First-Ever Auto Glass Technician Olympics Showcases the Industry's Best
The recent first-ever Auto Glass Technician Olympics competition featured 24
installers from all parts of the country in a closely-matched display of skills.
But when the last piece of glass was back in place, Jeff Olive, director of
quality control for GlassPro Inc., took home the trophy as the gold medalist.
The event was held at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The first day of the competition featured three heats of eight technicians each replacing a windshield in a late model car. Then the final four top scorers placed in the final round, replacing the backlite in a Ford Taurus. The rankings of the final four were announced at an awards breakfast the morning after the full day competition.
The grand prize for the event was $5,000 second place was $1,000 and third place was $500.
South Carolina based GlassPro hit the Las Vegas jackpot, placing both its entries in the final four. Placing second was Lynn Lovetinsky, a technician with Auto Glass Center in West Branch, Iowa, and Randy Chadwick, senior auto glass technician with GlassPro, took the number three spot in the competition. Carl Sorrells, Northwest Windshields Inc., Walla Walla, Wash., rounded out the field for the final four. All the competitors received medallions and a gift package for their participation. At the awards breakfast, Mike Boyle said that GlasWeld Systems was presenting Olive with one of the company’s windshield repair systems.
The field of 24 competitors was judged according to the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS) by three long-time industry figures prominent in training: Bob Beranek with Automotive Glass Consultants, Steve Coyle of Performance Achievement Group (PAG) and a current columnist for AGRR magazine, and Gilbert Gutierrez with Equalizer Industries and the Auto Glass Academy.
In the preliminary heats, the competitors replaced a windshield in a late model car.
For the final round, the competitors replaced the backlite in a Ford Taurus. Testing the true mettle to find a champion, this installation of the bonded glass challenged the final four contestants to get the glass out intact and the moulding as well, if possible because otherwise they would have to figure out a way to get a new moulding on the unit.
Many of the competitors said that doing a replacement in front of a crowd was more difficult than what they do on a day-to-day basis. Mike Smart, Tri-State Autoglass, Kingman, Ariz., spoke for many of the competitors when he called the Olympics “very nerve wracking.” Ron Mulvey, Omni Auto Glass, Oshkosh, Wis., called the Olympics “a learning experience.”
Like any first-time event, many people came to “scope” the Olympics out. Neil Haugee, Window Welder, Jerome, Idaho, said, “We thought about entering, but since it was the first one we’re just here to watch.” He explained that it was very interesting to see how differently the contestants worked. “We’ve set up procedures at our company so that all us installers (three) work the same.” He said that the company might have an entry in next year’s Olympics. “This is terrific,” he added.
Janet Aldinger, Glass Plus Inc., Redwood City, Calif., also came to watch and was impressed with what she saw. She said, “This is great. We’ll be back next year and we’ll have someone in the competition.” How will she decide which one? “Seniority and confidence. Those are the keys. Lots of experience and confidence in what he is doing.”
The Auto Glass Technician Olympics was co-sponsored by AGRR magazine and the Independent Glass Association (IGA). Mygrant Glass supplied the glass.
“The Technician Olympics to me epitomized what the IGA is about. It brought awareness of the importance of safe installations and raised the bar for installer skill level, and it took our minds off stopping illegal steering for a few days,” said Dave Zoldowski, president of IGA from Auto One in Brighton, Mich. “The Olympics without question was the most exciting glass-associated event I have had an opportunity to witness. The skill level of the 24 installers was a cross section of the best of the best in this great country of ours.”
“We were very pleased at the success of the first Auto Glass Technician Olympics and it brings me great joy to hear the remarks of others that this event is exactly what the industry needed,” said Debra Levy, AGRR magazine publisher.
Pleasure at the success of the event was echoed by Hayley Steele, events promotions manager. “It was my pleasure to work with such influential members of the industry to bring together such a needed and cutting-edge event … no pun intended,” she said.
Corporate sponsors included Pilkington, Dow Automotive, eDirect Glass, Mainstreet Computers, SIKA Corp., A.N. Designs, Auto Glass Journal, EFTEC, Equalizer Industries, GTS Services, Hertz Corp., Mygrant Glass, Pipe Knife and glassBYTEs.com, the industry’s electronic newsletter.
Next year’s Auto Technician Olympics will be held October 29-30 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel and the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.
Talking to Olympic Gold Medalist Jeff Olive
Fresh from his victory at the first-ever Auto Glass Technician Olympics in Las Vegas, AGRR spoke with Jeff Olive
AGRR: How long have you been installing auto glass?
Jeff Olive: Almost 26 years.
AGRR: How did you get started in the business?
JO: I was raised in Racine, Wis. My uncle managed a glass shop in Houston and told me that if I was interested in learning a trade he would train me. Off to Houston it was shortly after my high school graduation in 1981.
AGRR: What are the best and worst things about the auto glass industry?
JO: When I first started in the business there was not a big selection of auto glass installation tools to choose from, nor was there concern for safe installs [the glass was not considered part of the safety structure]. Certification programs did not exist as they do today. Unfortunately, there was no formal training available then. I have enjoyed being part of the evolution within the industry. Today, there are numerous formal training programs that technicians can take advantage of, and safety is finally a big issue. With the implementation of the AGRSS standard, the industry is headed in the right direction.
AGRR: How challenging was the Olympics competition?
JO: I think everyone at the competition would agree that it was much more challenging than anticipated. We do our jobs daily, but we do not have a crowd of peers watching over our shoulder. It is much easier to perform in the field with customers watching. It is our natural environment.
AGRR: Did you encounter any unexpected obstacles? What were they?
JO: Two things happened that threw me off pace. Ironically they both involved water! I found a battery operated squirt bottle sprayer for lubricating the urethane, which I though was a neat little tool. The trigger malfunctioned, and I could not shut it off once the trigger was engaged. I had to unscrew it from the bottle as it was squirting water all inside the car. Fortunately, I do not think anyone else noticed! The second obstacle was that on completion of the windshield installation I took the time to double check the job and placed my “done” sign on the hood of the car to stop the clock and end the installation. Immediately I realized that I had not performed the water test.
AGRR: Will you defend your championship next year?
JO: Yes, and I am already looking forward to it! There was a lot of great talent this year, so I know next year will be challenging too.
AGRR: What advice do you have for other, less experienced technicians?
JO: Study and learn the AGRSS standards, and become certified and attend any training programs that become available to you. It doesn’t matter how long you have been in the business, there is always something new to learn. And if anyone wants to get in touch with me, they can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: A Web site has also been set up at http://www.agrrmag.com/phpBB2 to answer questions about the AGTO.)
From Soup to Nuts with a Crowd Watching
First-ever Auto Glass Technician Olympics tests the total skills, and mettle, of contestants.
Could you get up on stage, in front of your peers, and interact
with a customer at the highest professional level? Could you then step up to a
car of unknown origin and remove a windshield, document any corrosion you see
and replace the windshield all while following the AGRSS Standard to the letter
and performing the job in less than an hour with a crowd of people watching you?
It may sound easy, but as contestants in the first-ever Auto Glass Technician
Olympics (AGTO) found out, it’s a tall order.
“How in the World …?”
The AGTO in Las Vegas brought together *24 contestants from across the country, and no one knew what to expect.
“My first thought was ‘How in the world? What was [the competition] going to be about? What will we actually be doing?” said Randy Chadwick of Glasspro Inc. in Little River, S.C.
What they were doing at the competition, the first of its kind in the United States, was showing what a skilled technician does, from soup to nuts, in replacing a windshield. The event, co-sponsored by the Independent Glass Association and AGRR magazine, was held following the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards (AGRSS) Conference and each competitor had to prove his proficiency at implementing the Standard. What does that entail? Among other things, ensuring that the primer used for the job is shaken thoroughly for one minute, no less (and yes, contestants were timed to just how long they shook the primer).
The anxiety that many of the contestants felt actually stemmed more from wariness about what they had gotten themselves into, rather than any qualms about the level of competition or their own personal skills.
Competition started Sunday with contestants proving their skills at customer-interaction. Each took to the stage in front of judges and met with “clients” (members of the show staff) to answer questions and explain the procedure of what would happen to the car. The following day, contestants competed, six at a time, over four heats. The layout consisted of a room filled with 24 cars, each with four feet of maneuverable space around it for the competitors to work. Contestants were given one hour and the judges were on the floor the whole time, interacting with competitors and observing that they followed the AGRSS Standard.
“I’m Not Used to People Watching”
“Professional” and “competitor” don’t necessarily go together in the same sentence. A professional baseball player, for example, literally competes for a living, in front of hundreds, thousands—and sometimes hundreds of thousands—of fans. An AGR professional, once he has the job, generally doesn’t have more than one or two people watching his work, if that. And that’s where the AGTO tested the steely resolve of the competitors. Not only were they being judged for their work, but also they had to perform on command, to a specific level with everybody watching.
“I was under a little pressure because I’m not used to 50-60 people watching over my shoulder. It’s like when you’re young and in school and not comfortable getting up in front of everyone to make a speech. That was a little uncomfortable, as normally it’s a one-on-one, but everyone had to go through it,” said Mark McNally of On-Site Windshield in Barre, Vt.
Glasspro President Reflects on Company's Success
“We’re very excited. It’s great to visit
customers and be able to tell them about the [Auto Glass Technician] Olympics
and having two [of our certified technicians] finish so well,” Paul Heinauer,
president of South Carolina-based Glasspro, stated.
How did one company—an independent chain in South Carolina—end up with its only two competitors in the finals of the first-ever Auto Glass Technician Olympics (AGTO)? Partly because of the company’s focus on training, according to its president.
“We have always been known for our customer service and certainly doing a quality job and safety has always been important. But with the changes in the industry, it’s more and more integral that jobs are done right and the first time,” said Heinauer.
Described in a 2002 AGRR magazine article as a “fast-talking Yankee from Pennsylvania,” Heinauer hasn’t slowed down any in the years he’s lived in the South; nor has his commitment to his company wavered. He explained that several times a year, training courses are offered to the company’s technicians and he’s proud to say that the courses are well received. He described a training session that took place last year:
“We had all our technicians come to the Mt. Pleasant location—a central location—and we started at 4 p.m. It went to 8:30 (p.m.). Some of the guys had to drive a fair distance home. It impressed me just how engaged they all were with the process. I was very proud at just how they took it all very seriously and they were all intent on wanting to improve, to do a quality job.”
Doing a quality job all the way around is what got Jeff Olive and Randy Chadwick into the finals.
For the AGTO, competitors had not only to install a windshield to AGRSS standards, but they were also judged on their customer service skills, something else Heinauer stresses in his company.
“Every one of our technicians realizes that our primary goal is that we want to delight the customer. We don’t want to just satisfy them, we want to delight them and I think our folks recognize that the best way we can delight them is by doing a quality, safe installation. We spend a lot of time with our customers. It’s a big part of who we are, but the biggest part of our job is to do it right and safe. Unfortunately, most people see only the customer service end. We want our guys to do that well and have that down, but the number one thing is to have the job done right,” he said.
With seven shops and more than 40 employees, how did Glasspro decide which technicians would represent the company? Luckily for Heinauer, that was the easy part.
“When I first found out [about the competition], I thought ‘what a great opportunity for any organization’ and I felt fairly comfortable that our guys would do pretty well. We talked about it in our company-and there was a lot of energy that this created,” he explained.
At first, the plan was to host a feeder event, but the logistics of holding one were not feasible at the time. So instead, the company went for an easier solution. During a training program where all the technicians were assembled, employees were told that the company wanted to participate in the AGTO and asked who wanted to be considered to represent the company.
“I’m pleased to say that our folks recognized there were, quiet frankly, four guys that we all thought could be champions. We didn’t have to make that decision. The guys themselves decided. We sent two because the other two couldn’t go due to personal reasons,” Heinauer explained. “We knew the competition would be tough, but we had a lot of confidence in Randy and Jeff. And we’re really proud of them, but not surprised.”
So what about next year? You can bet Glasspro will be back. “We’ll definitely be back,” Heinauer said.
Up Close and Personal: The Competitors
Excel Auto Glass
Lake Katrine, N.Y.
Steve, 31, is married to Cristy Bauer and has eight years of experience as an auto glass technician.
Sierra Vista Glass
Sierra Vista, Ariz.
John, 36, has eight years of experience installing auto glass. He has two children, Adella Lynn and John James. In his spare time, he enjoys camping, fishing and watching sporting events.
Cascade Auto Glass
Mick, 29, has four years of experience installing glass. He and his wife Jennifer have two children, Mickey and Wyatt. In his spare time, he enjoys working on older cars and hunting.
Cascade Auto Glass
Justin, 27, has eight years of experience working as a technician. Married to Charity Brooks, he enjoys hunting, fishing and boating.
All County Auto Glass
Great Neck, Ny.
Bob, 46, owner of All County Auto Glass, is a 17-year industry veteran. He and his wife Jennifer have two children, Jack and Jesse.
Little River, S.C.
Randy, 38, has been a technician for 15 years. He and his wife Susi have two children, Andy and Christa. In his free tome, Randy enjoys golf and fishing.
Shane has 19 years of experience in the auto glass industry. Shane and his wife Taresa have three children, Nathan, Blasz and Natasha.
Ian, 25, has six years of experience as an auto glass technician. In his spare time, he enjoys fishing, boating, flying, doing home improvements and RC cars.
Kevin, 24, has six years of experience as an auto glass technician. He enjoys weight lifting, football and golf.
Auto Glass Center
Mark, a 23-year-old technician, has two and a half years experience in the industry. In addition, he is a full-time student, a drummer in a band and an Iowa State Cyclones basketball fan. He has a 2-year-old daughter, Jordyn.
St. George, Utah
Thirty-two-year-old Kent has 15 years of industry experience. He has two children, Cassey and Kolbey and in his spare time enjoys working on cars, sports and etching glass.
Daniel’s Auto Glass
Daniel, 32, is the owner and operator of his shop and has 18 years of experience as an auto glass technician. He and his wife Elizabeth have four children, Nathaniel, Jacob, Destiny and Nicholas. He enjoys car racing and restoring vintage cars.
Fort Myers, Fla.
David, 44, has 20 years of experience as an auto glass technician. He has one son, Bryce, and in his spare time enjoys motorcycles and fishing.
Cindy Rowe Auto Glass
Jason, 35, is senior technician with 17 years of experience. He and his wife Andrea have two children, Cole and Cayden. In his spare time he enjoys golfing.
Auto Glass Center
West Branch, Iowa
Lynn is a technician with 13 years of experience. In addition to spending time with his family (wife Tonya and children Collin and Kaitlyn) he enjoys gun collecting and reloading.
With 21 years of experience in the industry, Mark, 42, is the lead technician for his company. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Marsh Allen, and his two children, Skylar and Autumn.
Omni Auto Glass
Ronald, 34, has more than 13 years of experience in the industry and is a certified master installer, a member of AGRSS, a Sika trainer, and is certified to complete windshield repairs by Glass Medic. He and his wife Crystal have a daughter, Karisa. Off the job, he enjoys the outdoors, especially hunting, fishing and camping.
Jeff, who serves as director of quality control and a master technician, has a certification from Performance Achievement Group, Automotive Glass Consultants and Dow Automotive/Essex ARG. He and his wife Maehing have three children, Matthew, Leigh Anne and Lauren, and they are currently expecting another one this month.
Sierra Vista Glass Inc.
Sierra Vista, Ariz.
In his four years of experience as an auto glass technician, Marco, 28, has earned numerous certifications, including with Sika. He and his wife Aracely have two children, Marco Atzel and Mia, with whom he enjoys playing soccer in his free time.
Port Hadlock, Wash.
Tom, 25, has six years of experience and is the lead tech for his company. He and his wife Amanda have two children, Becky and Austin. In his spare time, he enjoys shooting and hunting.
Mike is the 33-year-old operations manager for Tri-State Autoglass. He and his wife Marilynn have three children, Aaron, Haley and Breanna. He enjoys
fishing, hunting and NASCAR racing.
Northwest Windshields Inc.
Walla Walla, Wash.
Carl, 28, is a certified master technician with 12 years of experience. He was happy to have th support of his wife Andrea as he competed in the Olympics.
Cascade Auto Glass
Eric, 30, has five years of experience in the auto glass industry. He and his wife Janessa have a son, Garrett. He enjoys coaching football and following racing legends in his free time.
Hockley Auto Glass Services
Rick, 40, is the manager of Hockley Auto Glass and has 10 years of experience as an auto glass technician. He and his wife Grace have two children, Valerie and Nicole. He enjoys kick boxing, hot rods, motorcycles and fishing.
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