Volume 9, Issue 5 - October 2007

Under Attack
Repair Industry Deals with Possible Affront
by Penny Stacey

The windshield repair industry suffered what many consider an assault in early August, when the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) issued an alert to its membership that it has learned that the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) is working on a new updated Z26 standard that may require all “modifications” (including repairs and replacements) to original factory-installed glass be marked on the glass so as to catalogue all alterations. 

The updated standard, Z26.1, is being developed through its SAE/ANSI Z26.1 Automotive Safety Glazing Committee. According to sources familiar with the original proposed language, one of the proposals being considered calls for the cataloguing of repairs and replacements, which could be tracked by etching a trademark directly onto the glass surface and could provide information about the type of modification and the person or company that modified the glass. 

What’s the Problem?
While little may be known about the actual standard under consideration (at press time it had not been released for public comment), repair companies fear that, if passed, it could have some serious ramifications for their work.

Paul Syfko, president of the NWRA and president of Glass Medic America in Westergate, Ohio, notes that the process itself could take away from both repair and replacement shops’ already-low margins.

“It would be an additional hardship in an industry where profits keep shrinking,” he says.

And are repair companies as concerned as the NWRA leadership about this possibility? 

“The NWRA membership is either completely outraged at the idea or patiently waiting to see the proposed standard,” Syfko says. “Remember, our business is to mitigate auto glass damages as much as possible. When repair is appropriate, we provide a cost-effective alternative to replacement. To create a rule that forces us to put a mark on the windshield defeats the cosmetic purpose of windshield repair.” 

Ian Graham of Windshield Solutions in Cloverdale, Va., says that from a cosmetic standpoint, most customers would not be in favor of marking repaired windshields either. 

“Some windshields have three to five repairs over their lifetime,” he says. “I don’t know too many people who would want five etchings going across the bottom of their windshields.”

Ken Spero of Chip ‘n Crack WSR in Richmond, Va., says in his time in the industry, this is just another stumbling block he’s seen appear. “There is no surprise in this,” Spero says. 

“It’s same-old, same-old, as it’s always been—it’s been an uphill battle since I’ve been in this business.”

The Proponents
Some proponents of the updated standard believe it will prevent issues with salvage glass being used inappropriately in windshield replacements. 

Similarly, one glass industry source familiar with the committee’s work, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, says that, just as the glass installed into the windshield should be marked as to who manufactured the glass, it only makes sense that repairs and replacements should be noted also. In addition, the source says this would provide more information in the event of an accident involving a windshield as to what had been done to the glass.

“If [the repair community is] going to claim that no one’s ever gone through a repaired windshield, how do you know that?” asks the source. 

Many replacement technicians also can see value in the etching requirement.

Karl Anderson of Anderson’s Auto Glass in Williston, Vt., for example, has lots of experience with marking his work. 

“I have been etching my logo into every windshield I replace,” he says. “I have been [doing so] for the last 10 or so years.”

 He says the advantage to him is that it takes the guesswork out of warranty issues. 

“[I can say] ‘yes, that is my windshield’ or ‘nope, it has been replaced since I did the job’—and it helps to see how the work is standing up in later replacements.” 

Corey Hemperley, operations manager of Windshield Doctor in Pocatello, Idaho, agrees that he also can see benefits to the possible windshield-etching requirement. 

“How many times do you see a leaking or failing windshield and the customer bought it used with no way to find out who performed the service?” he asks. “It is truly terrifying just how at-risk the American driving public is and how little they can actually do about it. Even in an accident the emergency or investigative personnel have little to go on if the windshield retention fails.” 

John Turnbull, who chairs the SAE committee on Automotive Glazing, could not be reached for comment. 

The Future
As for the NWRA, right now its goal is just to get involved in the development of the standard.

“We are actively trying to engage the SAE into a dialogue that will allow us a seat at the table,” Syfko says. “Any repair standard that does not include the repair industry in deliberations prior to its creation has no merit or weight. There are questions to be answered. Why do we need to trademark the repair? Have there been recorded incidents where the originator of a repair needs to be identified? Are these incidents on the rise? Why would you need to know the information of a repair technician?”

He adds that most standards develop from a need—but the association has yet to see the need for this one.

“This standard is asking us to do something that has never been needed,” Syfko says. “Standards exist to create proper universally accepted procedures within an industry to fulfill specific needs. From what we know, this draft standard is not universally accepted or needed.”

The NWRA has a seminar about the possible windshield-etching requirement planned for its annual conference, which will be held November 1 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

“We plan to tell members what we know,” Syfko says. “If this standard is submitted as one draft reads, it could destroy our industry. We look forward to getting members’ input as well.” 

What the NWRA Has Done
Since the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) learned of the possible update to the Z26.1 standard in late August, it has made countless efforts to learn more and protect its members.

The group notified its members as soon as it learned the Standard, currently is monitoring the activities of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for the standard to be submitted for public comment, has hired a consultant to follow the work of the committee and many of its members have tried to gain seats on the committee. The NWRA also contacted Z26.1 committee chair John Turnbull regarding its concerns, along with the ANSI attorney, expressing its concerns with the process by which the standard is being developed. www.nwrassn.org

Penny Stacey is the editor of AGRR magazine/glassBYTEs.com™.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.