Volume 12, Issue 2 - March/April 2010

feature

Fear Factor
Businesses Across the United States Undergo First-Ever AGRSS Third-Party Validation Reviews
by Penny Stacey

When David Cooper, president of Auto Glass Plus in Richmond, Va., learned last fall that his company would be undergoing a third-party validation review by the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards Council Inc. (AGRSS), he wasn’t concerned about his technicians making an installation error or doing something that goes against the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS). But, like others that have undergone the first of the reviews, he did have some apprehension.

“I think even the most confident person is apprehensive about being in the spotlight,” says Cooper, who has been in the industry for more than 20 years.

He also was worried about how it might impact his business.

“My biggest concern was not so much getting an unfavorable review, but not being able to devote enough time to the AGRSS validator and not have that time away negatively impact my clients,” adds Cooper.

But fortunately for Cooper, and others, he discovered that the validation review had minimal impact on his business, and, with preparation, the validation was a mostly seamless process.

Cooper’s nerves also were trumped by the pride he took in what would occur.

“In my 20 years in this industry, I was very impressed to hear that a representative was personally flying to our location to conduct the review,” he says. “This was a sign to me that AGRSS has a vested interest in ensuring our shop (as well as others) is following proper procedures and adhering to the rules and regulations of glass installation.”

Cooper’s company was one of several to undergo the first round of validation reviews as part of the first cluster randomly selected in November 2009. Since then, validations of two clusters of ten shops have been completed. The validation review program, launched last fall, was designed to send independent auditors into randomly selected AGRSS-registered shops to observe a number of items to ensure they are compliant with the AGRSS Standard. Orion Registrar Corp., based in Arvada, Colo., is the company administering the reviews.

Expectations Revealed
Cooper and others found that with preparation, training and communication, there was little unknown about what to expect from the review.

Bruce Hardy, divisional manager for Harmon Glass of Michigan, describes the process as “pretty painless.” His company underwent a validation review this January.

John Cox, director of glass operations for Belle Tire Auto Glass in Royal Oak, Mich., agrees.

“Because of the preparatory work and communication [involved], I knew pretty much exactly what to expect,” he says.

The many seminars and webinars that the AGRSS Council held in preparation for the program also helped, according to Michael Paley, owner of Freedom Glass in Richmond, whose business was the first ever to undergo a validation review.

“For us, the biggest reason the validation was what we expected was because at the AGRSS Conference in November 2009, [the speakers] not only talked about the validation process in detail, but [Glasspro’s] Jeff Olive and [Orion Registrar Corp. representative] Penny Ouelette performed a mock audit,” says Paley.

The seminars actually started the previous year, as preparation for the program got underway—so Paley also had started thinking about it early.

“At the conference in 2008, I began to see the value and potential importance of the validation process for each and every shop performing auto glass replacements,” he says. “However, the year between AGRSS Conferences ‘08 and ‘09, my anxiety built because as an owner I knew the importance of passing the validation but I was not sure I could emphasize it strongly enough to my team members. The last thing I wanted was for our team to tackle this audit haphazardly or lightheartedly, and then have to pay for a follow-up audit.”

Pertinent Preparation
Once businesses learn that they’ll be validated, the amount of preparation work often varies and depends somewhat on how you’ve been conducting business in the past.

Charles Groves, president of Dominion Auto Glass in Richmond, Va., says as long as technicians are already well-trained and versed in the AGRSS Standard, not a lot of additional steps are needed.

“The installers just have to be educated,” he says. “That pretty much all there is to it.”

Groves says he also met with his adhesive manufacturer, a representative from SIKA Corp., who went over some of the details of how the validation review would work.

Though Cooper felt his staff was prepared for the validation, his staff did review various processes once they were notified.

“[The time after our notification] allowed my staff and technicians and I to review the everyday practices of installation, as well as some of the more technical detail-oriented techniques needed for larger, more complicated jobs,” he says.

Hardy took a similar approach.

“Everyone here tries to do everything correctly all the time,” he says. “We had a couple breakfast meetings to make sure everyone was up to speed.”

Cox says that since Belle Tire Auto Glass has trained to the AGRSS Standard since its entrance into the business, little to no preparation work was needed.

“To tell you the truth, there was not a whole lot of additional prep work on our part to get ready for the audit, because we had been doing this since day one,” he says. “We trained to it from the day we opened across our locations. We’ve been following AGRSS to the ‘t.’”

In fact, when Cox learned the company was going to be validated, he was excited about the opportunity.

“We were actually kind of anxious to get someone out to validate that we were doing things right because we thought we were and it turned out that we were correct,” he says.


“I think even the most confident person is apprehensive about being in the spotlight.”
—David Cooper, Auto Glass Plus, Richmond, Va.


Extra Hurdles
Despite optimism on the part of many company owners, such as Cox, often there is another hurdle to cross—that of nervous technicians who are concerned about the basic idea of the validation; having someone watching them closely and asking questions. Cooper said a simple reassurance to his technicians helped them.

“I reminded [my technicians] that they’d been installing glass for years by the book and that the only difference was that they’d have someone asking questions about their work, kind of like a fly on the wall,” he says. “We also all sat down and watched the webinar during lunch one day to help better prepare ourselves with what to expect.”

Though Paley’s technician experienced a similar case of nerves, once the validator arrived on site, he says this feeling subsided quickly.

“My [nervousness] ended about five minutes into the audit process,” says Paley. “[Our technician] didn’t have someone standing over his shoulder as we both feared would happen. I think our technician’s worries were put at ease because of the validator himself, talking with our technician as if to learn rather than talking as if teaching.”

Paley wasn’t alone in his assessment.

“The validator was punctual, thorough and very personable,” agrees Cooper. “Immediately upon meeting the gentleman, my staff and I felt that instead of having to deal with an unpleasant, hard-nosed auditor type, we were going to be interacting with someone who knew what the technicians were expected to know and do, and would simply record what they observed.”

Cooper also points out that the way the validation worked was a bit more informal than he would have expected, though in a positive way.

“In addition to checking items off their list, the validator also would light-heartedly quiz us from time to time during an installation process, to which, I’m proud to say, we gave a correct response,” he says.


After the Validation
Once a validation is complete, if all goes well, a business is left with something exciting to consider: how to promote their success in the validation review to customers. Though most of the validations have occurred too recently for major marketing changes to be implemented, some who’ve passed with flying colors have taken steps to promote this positive to customers.

“It’s something to differentiate yourself from non-compliant shops,” says John Cox, director of Glass Operations for Belle Tire Auto Glass in Royal Oak, Mich.

Cox says the company started promoting its recent validation review and the success it had in its television and radio advertising almost immediately.

“We’ve done press releases, independent letters to insurance companies, and we also have some hand-carry pieces we take to insurance agents,” he says. “ … Most of our clientele are informed, so it was just a good chance to go out there and jump up and down and say ‘we did it!’”

For David Cooper, president of Auto Glass Plus in Richmond, Va., he considers the positive validation the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards Council Inc.’s “stamp of approval,” and plans to use this in the future, though he hasn’t implemented this yet.

“We proudly display our AGRSS approval and will be certain to note our perfect score, as well as our other certifications, in our marketing material,” he says.



Meet the Validators
Cox says the validator that visited his shop also showed a strong sense of professionalism and confidentiality.

“[He was] there to do a job and [he] did the job professionally, the way you would expect them to do it,” Cox says. “They don’t want to talk about or will not talk about any competitors, or validations done elsewhere. What they do is strictly one-on-one and confidential and they keep it to that.”

One criticism of the program, before it began, was that the validators employed by Orion do not have a detailed background in auto glass, though they have undergone basic, classroom training with industry expert Bob Beranek. Hardy says this paid off.

“If you were to ask me if they could do a replacement, I’d say ‘no,’ but if [you asked if] they know the fundamentals of the process we use, I would say ‘yes,’” he says. “They didn’t have any hands-on experience, but the questions they asked were pertinent to what we do.”

The validations varied in time, depending on the number of technicians a shop has, as each one must be observed during a company’s validation. Both Hardy’s and Groves’ company reviews took the better portion of a day.

Scheduling has been a challenge. Because the validator has to observe and interview the work of every single technician, this can change the way a company is used to working.

For example, Paley’s company is all-mobile, and he had to contend with rain on the day the validation review was scheduled.

“Fortunately we were able to coordinate with one of the companies we work with and perform our replacement indoors.”
Hardy had a similar problem; the validator visited his Michigan-based company on a cold January day.

“Everything we do—or probably 90 percent of it—is mobile,” he says. “We’re all over the place, so the hardest part was coordinating, and I’m not sure the validators were entirely comfortable standing outside [during the entire process].”

The Results are In …
Once a validation review is complete, the validator holds a closing meeting with the owner of the business and goes over the results of the validation.

If any items of non-compliance are found, a formal process occurs to give the business a chance to resolve these.

“I had a couple of instances, one where the technician forgot to mark his tube of urethane with the time and date and I had to send back a letter saying what happened, why it happened and how we would prevent it in the future,” says Hardy.

This was the difficult part, he says—the validator required the letter to be written in a certain format of which Hardy was unaware.

“[My first letter] wasn’t [written] to their qualifications,” says Hardy, so he had to re-submit it in the validator’s numbered format.

However, once he submitted it in the required format, nothing further was required.

Groves dealt with a different issue.

“[The validator’s] report showed about five issues on it, and it turned out three of them were things he shouldn’t have cited us on,” he says.

He explains, “One of the things they cited me on was that I didn’t track DOT numbers, but we’re not required to do that … I explained that we don’t record that, and [the] AGRSS [Council] said ‘you’re right.’”

Groves’ technicians also received some negative feedback on items that were designed to be a part of the validation review.

“One of [the citations] was that our installer didn’t know the amount of time for a pinchweld primer, and he said another guy touched the glass on the frit band,” Groves recalls.

Tips for the Future
Though Groves says he disagrees with the validator’s assessment of what he saw, as far as the frit band his concerned, the primer issue offered a learning experience.

“[The technician] knows [primer times] now,” he says.

Groves says after the validation, he received a letter detailing the items for which the company was non-compliant, explaining what section of the AGRSS Standard was violated (see related sidebar below).

Rough Spots
When a business undergoes a validation review by the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards (AGRSS) Council Inc., there’s always a possibility that they might not be found to be compliant with the AGRSS Standard. In those cases, a company has three options:

• to be deemed non-compliant and to no longer be considered AGRSS-Registered;

• to appeal to the AGRSS Validation Review Board, if there is a disagreement about the area in which the business was cited; or

• to propose an auditable remedy and explain to the AGRSS Validation Review Board explaining how the business has remedied those areas in which it was deemed non-compliant.

For the other items, those which the company didn’t feel should have been evaluated, official correspondence was exchanged.

“We had to reply with a letter after they told us we weren’t deficient in those three things, [and] we had to answer them and agree we’re not deficient,” Groves says.

As others prepare for future validations—or the possibility of one—Cooper says he encourages them to review as he did with his technicians.

“I would urge all glass shop managers to compare their technicians’ installation practices to the guidelines set forth in their adhesive manufacturer’s training manual,” he says. “If they’re not one in the same, I would suggest a refresher course be given immediately. Close attention should be paid to the curing times as it applies to temperature and humidity.”

Preparing technicians for the types of questions validators might ask also is a must, Hardy says.

“When the validator is asking questions, make sure who ever being interviewed is actually listening to the questions,” he says. “Sometimes they’re asking for set times on urethanes and sometimes they might be asking hypotheticals. For example, they might ask, ‘what if humidity was such and such?’”

Paley says what he has learned from attending past AGRSS Conferences also is invaluable. He suggests seeking advice from your adhesive manufacturer, too.

“With respect to the adhesive manufacturers, I feel that their involvement in our (or any shop’s) preparedness for the validation is instrumental,” he says. “After all, the primary purpose of AGRSS is to ensure that the windshield is reinstalled so as to protect the occupants in that vehicle. The role of the adhesive manufacturers, and its representatives, in this process cannot be discounted.”

And Cox stresses that all of this is much more important than just preparing for a validation.

“My biggest tip would be that it really should have nothing to do with the audit,” he says. “It should be your way of doing business—your technicians, your way of doing installations, and then the audit is nothing but a blue ribbon that says you do what you say you do.”

Penny Stacey is the editor of AGRR magazine.

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