On The Job Tips
Q & A with Bob
by Dale Malcolm
Bob Beranek is widely recognized as one of the top trainers in our industry. Last month, he served as a judge for the first Auto Glass Industry Technician Olympics.
DM - How and when did you start in the glass business?
BB - I started in 1973 with Auto Glass Specialists (AGS) in LaCrosse, Wis., as an auto glass installer after leaving the University of Wisconsin—LaCrosse. There was a limited amount of opportunity in LaCrosse at the time, so through a friend’s father I started with AGS. I worked there until 1978 and left the industry to work in retail management. I came back in 1983 to AGS as a regional service manager and became operation development manager in 1985 and continued in that position until I left in 1992.
DM - What are you currently doing?
BB - I am currently president of Automotive Glass Consultants Inc. (AGC), which I started in 1992, and Automotive Glass Experts Corp. (AGE) which I started in 1998. I started AGC because I saw a need for an independent training organization in the auto glass industry, felt I could share my knowledge, and be a clearing house for information for the industry. AGC has become more than a training organization, however. I worked with the NGA and I-CAR to help them develop their respective training materials and curriculum. Through AGC I have become an expert witness. I also contribute as an editor of technical information and a member of industry organizations such as NGA’s certification program and the AGRSS Council. AGE, which is for retail installations, began as a time filler but has become a profit center run by my son Jay.
DM - You mentioned being an expert witness in auto glass related lawsuits. What is the most interesting thing about that you would like to share with readers?
BB - I walk a fine line between showing the flaws in a particular installation and defending good installations. I have learned that how the legal system sees the installation is different from how most technicians see their own work. I am aware of about 6 to 12 lawsuits that come up every year. Most of these are settled out of court with a large payment and then are sealed. These lawsuits are long, expensive and painful for all involved. The realization of a shop owner and/or installer that their negligence has resulted in serious injury of an innocent person is devastating.
DM - What methods do you use to train technicians?
BB - Effective training is a combination of many different styles. Everyone learns differently so training must accommodate all students. The most effective training I found incorporates classroom and hands-on training with a little mentoring after the initial program. Because our industry is an ever changing one, continuing education is a very important part of a technician’s success in his or her career. I also recommend that training come from a number of different venues. It should be both internal and external. Training is learning and guidance.
Learning can come from anywhere but guidance must come from within an organization or company.
DM - In today’s difficult business environment, what is your biggest training challenge?
BB - To be able to do more of it. What concerns me most is that there are not more auto glass shops seeking competent training for their employees. I have heard there are about 16,000 auto glass shops in the U.S. and there are only a handful of training organizations. Where are the technicians learning their trade? Probably from the most experienced technician in the shop. Though this can be cheap and sometimes successful, it can also perpetuate bad habits and incorrect knowledge. I think everyone in the industry must recognize that their trade is an important one for the consumer’s well-being and safety and that proper training is necessary to their success.
DM - In your opinion, what could the industry do better?
BB - The average business owner should work more on the ‘business’ end of the business. This could be accomplished by focusing on a business plan, marketing plan, better communication with employees and emphasizing consumer education on why safety and quality are important to the installation of glass. This moves the focus away from just price. Just look in the yellow pages under glass and see what the bulk of the companies are saying in their ads.
DM - Where do you look for training information and materials?
BB - As far as information goes, the Internet is by far the best source of information. However, my colleagues and contacts in related industries, such as adhesives, glass and tools, are a great resource as well. In the early years of training, Training magazine was my primary source of training techniques and aids. But since the advent of the Internet, it has become my biggest resource.
DM - Where do you see training changing in the next ten years?
BB - Our industry requires that hands-on training be part of any learning program because of tool mastery and the skill sets required to complete an installation. However, the on-line Internet training, pioneered by some universities across the country, will be the future of sharing knowledge.
DM - What changes do expect to see in auto glass in the next ten years?
BB - I believe that glass will become even more of a safety device in the automobile. New technology like heat-strengthened laminated glass and hydrophobic glass will become standard on vehicles. New designs for fuel efficiency will make the vehicle manufacturers design vehicles even more aerodynamically than today, thus putting more responsibility on the glass to support the safety of the occupants. I also believe there will be an increase in glass surfaces to improve visibility and fuel efficiency. As far as cosmetics go, I believe that glass will be color-coordinated to the vehicle’s paint and will have darker tints that will dim at night and intensify during daylight hours.
DM - Do you have any final thoughts?
BB - The advances in tool and adhesive technology along with greater efficiency of installations, increased availability of training and the simplification of vehicle design has lead in many instances to faster and better installations. With simplification of the installation process comes a greater responsibility to follow each step of the procedure and not take shortcuts. It is incumbent on the technician to not only know what to do, but also understand why it is being done so that it is always done correctly. While the AGRSS standard is still relatively new and still unknown to some, it has and will in the future have a positive influence on our industry. I am proud to have been a part of its development.
Dale Malcolm is technical services supervisor with Dow Automotive/Essex ARG in Dayton, Ohio.
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