By Tim Sramcik
The third time proved to be the charm for NACE planners trying to make suitable space for the first-year Auto Glass Expo (AGX). Heavy interest from the glass industry compelled planners to twice increase planned space for the first-year event, growing the AGX pavilion from its original 3200 sq. ft. eventually to 5400 sq. ft. On the heels of this change in size is an evolution in the purpose of the glass show.
Ellen Pipkin, associate show manager of NACE 2006, explains the addition of AGX was brought about largely through the leadership of Equalizer Industries Inc. "A number of glass companies were already exhibiting their products every year at NACE. Equalizer Industries was affiliated with a number of them. Equalizer came to us and proposed the idea of giving the auto glass repair industry its own area," says Pipkin.
"It makes good sense for the two industries to recognize each other. Whether a repairer does his own glass work or sends it out, they still do business and they can learn a lot from each other," Pipkin adds.
Joseph Gold, a co-owner of Bohemia, N.Y.-based Gold Glass Group Corporation echoes Pipkin's assertion that collision and glass repairers should create a tighter bond. He notes, "I think in recent years a lot of us have asked ourselves exactly what business we are in. Many of us think of ourselves as being in the glass business-this is true. As the glass business has expanded to include the automobile repair business, an alignment with NACE makes sense."
Ray Asbery, president of Equalizer Industries Inc. and a key proponent of AGX similarly notes, "Contained within the NACE show, they [glass repairers] can network with other automotive industries that share common ground with the auto glass industry."
So important is the effort to bring the two industries together that both the Independent Glass Association (IGA) and the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) have endorsed the event. On top of that, the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards Council (AGRSS) will be holding its annual meeting during and in conjunction with NACE 2006 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
Dale Malcolm, technical manager of the aftermarket for Dow Automotive, says glass repairers have very practical business reasons to speak with body shops. "This is about product support. We want to make shops more familiar with our products so they can use them properly. When they use them properly, they get the best possible job, which is what we all want," says Malcolm.
Malcom further explains, "This is a buyer-beware business. Whether a shop is doing its own glass work or subcontracting it out, they're still part of the liability loop. They need to know what products are out there and how to use them properly."
"This is also an ideal time for them to reacquaint themselves with AGRSS standards," Malcolm adds.
Debra Levy, publisher of AGRR magazine, also puts safety at the forefront of issues auto glass and body repairers need to address together. "Performing a safe windshield installation concerns us all. We have a lot of common issues to talk about," she says.
Aside from helping building closer ties to the collision repairers, AGX has grown in its own right as a central meeting place for the glass replacement industry. "We have been given an exciting means of helping the auto glass industry have a genuine, well-attended and focused national show again," says Asbury.
Planners for AGX are working to make "exciting" the operative word for the program. Exhibitors hope to heat up interest with an Auto Glass Technician Competition, a three-day program designed to bring together the most talented technician from across the country.
Participants will be judge in 10 different areas: from customer greeting and technician deportment to products used and post-installation procedures. The competition will feature daily heats and be broken up into three rounds, with the final round involving the removal and installation of a backlite. The winning technician will receive a gold medal and the title of "Best Glass Technician in the World".
Judging will be in accordance with the AGRSS Standard with an emphasis on quality over speed. Judges include industry luminaries such as Bob Beranek, owner of Automotive Glass Consultants since 1992 and founder of autoglassuniversity.com; Steve Coyle, manager of two regional shops for Auto Glass Specialists Inc. (AGS); and Gene Nichols, a members of the NGA Auto Glass Certification Committee and Certification Council and Safety, Technical Ed and Fleet Manager for Guardian Automotive Products, Aftermarket.