By Rebecca J. Barnabi
In 1903, French chemist Edouard Benedictus accidentally knocked over a glass flask in his laboratory. Of course, the flask fell on the ground and broke, but Benedictus’s scientific eyes noticed the glass did not shatter into pieces. It maintained its general form.
Benedictus did not initially realize that the cellulose nitrate coating the flask prevented it from shattering and that he had invented a rudimentary type of safety glass.
Although windshields were on automobiles as early as 1904, safety glass was not installed until Ford’s Model A in 1930. During World War II, more advances in technology were made and curved glass used in airplanes later was added to automobiles. By the 1950s, curved aerodynamic glass was a regular part of vehicles. More automobiles on roads meant more accidents, so the 1960s and 1970s brought public concern about auto safety and the founding of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Today’s vehicles have windshields larger than Ford’s Model A for increased visibility, and they are equipped with cameras for advanced driver assistance systems. As the windshield evolves, so do the tools used by technicians to repair and replace windshields.
Technology on the Road
“I’m a tech guy. As soon as it comes out, I get it,” says Barry Lintner, owner of Lloyd’s Glass & Correct Calibration Services in Pensacola. Lintner began installing windshields in 1971 when auto glass technicians had to make customer calls on payphones, and later used fax machines and carried beepers. “I love all this stuff,” he says.
A few years ago, he made sure his company’s technicians had iPads to handle customer paperwork. Paper “paperwork” was no longer necessary. “Our technicians all have their documentation [on iPads]. That’s all done electronically in the field,” Lintner says. Digital paperwork also keeps customers informed of when a technician will arrive to perform work on their vehicle.
“There’s definitely a reason to have [GPS and cameras] for the safety and protection of the company,” says Lintner. Ten years ago, he ensured all company vehicles were equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS), but they do not yet have cameras. GPS in vehicles is in accordance with company policy. This allows technicians to drive their company vehicles home, but, per insurance requirements, they must not drive the vehicle after
work hours. GPS also enables the company to keep track of technicians’ time at work in the field. However, if an emergency arises, technicians do have permission to use the company vehicle if they let the company know first. GPS tracking can also help fi nd the vehicle if it is stolen.
When GPS tracking in company-owned vehicles became available, Lintner immediately saw the benefit. The company also receives notifications via GPS if a technician drives over 80 mph in the vehicle. “There are a lot of reasons that GPS, cameras [are] very useful to protect the company, to protect the employee.” Before GPS tracking, Lintner says some technicians working for his company were putting more mileage on company vehicles during the weekends than during the workweek. That doesn’t happen anymore.
“It was a product line that the industry kept asking us to make,” says Mark Imbrock, vice president and co-owner of EDTM based in Toledo, Ohio, of the company’s tint meter introduced 10 years ago. He says both meters, the TC1800 and the TC2800, slide over auto glass, and quickly display the light transmittance of the glass and the legal VLT limits in the state.
Law enforcement agencies also use tint meters. “That’s actually our biggest audience, rather than the technicians themselves,” Imbrock says.
EDTM also introduced the TC3800 with a two-piece design for checking tint only in backlites when some state laws began requiring a check of light transmission in auto glass as part of the state inspection process.
Nearly five years ago, New York State made light transmittance part of the state inspection requirement. EDTM had only a few weeks to manufacture tint meters for shops across the state, says Imbrock. France has made tint a requirement for vehicle inspections, as well as Korea, which chose the TC3800. “We were the only one allowed in the country for testing tint in car windows,” he says.
Before the tint meter, Imbrock says technicians looked at manufacturer specifications or guessed at the light transmission percentage in auto glass. “Without having a tint meter, you don’t really know what the light transmission is,” Imbrock says. The higher the percentage, the lighter the tint. Even clear glass in automobiles is tinted 90 to 92% from the manufacturer, he says.
“It’s a must to have some form of remote diagnostics,” Eric Newell, executive vice president of business development for AirPro Diagnostics, says of technology in tools enabling auto glass technicians to do their jobs. The technology interprets the data for the technician and provides a diagnostic trouble code if something is wrong.
Auto glass technicians traditionally have not done diagnostics. “If you can plug into a toaster, you can do diagnostics and calibration [with technology-enhanced tools],” Newell says. Newell has been in diagnostics for six years but was previously in the collision/repair industry for 20 years.
“I think that technology has definitely been in a position to help and improve technicians’ jobs,” says Eric Asbery, CEO of Equalizer. Asbery founded Equalizer 34 years ago with his father when his father invented one of the first power tools in the auto industry. In the 1990s, he saw first-hand how power tools changed the industry even though there was a reluctance by some technicians to change. “Anything that’s powered in any electrical form is something that made a positive impact,” he says.
While the tools made a technician’s job more efficient, accurate, and quicker, they also “made a seismic shift forward” in the industry regarding how technicians did their jobs. Previously, everything, including windshields installation and removal, was completed manually.
The power tools would make the technicians’ jobs easier and faster and require less physical effort, but Asbery says even after he demonstrated the tools, he still saw reluctance. “Eventually, they adapted to it,” he says. They may not have used the tools every day in their shops, but the tools were an option.
Job performance is the goal for the partnership between Magid and MISSION. It provides cooling personal protective equipment for workers made from pioneer fabrics that enable technicians to get their job done safely while also being comfortable. “Heat stress is
becoming a really big issue,” says Adrianna Carrera, Magid’s product management specialist. All cooling products are chemical-free.
Heat-related illnesses “are directly affected by airflow,” Carrera says. When the human body sweats, the moisture needs to evaporate in the air to “create a cooling effect” on the body like when you get out of the swimming pool and feel a chill, because moisture is evaporating from your body. “If airflow is limited, you have a limited ability to
evaporate,” she says.
Magid’s cooling product range all can remove moisture from the skin and “help your body to evaporate naturally.” Carrera says that certain textiles remove moisture and enhance the evaporation process in what’s called “moisture-wicking,” but her company’s technology is much more advanced than the wicking ability of athletic clothing.
AirPro Diagnostics’ AirPro Device has software installed on devices that technicians can use while working on a vehicle. “It allows glass techs or any tech in any segment who has little or no knowledge to plug into our systems,” Newell says.
Licenses according to make and model are uploaded into the device, making the tool equivalent to a dealership checking live data on a vehicle, including system functionality and calibration. “The AirPro Device is just a vehicle in which we deliver the service,” Newell says.
The device requires regular software updates for which technicians do not have to pay. “You have to maintain the latest software on the tools,” according to Newell.
Asbery has seen the hesitancy to adapt to technology again with the introduction of ADAS and Internet-connected tools in the industry. “I see reluctance. I see fear. I see hesitation,” he says. He adds that technicians probably wonder if the new technology will turn out to be a fad or the new way of doing their jobs. Also, Asbery says technicians are concerned that if they get used to doing their job with a tool equipped with technology, the
device may not be manufactured by the company long term. Will the technician’s investment pay off?
The Future of Tech
Newell has no doubt that technology in tools will continue to evolve in the auto industry. And for technicians who are non-adaptive, Newell says he does not “anticipate you having the ability to install glass [in the future]. “I think people just need to be ready for it,” he says of the continuing evolution of technology in tools. The days of mobile glass installation service may be numbered too, according to Lintner, because technology is limiting what mobile technicians can do in customer driveways, such as the
need for calibration.
“But, I love it. I’m glad I’m still around to see all this stuff,” Lintner says.
Body Heat Tech
Conductive cooling absorbs body heat and allows the human body to cool. A cooling towel by Magid is made of a three-layer system of fabric that soaks in water, is wrung out, and snapped to instigate airflow. Adrianna Carrera, product management specialist, says the fabric’s temperature drops to 60 degrees and lasts several hours. “It’s instant, and it’s portable,” she says. The three-layer system holds more water than other fabrics and “results in an enhanced natural process of evaporation. All you need is water and air.”
Rebecca Barnabi is special projects manager for AGGR magazine. Connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at email@example.com.
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