Evolving Tools Help Ease the Strain for Installers
By Rebecca J. Barnabi
Thirty years after the introduction of the one-man setting device in the auto glass industry enabled technicians to perform larger windshield replacements alone, these tools continue to provide benefits. Setting devices continue to help auto glass technicians avoid injuries.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” says Dan Boehmer, president of Rolladeck Industries Inc. in Port Charlotte, Fla. Boehmer himself was an installer for 27 years. Lower back pain led him to invent the Rolladeck. He still occasionally works in the field. “Having these devices that can ensure a precise set definitely helps a technician.”
Boehmer says that without them, technicians “are forced to manhandle a piece of glass over a car” into the right spot. If the glass needs adjustment, then the bead may be upset and “the integrity of the set is compromised.” The one-man setting device has greatly helped technicians installing glass and decreased “the chance of failure of adhesion of the windshield.”
Equalizer Industries Inc. soft launched the Sentinel in November 2021. “We think it’s going to be a revolutionary tool,” says Shauna Davis, global sales director. She adds that the Sentinel’s introduction in the industry will be similar to the introduction of the first setting devices in the early 1990s.
“It’s a very different aftermarket setting device,” she says. The Sentinel is completely mobile, able to move up to 350 pounds of windshield, and does not touch the vehicle, except the windshield glass. With a robotic arm, Davis says the device was originally intended for installing windshields in larger vehicles, however, it can be used for any model.
“We always do all of our larger windows as a two-man set,” says Tiffany Swindell, who owns and operates JJBAuto Glass with her husband, Lee, in Atascadero, Calif. She says the company’s software will often alert technicians that a job requires a setting device. “And you can get compensated for doing it as a two-man set.”
“I think if you did always [use the setting device], it’s great. You’re guaranteed a perfect set,” Swindell says.
Bob Birkhauser is president of AEGIS Tools International and has been in the industry since 1982. “The windshields are getting a little bigger,” he says. Technicians must be taught good installation practices to avoid sprains. “If you have setting tools, you have lifting cups—they all reduce the risk of injury.”
“They’re definitely saving us on workers’ compensation claims,” says Jacques Navant, technical director for frogitout and Don’s Mobile Glass in California. Setting devices in today’s auto glass shops are also saving a technician’s body from wear-and-tear. “So when you invest in setting devices, in my mind, you’re looking out for the tech’s future.”
Longevity for Careers
Tiffany Swindell says the setting device takes the weight off technicians, literally, and allows for longer careers in the auto glass industry.
She suggests technicians to check their software when performing a glass replacement. Sometimes software alerts a technician when a one-man set will be needed or two sets of hands. “If you’re utilizing that extra guy, make sure you’re getting compensated for that extra labor [through insurance],” Swindell says. “In business, it’s hard enough, so anywhere that you can get compensated from insurance [helps].”
The Sentinel will provide technicians who install windshields in buses, coaches, RVs and other large vehicles more opportunity for longer careers. “What makes it different is the ease with which you’re able to lift those heavy windshields,” Davis says. She adds, however, that when installing an RV windshield, a technician may still want a second set of hands for extra safety.
“The Sentinel will hold that windshield for you,” Davis says, and provide an accurate setting into the vehicle. It also allows technicians the ability to better maneuver large windshields. “With the Sentinel, you’re making that two-man set all by yourself.”
Davis says she had the idea for the Sentinel six years ago. “Thanks to 2020 where things slowed down a little bit for us [because of the COVID-19 global pandemic],” Davis and Equalizer had time to work on and develop the product, as well as test prototypes. A few Sentinels are already in use on large vans in the United States, but as of press time, the company planned to officially launch the device in late February 2022.
“What I like about it is anybody can use it,” Davis says, including women and individuals with special needs. The Sentinel can also help with installing bullet-resistant glass and glass used in armored vehicles. Additional cups are available so that the Sentinel can lift as much as 350 pounds of glass. “That just shows you how much power it needs,” Davis says.
Birkhauser says avoiding injury for auto glass technicians is cumulative,
especially with shoulder and back pain, over several years. “So good tools and good technology are very important to keeping your work force in good condition,” he says.
OSHA guidelines reveal that the human body is not made to lift heavy
items, Birkhauser says. Setting devices prevent back strain and wrist issues. He also recommends the use of power cutout tools. Repetitive motions can also lead to injuries for technicians. “You’re pushing the human anatomy” until it cannot be pushed anymore.
Birkhauser says he often hears the younger technicians say they don’t need setting devices to assist with installation. Older technicians though, say they wish they had had setting tools when they were younger.
“It’s taking the majority of the weight from you,” Navant says. The one-man setting device “should be everyone’s goal and should be the thought process for everyone. At the end of the day, we are nothing without our technicians.”
Rebecca J. Barnabi is a special projects manager for AGRR magazine. Connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at email@example.com
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