AGRR Tool Inventors Share Their Stories
By Kyra Thompson
A problem is an inventor’s playground. At least that is what these auto glass installers, also inventors, had to say about themselves. Installing auto glass can be tricky, precise, tedious and stressful on the body. But what many might see simply as annoying problems, these creative minds view as an opportunity.
So, how does one go from being frustrated to taking matters into their own hands? And what does an auto glass inventor’s creative process look like? Here we explore the journey these creative-types took while developing their ideal tool and the highs and lows of the process.
No More Rookie Mistakes
As an auto glass installer at Technaglass (now Safelite), Ben Rorick began to notice a trend among new technicians. They were having difficulty with what he says are the two most important factors of installing the windshield: applying the beading glue and setting the windshield.
“If you make a mistake on either of those ends, you are going to have a leaky windshield or a bad seal,” he says.
That is when he began creating a tool that would help with positioning the glass for the “rookies” until they could build up the strength to do it on their own. Rorick says it was a pretty lengthy process of sketching out ideas, measuring and testing them on the vehicle, making sure the system wouldn’t cause any damage and adjusting as needed. While constantly making changes and testing creative ideas, Rorick started to have fun with it.
“I got a little crazy with it, and at one point started putting lasers on it to use as a marker,” he says.
The tool was essentially a suction cup attached to what he calls an “H-frame” that holds the glass in place while it sets. It took him about a year of trial-and-error until he finally got it to work with about 99% of the vehicles. And when he finally got to use it in the competition at Auto Glass Week 2015, Rorick says he was a ball of nerves and excitement.
“Pulling it out at the competition for the first time, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was going to work, even though I’d been using it for the past year or so,” Rorick says. “And I was just hoping it would be enough to impress somebody.”
When they announced the winners of the competition and Rorick was among them, he says that was the highlight of the entire experience. And while winning was definitely a high point, it’s the en-tire experience of creating that he really enjoys—that and seeing his product help the rookies.
From Zero to Hero
Rick Maciel described the journey to inventing his setting tool as a failure. In 2009, he competed at Auto Glass Week™ in Las Vegas where his performance “didn’t go well.”
“I was really happy until it was time to set the windshield,” Maciel recalls. “I actually overshot my mark because I was doing it the old-fashioned way–of leaning over the vehicle and I had no visibility of what was [happening] on the other side.”
It was this loss that prompted Maciel to work on an idea that had been percolating in the back of his mind for a while. At the time, he was doing a lot of “in-shop” work and realizing how difficult–if not impossible–it could be to set a piece of glass by himself.
“There is so much stress involved in leaning over the vehicles [while] setting glass–there is so much stress to your back,” Maciel says. “I was trying to figure out, ‘how can I address this and basically have an-other set of hands on the other side of the vehicle without anyone being there, and do it safely?’”
Once Maciel decided he was going to solve this problem him-self, things moved quickly. Within a week of looking at what was al-ready in the market for ideas on what would and wouldn’t work for him, Maciel had his first setting tool prototype built. It worked as a way to line up the glass on the opposite side of the vehicle without the need for another set of hands or eyes.
Maciel knew he got lucky as an inventor with how quickly his system worked. He faced a few challenges along the way, however, one of which was finding a suction cup system that held the glass stable while still being affordable. But what he liked most was how compact it was.
“When I initially started looking at what was out there, everything was so big and bulky,” Maciel says.
He was able to get his system down to about the size of a shoebox in comparison to many of the other systems he had seen which were about double that size, he says.
Using his creation, Maciel came back to Auto Glass Week two years later and won first place in the Pilkington Clear Advantage Technician Competition (AGTO), and was awarded the Ray Asbery Innovation Award (see page 21). While life ended up taking Maciel in a different direction, (he now works as the business systems manager at Technaglass, which was recently purchased by Safelite) he says he would have loved to be able to adapt his product for market.
Maciel also has this advice to offer any would-be inventors who might be feeling the pain of a failure.
“Some of the best inspiration comes out of our failures,” he says.
Jump Start to Success
What started out as a summer job, turned into a career which turned into… a frog?
Jacques Navant’s unique wire-out tool earned this name after his wife jokingly commented on its frog-like appearance and it stuck. But the creation of the tool itself wasn’t so easy.
Navant, who is the technical director for Don’s Mobile Glass in Modesto, Calif., saw the need for a simplified tool that would be easier for technicians to use than current products on the market, and safer for the vehicle. When he looked around, nothing really filled that void, so he went to work.
Over the next several years, Navant worked with his fellow employee Collin Walton and the Don’s team to craft, test, recreate and perfect a tool that he believes will make it not only easier, but safer, for technicians to cut glass with minimal damage to the vehicle, and more importantly, improved technician health and safety. It was a long process with several highs and lows, Navant says. One of the most frustrating challenges was the manufacturing process; the point where you find out if your prototype idea is actually going to work or not. And often it doesn’t work right away.
“It can be maddening,” Navant says, “and heartbreaking, almost like someone told you your grammar is not good or your painting stinks.” But that is the invention process. Navant says if you are going to be an inventor, you’ll need to have a tough skin and be a good listener. Gathering feedback from other technicians was also important so the pair took it around to technicians with several different levels of experience to test it and offer feedback.
When they finally got it to a place where it was ready to go public, they turned heads when they brought it to Auto Glass Week where Walton placed among the top three winners of the Auto Glass Technician Competition (AGTO) two years in a row.
“One of the single greatest moments for Collin was when he first opened the case and the crowd got to see the Frog for the first time,” Navant says. “We heard a lot of ‘oos and ahs’ and ‘hey, what’s that?’ Then when Collin was the first competitor to have his glass cut-out, we knew we had something special.”
Navant says they continue to make updates and improvements constantly and are planning to have it on the market soon, launching it at frogitout.com.
Navant’s advice to inventors is, “always start by listening. It’ll break your heart at first, but always take the good with the bad. It’ll make your product better.”
Ray Asbery Innovation Award
The Ray Asbery Innovation Award is presented to the technician who utilizes a new or uncommon tool to accomplish the installation with the same focus on safety yet in a new fashion as part of the Auto Glass Technician Competition (ATGO) that is held at Auto Glass Week each year. This award was named in honor of Ray Asbery, an industry pioneer, inventor and entrepreneur. Ray, founder of Equalizer Industries Inc. passed away in September 2011. Born in Casey County, Kentucky, Ray began his career as an auto glass installer. From there he transitioned to inventor and business owner where he created a number of innovative auto glass tools that changed the industry as we know it. The award was retired from the competition in 2016.
2016 – Sergio Ricardo Tamachunas of Abrasipa Industria de Abrassivos in Sao Paulo, Brazil
2015 – Ben Rorick of TechnaGlass Inc. in Spanish Fork, Utah
2014 – Nick Gittins of Techna Glass in Willard, Utah
2013 – Travis Crebs of Techna Glass in West Jordan, Utah
2012 – Nick Gittins of Techna Glass in Clearfield, Utah
2011 – Rick Maciel of Techna Glass in Taylorsville, Utah
2007 – Rob Grace of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass & Ernie Espinoza of Izon Auto Glass
The Ingenuity Award is presented to an AGTO competitor that has gone the extra mile. This award may be given to the technician, in the judge’s opinion, who uses a new form of testing or technique to ensure the quality and safety of the install job. Creativity in any form may be rewarded.
2019 – Collin Walton (Using tool Invented by Jacques Navant) of Don›s Mobile Glass Merced, Calif.
2018 – Jason Martin of Wisefly Auto Glass in Vernon, Fla.
2017 – Jason Martin of Wisefly Auto Glass in Snellville, Ga.
2016 – Brandon Tow of TechnaGlass of Grand Junction in Grand Junction, Colo.
2015 – Alfredo Calva of Alfredo’s Auto Glass in Corona, Calif.
2014 – Alfredo Calva of Alfredo’s Auto Glass in Corona, Calif.
KYRA THOMPSON is a freelance writer based in Central Virginia. She is a former editorial assistant for KMR’s sister publication Door & Window Market [DWM] magazine.
To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.