How Do AGRR Shops Tackle Calibrations?
By Travis Rains
As companies begin to incorporate calibration services into their business models, owners and managers now must decide the best course of action for capitalizing on new modes of income while ensuring customers receive the care they need.
How many locations are in operation? How many technicians are employed at those locations, and what are their levels of experience? How much business do the shops receive, and what are the most popular vehicles they service? These are all questions to consider when contemplating the best way to provide ADAS services. While some companies have workforces and workloads that permit them to train technicians to only perform calibrations, others must split their technicians’ time between replacement
Are You Calibration Capable?
Roger Tulk, president and CEO at GlassMasters Auto Glass in Canada, says his shops were early to the calibration party and have been performing such services for seven years. The company has 10 retail locations, with larger stores performing work on as many as 100 windshields each day.
“We thought we better get on top of this and figure this out; this is not going away,” Tulk says of calibrations. “We decided early on to find a way to start calibrating these cars. It worked out in our favor, and we also thought it was important that we not put people’s lives in jeopardy with un-calibrated cameras. That was a big determining factor as well.”
The approach that made the most sense for Tulk was training an in-house technician on calibration who could then relay that information to others on the shop floor. Now, with the increased prevalence of ADAS technology in vehicles, Glassmasters has bolstered its calibration offerings and trained both experienced technicians, as well as some freshman techs.
“We calibrate every car that comes through the door,” Tulk says. “It’s just keeping up with what’s going on in our industry.”
The company’s approach to calibration depends on a number of factors, most notably the size of the location receiving the work order. While larger GlassMasters operations replace as many as 100 windshields a day, smaller shops may only see 30 jobs each day.
“With 30 windshields a day, they just don’t have enough calibrations to do to keep one technician busy all day long doing calibrations; it’s just not feasible,” Tulk says. “So at our smaller stores, it became necessary for the tech to take it from start to finish.”
On the other hand, those larger stores receive enough calibration business each day to assign some technicians solely to calibrations. Tulk says that means calibration technicians have the chance to get “really good and really efficient” at their craft. For Tulk’s technicians, ADAS calibrations can also be a refreshing break from an endless wave of windshield replacements.
“They find it interesting,” he says. “Doing windshield replacements all day long kind of wears them out and they like the additional challenge. It’s been great for our industry because it’s an extra line on our invoice, so we’ve been able to pay our techs a little bit more because of the calibrations. It’s something additional and they get a little extra out of it. Our techs like doing it.”
Even with a strong workforce of calibrating technicians, Tulk says there remain some jobs that must be outsourced, such as those covering newer vehicle models from Ford and BMW, for example.
“There are lots of new vehicles that come out and it takes the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) a while to develop the software,” Tulk says. “Those cars go back to the dealership for calibration.”
Express Auto Glass LLC in Tucson, Ariz., purchased its first calibration system at the beginning of 2022. As with Tulk, owner Victor Santa Cruz saw that calibrations would play a big part in the industry’s future. Aside from the obvious financial benefits of performing their own calibrations, Santa Cruz says customer considerations also played a role in the shop’s decision to do them.
“I noticed we were doing a lot (of calibrations) and we were using another company to do them,” he says. “It was inconvenient for the customers because they had to go to a different shop. So, that’s the other reason, because I want to be able to handle everything ourselves.”
In fact, Santa Cruz says the new system has already paid for itself.
“It’s very profitable and there’s no tax involved, it’s just labor,” he says. “And it makes customers really happy.”
One reason for those happy customers is that all of the shop’s technicians have some level of calibration training, which, in turn, allows them to answer questions when they arise. That means even technicians who aren’t doing calibrations are still in the loop.
“They were curious at first and kind of nervous, but excited,” Santa Cruz says of his techs. “In training, everything seems really complicated. But it’s actually really easy once you get the hang of it. There were ten to 12 of us at training, and now four of us are equipment-certified, including me.”
Absolute Glass Inc. in Lexington, S.C., takes a similar but slightly different approach, says owner Mary Anne Jones. In business for more than 20 years, and employing some technicians boasting more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Absolute Glass took an all-encompassing route to calibrations.
“We have our auto glass technicians all certified through (equipment manufacturer) Autel, which is the laser machine we use,” Jones says. “We find that this helps so that one person works on the car in case there are issues and not others.”
Two Express Auto Glass technicians only do calibrations. While others leave the shop to perform replacements throughout the day, Santa Cruz says the two calibration techs stay in the shop “all day long.” That means calibration jobs can be scheduled at any time. Marketing director Oscar Garcia says this approach yields more windshield replacements, as those technicians aren’t tied up performing calibrations.
“This helps make everything a little more efficient,” Garcia says.
Santa Cruz recommends shops enter the calibration business, though he adds that such developments come with a significant initial investment. Buying a calibration system may not be right for every shop, be that because of the purchasing cost or a limited number of calibration jobs entering the bay. In those instances, Jacques Navant, technical director for frogitout in California and chair of the Auto Glass Safety Council ADAS Committee, recommends that shops build solid and lasting relationships with nearby businesses that offer calibration.
“The actual machine is expensive and not everybody can buy it,” he says. “But if you can afford it, I would highly recommend it.”
Travis Rains is assistant editor for AGRR magazine.
Connect with him on LinkedIn.
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