in-law.
On Call AGRSS Council Keeps Standard Alive
J.C.'s Glass, Phoenix, Ariz.
Robert Birkhauser, Secretary-Treasurer
Auto Glass Specialists, Madison, Wis.
Creative Extruded Products, Tipp City, Ohio
PPG Industries, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Texas Glass & Tinting, Victoria, Texas
AGRR magazine, Stafford, Va.
Dow Automotive/Essex ARG, Dayton, Ohio
Rick Church, Administrator
William Ives, Counsel
Michael Best & Friedrich, Chapel Hill, N.C.
All Glass Minnesota Inc., New Hope, Minn.
ADCO Products Inc., Michigan Center, Mich.
Auto Glass Consultants, Sun Prairie, Wis.
Glass America, Chicago, Ill.
Auto Glass Journal, New York, N.Y.
Auto Glass Engineering, Kansas City, Mo.
Performance Achievement Group, Madison, Wis.
National Automotive Glass Consultants,
Dinol USA Inc., Redmond, Wash.
Serf Associates, Frankfort, Ill.
Diamond Triumph, Columbus, Ohio
Sommer & Maca, Cicero, Ill.
Jolliff Glass,Peoria, Ill.
3M Company, St. Paul, Minn.
Safelite Glass Corp., Columbus, Ohio
Pilkington, Columbus, Ohio
National Auto Glass
Specifications International (NAGS),
San Diego, Calif.
Council for Auto Glass Safety,
Lake Katrine, N.Y.
Cindy Rowe Auto Glass, Harrisburg, Pa.
Binswanger Glass, Memphis, Tenn.
Best Glass, Phoenix, Ariz.
Independent Glass Association,
Autostock International, British Columbia
Sika Corp., Spokane, Wash.
Carlite, Dearborn, Mich.
But gradually, things started to change. Smaller, mobile companies with less overhead began popping up and eating into his business. While some of these competitors can install windshields safely, Bushnell said there are some who do not. But this does not matter to his off-the-street customers and insurance customers, who he said are going to his cheaper-priced competitors. To adjust, Bushnell had to lay off his son and daughter-in-law (leaving only a secretary). He even cut his shop space in half—down to 12,000 square feet. The worst part is these moves do not guarantee he will turn a profit; they only give him a fighting chance to stay in business.
“So many people install glass out of their trucks and don’t follow any standards,” he said. “This area is very competitive and you have a lot of people doing shoddy work. On top of this, a lot of people have drastically lowered their prices to compete. If this keeps going on, I will have to close my doors.”
So when Bushnell, looking for any glimmer of hope, read about something called the Automotive Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS), he was intrigued, thinking signing up could help him save his business.
“I would hope this [AGRSS] could differentiate us,” he said. “I am hoping the insurance companies will give work to the AGRSS shops and customers will recognize it.”
A Need to Be Set Apart
After four years in the making, a registration program for companies following the new AGRSS standard finally became a reality last year. Glass shops began signing up for it in November, and, according to Carl Tompkins, an AGRSS council member and chair of its credentialing committee and Western states area manager and national auto glass replacement manager for Sika Corp. of Madison Heights, Mich., more than 400 shop locations signed up in the program’s first few months. Like Bushnell, a number were drawn to the program because they felt it could set their companies apart from competitors who may not put the necessary care into installations.
“There are certain people who just don’t give a darn,” said Larry Hamilton, owner of Hamilton Radiator and Glass Inc. of Newton, Iowa. “I think AGRSS will set us apart from these companies.”
Eric Wiechart, president of All Service Glass in Lima, Ohio, agreed.
“As we looked for various ways to differentiate ourselves, we felt the need to do something,” he said. “We have to separate ourselves from those people who are not concerned with safety.”
Of course, for customers to understand the difference between companies who are AGRSS-registered and those who are not, they must be educated. The AGRSS committee is planning to do this through a multi-tiered plan, according to Tompkins.
The first part of the plan is informing the insurance industry, corporate accounts and government accounts about AGRSS in 2003 and 2004. Tompkins would like to reach a point where insurance companies only use companies that are registered with AGRSS. So far, he has found insurance companies to be receptive to the standards.
“Those that we have met with have been inquisitive and open to it,” he said.
Then Tompkins would like to take the AGRSS message to the consumer through television spots, newspapers and other media.
“As we build up revenue, we want to take it to the general public,” he said. “We want everybody to know that if they have glass damage they need to go to a shop that follows the standard.”
He envisions a big part of this process will be building a logo that is recognizable to the public.
“It will take time,” he said. “This kind of thing does not happen overnight.”
Before this happens, though, glass shops have to deal with a public that is largely ignorant of auto glass.
“Most of our customers don’t care about AGRSS and have no clue what it means,” said Mark Pinkstaff, owner/president of Autoglass Express Inc. in Belleview, Fla.
To fix this problem, shops can take the advertising reins themselves. Once they become registered for AGRSS, they receive a marketing fulfillment flyer, which gives them access to a web site. On this site, they can order patches, signs, truck decals, cups, hats, shirts, jackets and other items with the AGRSS certification logo. If they want to advertise their AGRSS registration through the media, there will also be black and white line art and advertising scripts available to them.
These materials could be helpful to shop owners like Pinkstaff, who plans to teach his customers about AGRSS and auto glass safety in general.
“We are in the process of advertising AGRSS [registration] and what it means,” he said. “But we have not come up with a good way to put it forth yet.”
Others plan to advertise, but are not rushing into things. Hamilton is sending his installers through more training. Once they complete these courses, he will consider marketing his AGRSS registration alliance.
“We have not sat down and figured out how we will approach this yet,” he said.
With plans to make their registration as conspicuous as possible, shops are also bracing for the obvious questions consumers will have about AGRSS registration when they see a patch on an installer’s arm or a sign on the wall.
“If AGRSS [registration] is advertised, I am sure there will be a lot of questions about what it is,” Bushnell said.
AGRSS Registrants Explain Why and How They Are Using AGRSS
|They’re the best of the best, and they know it. These shops took the plunge and registered with the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS) almost immediately. They will forever become charter registered members, not only because of their time consciousness but because they have taken a stand and said that in their shops, safety will come first.
Here, a few of these shops took the time to explain why safety is so important to them and how AGRSS will change the way they do business.
“As a small, independent glass company, I wanted my customers to know that high quality and safety are important to me. Sometimes, small companies are accused of under cutting and shortcutting to get jobs. By registering with AGRSS, I think we tell clients and competitors that our work is done with our customers’ satisfaction and safety in mind.”
“This is the first (finally) and only standard that has real meaning to what, why and how. What I am trying to say is that we now have a process for everyone to follow for proper auto glass installation. This does not mean everyone will follow it, but if there is ever a question about something not being installed properly, AGRSS will be our measurement. Adding this credential to our industry, as well as to my company, only further lets consumers know one more expectation they should have! The standard is also what Auto Glass Systems has been trying to inform the buying public and industry about for more than 12 years.”
“If you haven’t registered, do so—glass plays a vital role in airbag performance, occupant retention and vehicle strength, so proper glass installations are important “
“I would recommend all shops join. The more shops out there who support AGRSS, the more good competition there is. I would like to see Congress and the insurance industry adopt this as a nationally recognized standard in our otherwise fragmented industry. We are very serious and passionate about auto glass installation and would like to see those out there who don’t have that respect and understanding of the importance of this standard to be legislated out of business.”
“I believe the auto glass replacement industry needs to show our customers we are a professional industry that is willing to do what it takes to move the bar up on installation practices. I also choose to say I am not just in the glass business, but in the safety business. By signing my name to the registration application, I am putting this commitment in writing.”
“As the auto glass industry and insurance industry realized that safe installations are priority number-one, certified installers and auto glass businesses will be required by insurance companies in order to qualify for referrals. Our priority has always been safety first. AGRSS registration is just another way of making our customers aware of our commitment.”
“I chose to become an AGRSS-registered
“We chose to become an AGRSS-registered company because we always achieve any training we can. We undertake it to better ourselves. We try to do that everyday.”
“I would like to see more and more installers become concerned about safety. Right now many in the insurance industry see many glass installers as glass-wielding thugs with no concern other than slamming in as many windshields a day as they can. This perception has been brought on by the industry itself and the ongoing practices of many installers who act exactly that way. Remember 20/20. We need to work as a whole industry to earn the respect of the public and the insurance industry.”
|“To put it simply, with all of the media and focus on glass safety, eventually the public will catch on, and it will come down to those who do comply and those who don’t! I personally would rather be on the positive side of the perception.”
“We became an AGRSS-registered company because we are about the safety of the people we work for and are committed to safe and responsible
“Auto glass companies constantly lament the state of the industry. I hear complaints all the time about the lack of professionalism and how that lack of professionalism translates into a lack of respect and lack of living wages. I look back at the transition of auto mechanics. They have moved from the backyard under a tree being a grease monkey to a position of respect, based on their knowledge of the intricate mechanical systems in an
“AGRSS means customer safety. In addition, AGRSS-registered companies are renowned for the quality of their work. Sierra Vista Glass Inc. is proud to wear that label.”
“Increasing promoting safety standards in the auto glass business will require some marketing toward the consumer,
industry affiliates and insurers. Any form of educational push will require a substantial array of
credible measurements and
“My advice to those who have not yet registered is to review the documents to ensure that you could be in compliance, sign up and develop a program that enables your company to use the designation to your benefit—promoting what you already do—safe windshield replacement.”
“I believe the AGRSS standard will one day become a requirement by the insurance industry and it should be. There is no excuse good enough not to do the job correctly when you are dealing with people’s lives and it is past time for our industry to have regulations in place. I only see good things as a result of the creation of the AGRSS standard and my hat is off to those who brought it to fruition.”
“I chose to become an AGRSS-registered company because I believe in the safety standards when it comes to people’s
“Agreeing to and abiding by the standards will give you an edge over the competition, plus it will give you peace of mind knowing you are doing what the industry demands—a safe installation. These standards also have to be met for the sake of our customers’ safety and to promote safe auto glass installations.”
—Janet Parkhurst, Owner/President, Oakes & Parkhurst Glass,
“Registering with AGRSS was not a decision; it was a responsibility. Any
“I chose to become an AGRSS-registered company to assure all my customers that they will get the job done right the first time and their safety is number-one.”
“We chose to become an AGRSS-registered company to demonstrate our commitment to quality and safety for our customers.”
Many have already coached their installers and customer service representatives on how to field questions about the program. Terry Dennis, co-owner of Auto Glass Masters LLC in Schoolcraft, Mich., has his AGRSS affiliation on display in his shop and plans to include it on his website and in his television advertising.
“We tell people that AGRSS shops adhere to certain installation standards,” he said. “We tell them we won’t gamble. We will always do a replacement in the safest environment.”
As he is doing with his marketing approach, Hamilton is also taking it slow with installers.
“After we go through our classes, we will sit the guys down and tell them what to tell customers,” he said.
Jumping Through Hoops
To get signed up for AGRSS, glass shops can go to the web (www.agrss.com) or call AGRSS administrator Rick Church at 630/942-6597. (In addition, a registration form is enclosed in the magazine on page 36) After doing this, they will get an introduction packet with two copies of the standard—one in full and another that breaks it down piece by piece. Shops must sign the full standard and each individual component.
“This carries the impact of a contract,” Tompkins said. “You have to treat this seriously. You are making a promise.”
The monetary demands for AGRSS registration are rather slight—$125 to apply for the standard and $1 per shop for registration (after the first shop, which is free). But the other demands are a bit heftier. Shops have to agree to do a number of things, including use an OEM system or certified equivalent system, follow manufacturer’s specifications for bonding the glass, follow the minimum driveaway time, advise the customer of the correct driveaway time, avoid using cleaners, lubricants and solvents, have an adhesive lot number traceable to each job, have glass part numbers traceable by DOT number and part number (see sidebar on page 32), correct poorly done jobs and use only the full-cut method for polyurethanes. And, to prove they are following these standards, they still must “maintain documentation to demonstrate compliance with this standard.”
“Before a company signs up, it has to do these things,” Tompkins said. “They have to implement policies, mandates and procedures to follow the eight standards.”
To follow up on this, AGRSS will have a system that Tompkins likes to refer to as “authentication and validation.” It will basically be a way the AGRSS Council can make sure shops are following the standard once they sign up.
“Without this, there is nothing to keep the shop from saying they are following the standard, but not doing it,” he said.
Right now, AGRSS is still figuring out how this process will work. While it will bring an outside organization to monitor shops, it will also rely on shops to monitor themselves. If a shop is out of compliance, the Council will work with them.
“We won’t be sending Geraldo in to do a report on them,” Tompkins said. “We want to work with them to get them back into compliance.”
The shop owners who signed up for AGRSS say they don’t have a problem having their processes monitored. Before Dennis signed up, a number of his colleagues tried to persuade him that AGRSS registration would be too intrusive into his business. However, he was not dissuaded by these arguments.
“If you are doing everything right, you should sign up,” he said. “We did not need our attorney to tell us that. They have to have the right to audit to make sure you are in compliance. That will give AGRSS backbone. I welcome their audit.”
Legal issues played in Hamilton’s decision to register for AGRSS. He thinks that in the event of a lawsuit, a shop would have to be judged on AGRSS whether they signed up or not.
“A good lawyer will find a standard, and even if you don’t go by it, he will hold you to it,” he said.
Most shop owners interviewed for this story say they had to do very little to get into compliance with AGRSS.
For instance, all Pinkstaff had to do was document his part and batch numbers. (see sidebar on page 32.)
“We conform 100 percent,” he said. “We are not worried about being audited.”
Others, like Wiechart, are using AGRSS registration as motivation to ramp up their training program even further.
He is using his primary manufacturers to train installers and customer service representatives.
“The customer service representatives are not National Glass Association (NGA)-certified, yet it is also important for them to know all the issues with safety and quality,” he said. “Their training is focusing on the importance of safety and communicating that to the customer, which is a challenge.”
Tempering the Optimism
Despite their apparent optimism, some owners are still not sure how much AGRSS registration will benefit them. One of these is Bob Hittenberger of Best Glass in Phoenix, who has doubts that the standard will change the ways both insurance customers and off-the-street customers view auto glass. Unfortunately, he thinks the only time consumers will understand auto glass is when there is more media coverage—like the 20/20 and Fox specials in recent years. And, for this to happen, someone will have to get hurt.
Reaping the Benefits
If you haven’t registered with AGRSS, fill out the application on page 36 and send it to AGRSS administrator Rick Church at 800 Roosevelt Road Building C, Suite 20 Glen Ellyn, IL 60137, fax to 630/790-3095, or register online at www.agrss.com. Once your registration is approved, you’ll receive the AGRSS registration packet, which contains a letter from AGRSS explaining that the company has been registered, a certificate with the company name and the year for which it is registered (each shop can receive more than one certificate by paying $1 for each additional location) and a brochure that details all of the AGRSS apparel registered shops can purchase.
“There will not be a lot of awareness to auto glass, until people get hurt and have lawsuits,” he said.
Some shop owners are not convinced the one group of consumers who are most concerned about auto glass—the insurance companies—will take their eyes off of the bottom line long enough to acknowledge the safety commitments of the shops who signed the agreement.
“The insurance industry is price- driven,” Hittenberger said. “Right now, I don’t see AGRSS [registration] changing its mind about how it does business.”
Despite no guarantee of any short-term benefit, he still felt the need to sign up and make himself an example for the auto glass industry.
“In this industry, you spend a couple hundred dollars and you
are installing glass,” Hittenberger said. “There are no licensing requirements and no training. I cannot think of other industries where consumers are put at risk with so little regulation governing the business.”
This low cost of entry has led to low prices, as Bushnell discovered, which can pull customers toward companies that may not follow the best safety standards. By signing up for AGRSS, the shops interviewed for this article think they can lead the charge in showing that installation quality should take precedence over price.
“Anyone can sell a piece of glass, but not everyone can put it in properly,” Wiechart said. “If we are going to become an industry reimbursed on quality, we have to do this. We hope this will push more continuous improvement.”
The road could be long and hard, though, with an entire public to educate and an insurance industry to re-educate. Still, Pinkstaff thinks AGRSS registration will eventually help.
“It will take awhile, but I know it will help,” he said.
Leslie Shaver is a contributing editor for AGRR magazine.
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