January/April 2001

    Breaking News

Huffer Says Reports of Harmon Auto Glass Closings are Exaggerated

The chairman of Apogee Enterprises Inc. says reports of the sale of certain of its Harmon Autoglass locations have been greatly exaggerated and that its auto glass division is on a road to strong recovery and increased profitability.

In an exclusive interview recently, Russ Huffer, chairperson, president and chief executive officer of Apogee Enterprises Inc. of Minneapolis told AGRR magazine that though its Harmon Autoglass division is looking at a lot of options for locations it considers as under-performing, the wide scale sale of such locations is not likely. “There are a lot of options we are looking at,” said Huffer. “And it’s not that some fine-tuning won’t take place ... We closed 26 stores last year and there may be a few more. But I’d say the bulk of that is done. I would not expect a significant replay of last year.”

In response to reports that store managers in certain locations are being offered the opportunity to purchase such locations, Huffer said that this was not the real story of what was happening at Apogee. “The real story is that we are a new company and a different company,” he said, citing the recent sale of Harmon’s call center operation, and its third party insurance administration company VIS’N Service Corp. and the formation of PPG Auto Glass LLC, an auto glass distribution venture owned jointly by Apogee and PPG Industries of Pittsburgh. “These changes will allow us to focus on our retail organization and our streamlined operation. We are positioned to be a viable company in the future. To focus on what might happen to a few shops is missing the point,” he said.

“We are very excited about moving our call center functions to APAC and partnering with them,” he said. “APAC is a world-class operation and they can do what we did plus more, more efficiently. “They can offer us 24-hour scheduling and other services we didn’t have before,” added Mary Ann Jackson, the company’s director of corporate communications.

The auto glass business “is a very tough business,” Huffer allowed, when asked if the moves made recently will help reverse the margin compression effecting the industry. “All our moves have helped with that,” he said. “We expect Harmon Autoglass to become a significant cash contributor to the company in the future. If you listened to our recent conference call, you know that we have made significant reduction to debt and that we continue to reduce it. We are making strong progress. We are on track to meet our goals,” he said.

Huffer said he was aware of the deep disappointment among many customers over Apogee’s decision to stop selling Viracon auto glass in the wake of the formation of PPG Auto Glass LLC. “It was an extremely difficult decision to make,” he said. “But I did what was best for Apogee. Did we take things away from people? Yes. But it was the right thing for our company to do. We tried to work with our customers to move them over to PPG, but that didn’t always happen.” 

“It was a very tough decision, but I had to make it. I saw an excess of capacity which, in combination with PPG, we were able to handle and it [PPG LLC] changed our cost structure dramatically. I am glad to be a part of it,” he continued.

Huffer was also asked about the short tenure of Barbara Fitzgerald as head of Harmon Autoglass and her sudden move to Petsmart late last year. “Barbara came to us from Sears. The chief executive officer of Petsmart had been a colleague of hers for years. We had both been in competition for her services when she first came to Apogee. Since that time, Petsmart fell on tough times, even harder times .... He [the CEO] just came back and bought her. They were kind and reimbursed us for some relocation expenses and the like.” Apogee announced the appointment of Robert Munzenrider as president of Harmon Autoglass in September.

“We are very excited to accomplish what we have so far. We can be successful and take care of our constituencies. We have put our business in the position to be very successful and be a great place to work,” he added.

Huffer discounted recent criticism of Harmon Autoglass for not capitalizing on the Safelite bankruptcy and reorganization in much the way that LYNX Services by PPG did. “We are still number two,” he said. “We are focused on profitability, profit and cash flow, not market share ... We are doing a lot of good things. I am not too worried about the competition.”

AGRSS Committee Meets in Phoenix; Elects New Chairperson

The Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards Committee elected a committee chairperson at its last meeting, held December 14 in Phoenix. The group chose Cindy Minon of JC’s Glass in Phoenix. Henri Goudsmit, AGRSS committee member and division manager of AEGIS® Tools and the Performance Achievement Group LLC in Madison, Wis., said he is looking forward to Minon taking charge of the committee, which was formed to create standards of safety for the industry.

“I’m very happy about [her election]. Cindy owns an independent glass shop and has in-depth knowledge of the industry,” Goudsmit said. “She’s very qualified and she gets things done.”

In addition, now the committee hopes to move on to its purpose with full force.
“With Cindy at the helm, we can spend the entire meetings working on the standard,” said Goudsmit.

The group also gained several new members, including Donald Day, George Florentine, Roy Jacoby, Scott Owens and Heather Settler. Its next meeting will be held on March 17 in Miami.


CRL Acquires Jackson Manufacturing

Los Angeles-based C.R. Laurence Co. Inc. has purchased the U.S. assets of Jackson Manufacturing of Elkhart, Ind., a manufacturer of a manual and power sliding rear truck windows, automotive sunroofs and custom windows.

“This purchase broadens our market penetration in the automotive aftermarket,” said Donald E. Friese, president and chief executive officer of CRL. “Last year, we purchased Jackson’s Canadian distribution business, located in Mississauga, Ontario. Now, we have purchased the company’s U.S. assets.”

He continued, “This consolidation of the industry allows aftermarket customers to receive the highest quality truck sliders, sunroofs and custom windows. It also enables CRL to increase penetration in the automotive custom window market, including limousines, vans, tractors and other unique specialty vehicles.”

Jackson’s products will be distributed from all of CRL’s 15 branch locations in the United States and Canada. A transition team will work from CRL’s corporate headquarters with Jackson’s current customers to see that the transition of the company’s ownership runs smoothly.

Jackson’s former owners, Mr. and Mrs. Willard Jackson, plan to return to their native home of North Carolina, where they will pursue other ventures outside of the manufacturing and distribution arena, according to a spokesperson for CRL.

AP Technoglass Opens Alabama Plant to Accommodate Honda
AP Technoglass Inc., which is headquartered in Florence, Ala., is opening a new manufacturing plant in Alabaster, Ala., to accommodate Honda’s new plant in Lincoln, Ala. Honda plans to manufacture its 2001 Odyssey mini-vans at the new plant, for which AP Technoglass will supply the glass.

According to Dale Crowe, manager of human resources at the company’s Elizabethtown, Ky., plant, the new Alabama facility will cover approximately 50,000-square-feet and will employ 30 to 100 workers.

“We’re looking forward to being there and assisting with the project Honda has going on there,” Crowe added.

AP Technoglass will soon have five plants, including the Alabaster location and others in Kentucky, Ohio, Mexico and Tennessee.

Boyd Autobody Certifies for ISO Multi-Site Registration

Boyd Autobody & Glass Inc. of Winnipeg, Canada, has been granted the International Standards Organization (ISO) Multi-Site Registration for its 37 company-owned Canadian locations. Deloitte & Touche Quality Registrar Inc. conducted the study that led to the certification to confirm Boyd’s effectiveness in quality repairs, employee training, customer satisfaction and continuous improvement. 

“Boyd’s commitment to continuous improvement through its quality system is impressively evidenced by solid implementation and enthusiastic participation of both production and management staff within the organization,” said David Uhrich, auditor for Deloitte & Touche Quality Registrar Inc.

Companies Unite to Launch Online Portal for OEM Parts

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG and Bell & Howell Inc. have united to launch a website, http://www.oeconnection.com, which they say will supply OEM parts to dealers and collision repair shops in the United States through an online portal. Included in these OEM parts would be sidelites, but not backlites or windshields, according to Jeff Leestma, senior manager of e-business communications at DaimlerChrysler. The companies hope to expand the online portal throughout the world eventually. 

“This will radically improve how information flows, and will streamline the process and reduce costs,” said John F. Smith, General Motors Corp.’s general manager of GM Service Parts Operations.

The company has not yet decided how it will charge customers, but it has considered both subscription fees and fees per transaction. Each of the four launching companies owns 25 percent of the new business, which is based in Richfield, Ohio.

PPG Industries Expands Services on Web, in Seattle and Brazil

Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries has been busy lately, as it has increased the power of its website, sponsored training for a plant in Mexico and has gained a new contract from Seattle’s Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

The company has named its former vice president of architectural coatings, Maurice Peconi, to the role of vice president of e-commerce. Peconi will report directly to board chairman and chief executive officer Raymond LeBoeuf in his new position and his goal will be to create a specific e-commerce strategy for PPG as the Internet becomes more and more prevalent in the manufacturing arena.

“Our main objective will be to strike a balance between focusing on the various objectives of the individual business and looking for ways to create synergies throughout the corporation,” Peconi said. He added that this might include common software, programming resources and infrastructure investments.

In addition, PPG has taken on the role of technical and training advisor for a $10 million expansion at the Crustal Laminado o Templado S.A. de C.V (CITSA) automotive glass fabricating plant in Tepeji del Rio, Mexico, 30 miles north of Mexico City.

“PPG is a global automotive glass leader, and we are fortunate to be able to capitalize on PPG’s technological expertise,” said Isidro Villaseñor Navarro, CITSA general manager. “This expansion will facilitate our ability to meet customer requirements, including new business to supply parts for the 2001 Ram pickup truck being assembled by Chrysler de Mexico in Saltillo and Lago Alberto.”

According to information provided by PPG, the expansion includes additions of tempering equipment that will allow CITSA to produce side- and backlites, as well as windshield production equipment, using PPG technology to supply more complicated original-equipment parts. 

According to Ernest A. Hahn, PPG vice president, automotive, the expansion of the facility’s capabilities will also allow CITSA to provide full-car sets of windows and continue to meet the Mexican automotive industry’s growing demand for laminated and tempered automotive glass. “Since PPG acquired its initial interest in CITSA in 1997, we have steadily increased capabilities for supplying domestically produced parts for auto-makers’ assembly plants in Mexico,” Hahn said. “When the new, advanced equipment comes on-line in early 2001, CITSA will be able to supply pressed windshields with complex shapes as well as tempered side and back windows.”

In other news at the company, PPG’s division of aerospace transparencies has been awarded a contract by Seattle’s Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group to supply its aircraft cockpit windows and landing light lens assemblies until the year 2005. Under this contract PPG will serve as Boeing’s sole source of original-equipment (OE) transparencies and will supply replacement parts to Boeing for its airplanes.

“A long-term contract affords PPG the opportunity to invest in equipment and product development that can help achieve cost savings in the long term,” said David France, global sales and marketing manager. “As an example, the number-three glass-laminate window for the Next-Generation 737 is being redesigned to improve heating and moisture ingress protection.”

Specifically, PPG will produce OE cockpit windows and spares for the Boeing 777, 767, 757, and Next-Generation 737 airplanes, along with the OE light lens assemblies for the Boeing 757, 767, 777 and the Next-Generation 737 airplanes.
The windows and landing light assemblies will be constructed in Huntsville, Ala., where the division is based, in the same plant as the company constructs some of its automotive windshields.


Safelite’s Enfield Plant Makes Strides

Columbus, Ohio-based Safelite Autoglass Corp.’s manufacturing plant in Enfield, N.C., has been awarded ISO-9002 certification, according to a press release issued by the company. 

The company has been attempting to obtain ISO certification for the facility for 18 months, after a third-party ISO registrar, Det Norske Veritas Certification Inc. reviewed Safelite’s manufacturing system and recommended the Enfield plant for certification. The company’s Wichita, Kan., facility was certified in 1995.

“We are very proud of the hard work put forth by our Enfield manufacturing team,” said Doug Maehl, senior vice president of manufacturing. “This ISO-9002 certification is additional proof of the quality of our manufacturing process and the quality of Safelite windshields.”

In addition to these recognitions and certifications, the Better Business Bureau has certified Safelite Autoglass for online reliability, according to a press release issued by the latter company. Safelite says that to certify for this recognition, it had to maintain a satisfactory complaint-handling record, provide the Better Business Bureau with certain information about its business and its ownership, agree to follow the Bureau’s standards for truthful advertising and respond promptly and fairly to all consumer complaints. As recognition of its standing, the company now features the Better Business Bureau’s Online Reliability logo on its website, which also includes information on windshield installation safety, money-saving windshield repair services and filing an auto glass insurance claim.

“The Better Business Bureau seal is the American consumer’s guarantee of quality … whether on Main Street or the information superhighway,” said John Barlow, president and chief executive officer for Safelite. “Safelite is pleased to have earned the right to display the [Better Business Bureau] seal and offer consumers the quality and reliability they deserve.”

In other news at Safelite, the company says it has submitted its windshields for testing to a laboratory approved by Automotive Manufacturer’s Equipment Compliance Agency Inc. for comparison to products made by OEM manufacturers. The laboratory ran tests to determine the products’ compliance to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for adhesion, clarity, impact, penetration and stress resistance. According to Safelite, its windshields performed as well or better than the samples from OEM manufacturers in each case tested.

ABRA Expands in Minnesota
Minneapolis-based ABRA Auto Body & Glass has expanded its East Bloomington, Minn., facility to a total of approximately 22,750-square-feet. Equipped with computerized equipment, three estimators, eight body technicians, two parts managers and four detailers and preppers, the company expects the facility to serve as a great asset to the company. The expanded facility replaces the company’s recently-closed Richfield location.

“When we found out that we would need to close our Richfield facility due to the city’s land acquisition, we concentrated on the most important issue to us: how to continue to conveniently serve our insurance partners and customers within the geographic area,” said Tim Adelmann, chief operating officer. “When the opportunity presented itself for us to significantly expand our East Bloomington location, which is only several miles from our Richfield shop, we decided this was the optimal solution.”

Adelmann added that although the company suffered a loss in the closing of its Richfield location, he thinks the expansion in East Bloomington will benefit ABRA in the long run.

“We have doubled our production capacity, increased or detailing area, and arranged for Enterprise to have an on-site rental car operation. Our customers will benefit from this increased volume capacity along with our state-of-the-art technology and continued excellence in customer service,” he said.

Safelite Makes Use of Mastercard International Program

Safelite Glass Corp. of Columbus, Ohio, is utilizing an enhanced program from MasterCard International in order to keep track of data from its customers. The company is part of MasterCard’s Corporate Purchasing and Fleet Card Level I program, which helps the company to keep track of purchase details that can help companies manage their resources effectively while also easing the payment process for all involved.

“By providing higher levels of transaction reporting, MasterCard helps auto-related retailers enhance customer relationships and win new business,” said Fred Gore, senior vice president of North American Acceptance, a division of MasterCard International. “In addition, retailers that accept the MasterCard Corporate Purchasing and Fleet Cards may improve cash flow and attain preferred-vendor status with their clients.”

Safelite could upgrade its system to provide Level II data by the end of 2001. Under Level I, a standard credit card purchase transaction, information such as supplier name, total purchase amount, date and merchant category code is available. With Level II capabilities, additional information about each purchase is added, including sales tax amount and customer codes. Those who upgrade to the highest level, Level III, have access to a full line-item detail that includes quantities, product codes and descriptions, freight amount and duty amount.

Woman Killed, Baby Delivered, After Flying Through Windshield 
Just days before Christmas, a pregnant Massachusetts woman was killed when the Volvo tractor trailer in which she was riding swerved, throwing her through its windshield. In a near-miracle, though, her baby lived, when the woman was split exactly in half, delivering her son in the process, still attached to his umbilical cord. The woman, Olga Maria Nunes Bera-Cruz, was riding with her fiancé, Boaventura Furtado, through Louisville, Ky., in his tractor trailer when the accident occurred. Furtado, who is self-employed as a truck driver, was left unharmed by the accident.

Volvo trucks are equipped with Guardian laminated safety glass windshields. According to an article in Louisville’s Courier-Journal, the truck jacknifed on U.S. 127, possibly after hitting a patch of ice. The woman, eight months pregnant, was thrown through the windshield and then caught and dragged under the truck, until she was thrown against a sign. Paramedics found the baby still attached to his mother and remaining very quiet; Charles Shepherd, a paramedic, told the Courier-Journal that once he touched the baby’s umbilical cord, he started to cry. His temperature had dropped to 80 degrees and he endured one scratch on his knee, but otherwise appeared to be fine and was released from the hospital 11 days later. 

Missouri Man’s Windshield and Roof Crushed by Ice
A man in Wappapello, Mo., had an unusual need for a windshield replacement recently. The man, Andy Burnett, was driving his 1999 Ford Contour to work on a two-lane road when a massive 500-pound chunk of ice fell from a passing van, crushing both his roof and windshield. According to an Associated Press report, the van stopped briefly but did not check on Burnett. The ice knocked his rearview mirror into the backseat and the front edge of the roof was crushed approximately 6-inches from his head. 



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