By Rebecca J. Barnabi
Auto glass installation has been affected by many changes in the industry, including the AGRSS™ Standard ADAS technology and new vehicle models. But no change has significantly impacted individual installers as the introduction of the one-man setting tool.
The Early Days
Bob Birkhauser is president of AEGIS Tools International in Fitchburg, Wis. He founded the company in 1982 when “setting tools were nonexistent. You had suction tools and that was it,” he says.
Before AEGIS, Birkhauser and his family operated Auto Glass Specialists Inc. in Madison, Wis., with 600 employees, and 225 of them were auto glass installers. “You saw workers’ compensation claims after 5-6 years,” he says.
Birkhauser says AEGIS noticed an increase in workers’ compensation claims before the introduction of the one-man setting tool in the early 1990s. His company looked at senior technicians and saw repetitive patterns in glass installers injuring their rotator cuffs, necks, backs, knees and wrists. Holding a piece of glass weighing 30 to 40 pounds over a car “is not ergonomically” correct, Birkhauser says.
Jacques Navant is technical director for frogitout and Don’s Mobile Glass in Modesto, Calif., as well as the current chairperson for Auto Glass Safety Council’s Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) Calibration Committee. He has been in the auto glass industry for 28 years.
“It was very convenient at the time because, similar to the workforce now, workers were in short supply,” Navant says of the introduction of the one-man setting tool.
Dan Boehmer, president of Rolladeck Industries Inc., began installing glass in 1986 and continued until 2013.
“From my perspective, I find that setting tool aids not only provide a safer means, but just as equally [important is the fact that they] get [the windshield] set correctly,” says Boehmer.
The company’s setting tool hit the market in 2013. Boehmer says the motivation for creating Rolladeck was for a straightforward mechanical approach of installing windshields that reduced the loss of suction or vacuum during installation.
According to Birkhauser, a 1998 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report revealed the inevitable truth. “The bottom line is the majority of the population is not well-suited to installing glass.”
Assistance was necessary.
Birkhauser says his company liked the Lil Buddy concept and set about to design a tool, and AEGIS patented its own one-man setting tool called Solo.
“It takes a lot of weight load off the technician,” Birkhauser says. He adds that the workers’ compensation claims at AGS decreased, and the health of technicians improved.
Auto glass installers install anywhere from four to eight windshields per day, according to Navant, and handle each piece of glass four or five times during the installation process. Each windshield weighs approximately 24-45 pounds. Poor installation can create leaks for the customer’s vehicle and cause injury to the technician.
“And you were just dead by the end of the day. You felt like somebody beat you up,” Navant says.
Navant adds that, as time went on, installers realized that the setting tool alone was not enough. A lifting device was also necessary in order to install glass one man at a time.
The one-man setting tool with cups “hurt a lot of technicians. The process just wasn’t ergonomically sound,” Navant says.
“[The one-man setting tool with lifting system] was a game-changer within the first month of my using it. My body felt a difference,” Navant says. The old way of installing auto glass “puts a tremendous strain on your lower back, shoulders and wrists.”
Navant says he began to feel the stress on his body after about 10 years of installing auto glass and before the one-man setting tool was introduced.
“It basically killed the industry going into the 2000s,” according to Navant, because the bodies of older technicians were destroyed from lifting the weight of windshields. He recommends every auto glass installer invest in a lifting and setting tool device to prolong his/her career.
After Solo, AEGIS introduced Solo II, and now the third-generation one-man setting tool: Solo Neo, a lighter, more compact tool. “The bottom line is you don’t want to add a lot of extra weight to what the technician is lifting,” Birkhauser says of Solo Neo.
According to Birkhauser, tools such as Solo Neo “replaces the need for a second technician” to assist in installing a windshield and have reduced the number of workers’ compensation claims for auto glass businesses.
Birkhauser says power-assisted cut-out tools have also made installation easier for auto glass installers. AEGIS Tools is “constantly looking at our tools and reevaluating,” he adds. The company has many products but no new glass installation tools coming out, just reevaluating what it already offers.
“[Solo Neo] really holds up well. It’s designed for the technician who doesn’t treat his tools well,” Birkhauser says.
According to Boehmer, the benefits of the one-man setting tool outweigh the convenience or cost to do a windshield replacement correctly.
“It’s an undeniable difference,” Boehmer says of the industry before and after the introduction of the one-man setting tool. The only reasonable alternative is the two-man setting tool, but the industry makes it cost preventative. Auto glass shops either invest in setting tools or pay for two installers to respond to each service call.
Rebecca J. Barnabi is a special projects manager for AGRR magazine. Connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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