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Windscreens: Technology provides a vision of the future

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Five innovations changing the way repairs are carried out

Mobile canopy
Autoglass’s parent company Belron has developed an extendable canopy, known as the Vanbrella, which fixes to its vans to provide cover for technicians to work under.

This enables a technician to carry out glass repair and replacement in wet weather, therefore reducing vehicle downtime.

The Vanbrella is contained in a roof box mounted on the van.

It is big enough to fit a car underneath and also protects glue from heat during warm weather. It can withstand high winds.

As 90% of the work carried out by Autoglass is by its mobile technicians, an estimated 80,000 customers each year can be impacted by poor weather.

Before creating the Vanbrella, Autoglass customers were given the option of taking their car to a branch or making a later appointment.

More than 50% (700-800) of Autoglass’s vans are fitted with a Vanbrella.

However, height restrictions in underground car parks mean it won’t be fitted to all vehicles.

Digital job booking system
National Windscreens has seen daily productivity rise by 25% in its south west region after trialling a digital job booking system.

The software pre-populates job sheets with key details including a customer’s personal data, insurance company and policy number, which allows mobile technicians to spend less time on paperwork.

Vehicle tracking devices have also been fitted in the technicians’ vans. These link to a map displayed on a screen in the fitting centre, pinpointing their location.

Jobs are now allocated based on the location of technicians and can be quickly moved around if necessary.

This means more jobs can be completed through improved planning and travel time between jobs is kept to a minimum.

Cutting the distance between jobs also reduces the amount of fuel used.

Martyn Bennett, regional sales and marketing director at National Windscreens, says: “The new system has already delivered a significant return on investment – not only financially, but also in terms of customer service. Our customers can be given accurate ETA data should they require it.”

The system is being rolled out to National Windscreens’ 108 centres across the UK.

Glass stock ordering system
With so many different vehicle models on the roads and technology in windscreens becoming more complex, ordering the right glass can be a challenge.

A 2010 BMW 5 Series, for example, has 18 different windscreen variants, owing to a range of built-in technologies such as rain sensors and a lane departure warning system.  

Auto Windscreens has increased its glass ordering accuracy from 93% to 99.7% by using HPI’s Screen Check, along with HPI’s parts identification system.

The number of replacements that have been rescheduled due to an incorrect part has fallen by 50% in the 12 months to March 2014.

The system gives access to a comprehensive database. By inputting a vehicle registration mark, the system produces the correct manufacturer parts number and uses the vehicle identification number to find the original manufacturer’s factory build data.

Chris Thornton, managing director of Auto Windscreens, says: “By improving our first-time fit rate, customers know their vehicles with damaged glass will be repaired by us in one visit, avoiding unnecessary downtime and inconvenience to drivers caused when a technician turns up with the wrong glass.”

Fleet managers, drivers and customers can also use Screen Check to report damage.

“Before, an intelligent questioning system was used by Auto Windscreens’ call handlers to narrow down the glass options until what was thought to be the right glass was selected; a process of elimination,” says Thornton.

“There is no longer a need for this in nearly all cases following Screen Check’s implementation.”

The average call time has fallen by 47 seconds year-on-year due to fewer questions.

Augmented reality app
Belron is piloting an augmented reality app which gives technicians fitting instructions.

The technician points the camera of their smart device at the vehicle, it recognises what the vehicle is and provides information on where the fixtures and fittings of that vehicle are (for example, it will show hidden screws in a door panel, which may have to be removed in a specific way) and the tools needed.

Rather than using paper data sheets, the technician looks at pictures and videos.  

Chris Davies, head of technical superiority at Belron Technical, says: “Things like side door glass, for example, can be quite complicated. It’s not just the glass, it’s all the components around the door you’ve got to take apart in order to get the glass in. if you have an augmented reality app which gives you that information it’s going to speed the technician’s efficiency doing the job.”

Wire-cutting device

Belron Technical has created a cutting device, called Ezi-Wire, which makes it easy for technicians to remove bonded glass from the vehicle bodywork.

It helps to remove glass without damaging the vehicle bodywork and interior trims.

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