Volume 14, Issue 5 - September/October 2012

Feature
Into the Minds of Innovators
Innovation Award Winners Discuss New Approaches to Old Jobs
by Megan Headley

Nobel Prize winner Albert von Szent-Gyorgy once said, “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” Sit back for a moment and think about how many windshields you’ve seen in your lifetime, how many windshield cutting knives you’ve wielded or how many suction cups you’ve set over a chipped piece of glass. When was the last time you considered those tools with fresh eyes or set out to create a new solution to an old problem?

Innovation can be complex—such as creating a tool to do a job that no one thought could be done—or it can be simple—such as finding a new way to find customers and keep them coming back. To start your creative thinking, we set out to talk to recent winners of the AGRR Innovation Award about the products for which they were recognized. The award is presented annually by the Pilkington Clear Advantage Auto Glass Technician Olympics (AGTO) and Windshield Repair Olympic (WRO) judges at the final awards ceremony for the competitions (see page 34 for more on this year’s competitions).

A Quick, Safe Set
Last year, Rick Maciel of Techna Glass in Taylorsville, Utah, took first place in the AGTO. Maciel has four years’ experience in the industry and was named installer of the year for TechnaGlass in 2009. He also was recognized as champion in the company’s 2011 competition.

Perhaps just as rewarding, Maciel was recognized by the AGTO judges with an innovation award for the windshield-setting system he used during the competition. “My thought in creating it was just that there had to be an easier way to install a piece of glass, that’s safer and can achieve a good set,” Maciel says.

As he explains, his design was based on a tool already out on the market that didn’t truly meet his windshield-setting needs. “The primary adaptation to the system was the ability to pivot the tool out of the way, allowing for a more convenient and safer method of setting the windshield,” Maciel says. “I also added the ability to make the tool adjustable on the fly, to allow for better positioning of the glass. He adds his adapted tool works with nearly any type of vehicle.

Since then, Maciel has shared the adapted tool with colleagues and coworkers, but doesn’t expect his tweaks to hit the larger market anytime soon—not until it’s been pushed into more innovative territory, perhaps. As Maciel points out, every tech tends to have a basic set of tools that he sticks with and favors, and changes are slow to come to these simple tools. That doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement—see how you can “repair” your tools before your next replacement!

Innovative Ways to Raise Awareness
Lee Simms, who owns a SuperGlass Windshield Repair franchise in Bedford, Texas, was recognized during the 2010 WRO with an innovation award for utilizing custom floors mats in the vehicle, as well as for providing the customer with breast cancer awareness materials in honor of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Since the event, it’s the awareness materials that have really taken off. “In October we wear pink hats and we give out the pink ribbons to our customers,” Simms says. Given the positive reception the company received for supporting breast cancer awareness, the franchise, company-wide, has begun raising awareness for other worthy causes.

“Our company as a whole is trying to get different colored hats for every month,” Simms says. “The latest one was the ‘No Kid Hungry’ hat … we’re trying to do something every month.”

Talk about a clever way to raise awareness—of this windshield repair company. This innovative company is letting its customers know that by taking their business to SuperGlass, it is helping support a great cause.

Keeping It Clean
Brendan Picard took third place in the 2009 AGTO, with a score of 239 and a time of 1:50. Picard, with Novus Auto Glass in Regina, Saskatchewan, came to the competition after winning the Glass Dealers Association of Saskatchewan qualifying competition two years in a row. But Picard was recognized for more than a speedy replacement; during the AGTO he was also recognized with an innovation award for using a particularly unique dash cover while working on the vehicle.

“It covers the whole dash, and is fully adjustable to fit multiple types of cars,” Picard explains of the tool he created. “It can curve, has weights in it so it doesn’t move and it is made out of a real thick material so it can’t be penetrated.”

Picard adds, “It’s definitely something we have used since. We use it more on high-end cars so the dashes don’t get scratched.”

Showing customers that he goes above and beyond to protect their cars helps bring back plenty of return customers, as well as interest from colleagues. “We’ve been looking into getting it into production, but it’s slow going,” Picard says.

In the meantime it’s a painstaking touch that keeps customers happy.

The Universal Innovation
While the preceding innovations stand out for being one-of-a-kind, some tools are innovative because they allow for equal footing. One of the major innovations in the windshield replacement industry was the introduction of the universal moulding. This product first appeared on the market back in the late 1980s when Peter Gold first introduced what is now referred to as “push-in” or “insert mouldings” and Gold Glass Group of Bohemia, N.Y., was formed. AGRR™ magazine talked with Joseph Gold, today’s president of Gold Glass Group, about the impact of his father’s innovation on the industry.

AGRR: What was the impetus for developing the universal moulding?
JG: We had an auto glass shop for four generations and my father was running our retail auto glass company and was frustrated by the fact that often the mouldings were more expensive than the glass. I think at the time he was looking at a new Audi. So he decided to make a generic moulding that could work on multiple applications. I believe when he first started selling our universal moulding in 1988 they were the first universal mouldings in North America. For a number of years we were the only universal mouldings on the market.

AGRR: What was the original reaction from the industry?
JG: It’s funny, in the beginning the wholesalers wouldn’t touch it. So my father put out ads in magazines and the demand at the retail level was phenomenal. It took off very quickly … He started out with literally two or three part numbers and the demand was phenomenal. He had the product made here in the United States by a local distribution company and it was fantastic.

Today of course our business model is to sell to distributors but back then the distributors really didn’t want to touch the product because it had no sales history …

AGRR: How do you protect an innovation like that from being copied?
JG: Suddenly in the early ’90s there was a lot of competition because everybody saw the potential market for this kind of a product. Bottom line is, I don’t know of many patents on universal mouldings that have really stood the test of time. Really the way to stay ahead of the game, for all of the universal moulding [manufacturers], is to innovate and create new products that attack new parts of the market. Some people are looking at the different demands in harsher environments—very cold or very hot climates, as opposed to more moderate climates—and then of course people are trying to attack different price points. For some people quality is everything and they’re willing to pay for a more expensive universal moulding. For other people it really is just a matter of price and they’re just looking for the least expensive product available.

AGRR: So what’s the next step for GGG?
JG: We’re constantly innovating our product. We actually have four different universal mouldings, to really be able to supply all of the different segments of the market. For example, one of the more popular markets these days is a market that didn’t exist ten years ago, which is the self-adhesive underside moulding. Basically, they came about as a result of the use of pre-applied adhesive system (PAAS) on windshields. Before that, they were all traditional mouldings visible from the outside; when the PAAS windshields started coming out it was a system by which they essentially extruded a profile onto the underside of the windshield. Well, that became a very expensive system and you couldn’t really do it in the aftermarket where people were looking for a less expensive alternative, and that’s where the underside self-adhesive universal mouldings have become very popular. Ten years ago the market for those parts was zero.

AGRR: How did the introduction of universal mouldings impact the auto glass replacement industry?
JG: The way universal mouldings changed the marketplace is that very often a technician would go into the field and, if he needed a moulding that he didn’t have, then he couldn’t do the job. Now even a small shop that normally wouldn’t stock a thousand different mouldings could stock maybe two or three styles of universal moulding. It was a minimal investment, [took up] a minimal amount of space in their retail establishment and it allowed them to complete a lot of jobs that they wouldn’t have been able to do because they didn’t have a moulding readily available. It created a lot of freedom and choice for the end-user …

AGRR: Aside from this product, what do you feel has been a major innovation for the auto glass industries?
JG: One of the big changes today that a lot of people talk about is the wire removal tools. There are a lot of people who really believe that this is the wave of the future to address the issues around the exposed edge glass and very narrow pinchwelds.

Megan Headley is the acting editor for AGRR magazine.


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