Standing behind quality
By Chris Skalkos
By Chris Skalkos
Warren Bennewies of Warren Auto Glass is a prime example of how quality workmanship breeds success.
Bennewies is the owner of Warren Auto Glass, located in Dublin,
Ontario. The company replaces 1100 windshields per year and has
recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Warren Bennewies of Warren Auto Glass is a prime example of how quality workmanship breeds success. Located in Dublin, Ontario, an obscure rural hamlet that is hard to find on any map, the company rarely performs autoglass repair and replacement work in its two-bay shop. Instead, the company’s technicians go to their customers and they go out of their way to do the high quality work that has driven the company’s highly regarded reputation and its resulting success.
Bennewies began his career in 1978 when he was running a mobile oil spraying/rust protection service. He later got involved with auto body work where he was sub-contracting out windshield replacement jobs, but he was not happy with the service he was getting. “Customers and insurance companies kept asking us about doing glass work but we were at the mercy of the glass shops and their late deliveries, so we decided to do it ourselves,” he says, explaining that their remote location was not a detriment to their business.
the company does have a very spacious two-bay, 1200 square foot shop,
about 95 percent of the company’s business is done through its mobile
service. Autoglasstechnicians Kyle Bennewies, left, and hired help Greg Van Loon install a windshield at the customer’s place of work.
“We looked at our geographic area and realized we were in an obscure pocket of the province that was not being served by any glass shops.” So he enrolled in Ford’s CarLite Auto Glass School, which has since been discontinued, to get the training he needed and opened for business in 1996. “We bought a van, glass racks and the basic tools we needed to get started and we put in 350 windshields during our first year in business,” he says. “We were really happy with that.”
Although the company did some advertising in local truck trader publications, word of mouth has been their main promotional tool earning them work contracts with automotive dealerships, used car lots and commercial work for insurance companies. “About 50 percent of our dealership work comes from the municipalities in the four surrounding counties.” Today Bennewies says the company repairs or replaces 1100 windshields alone per year and is running at full capacity with two autoglass technicians, including his son Kyle and hired help Greg Van Loon. His wife Heather and daughter Kelly round out the employees of this family run business.
Auto Glass always runs its mobile operation with two technicians. This
allows them to put a continuous bead of urethane on the windshield
before placing it on the pinchweld. Otherwise, a one person operation
would require the technician to put the bead of urethane on the
pinchweld and then drop the glass on.
Although the company does have a very spacious two-bay, 1200 square foot shop, about 95 percent of the company’s business is done through its mobile service which presents its own unique challenge. “Weather is the biggest factor, especially in the winter time. The temperature has to be above freezing and the humidity has to be right for the urethane to work,” says Kyle. However, this is easy to work around since most of their auto body shop, municipal and car lot customers have a heated bay for them to work in. To assist them they use Dow Automotive’s quick cure urethanes with a one hour drive-away time.
Kyle adds that with a dedicated mobile service, it is extremely important to make sure the van is fully equipped and well stocked. “We never know what we are getting into when we show up for a job and we have to be prepared to deal with rust which we usually grind down if it’s not too bad, but if it is severely corroded we have to send it to a body shop,” he says.
Warren Auto Glass always runs its mobile operation with two technicians because it is safer and allows them to get the quality results that they desire. “We put a continuous bead of urethane on the glass and then two technicians put the glass on the vehicle. If it was only one technician, he would have to put the bead of urethane on the pinchweld and then drop the glass on,” explains Kyle.
in a rural pocket of the province, the company relies on word of mouth
based on the quality of their work to earn contracts with automotive
dealerships, used car lots and commercial work for insurance companies.
Doing quality work is imperative to the company and Bennewies says quality is becoming an issue in this industry because of the offshore products infiltrating the market. “A few years ago, it was windshields coming out of Mexico and now they’re coming from China. They don’t fit!” he says, adding that they are often called upon to fix the problem after the fact. “This has caused a lot of frustration over the last five years.” He says the offshore suppliers are getting better at making aftermarket windshields but they are not up to standard when it comes to new model vehicles.
“Manufacturers are making a lot of specialty windshields, such as antennae and GPS systems built right into the glass, which is too complicated for the offshore manufacturers to duplicate,” he says. It is also becoming a safety issue. “It takes less of an impact to break this glass. Sure, it means more work for the glass shops but in the end, it’s the customer who loses and in the long-run all of us lose the confidence of the consumer.”
family run business includes Bennewies’ daughter Kelly, who takes care
of the office. His wife Heather also works for the company.
Warren Auto Glass will not work with poor quality products and the company goes out of its way to source the glass and related products they need to do quality work. This is why Bennewies orders his glass products from Pilkington and Guardian distribution centres in Ohio where he hand-picks his stock personally. “I do this because I can’t find good quality glass in Ontario.”
It is not always poor quality products Bennewies is dealing with as poor quality work is something the company sees on a regular basis. “There is a lot of sloppy workmanship being done. We see it a lot,” says Kyle. “Windshields sliding down because they were glued to the roof and not the pinchweld, installing glass over rust and we still see butyl tape even though it was phased out in the 1980s.”
The problem could be solved, they say, if compulsory certification was made mandatory for the autoglass industry. They believe it would force autoglass technicians to get proper training and be held accountable for the work they perform. “Mandatory licensing of autoglass technicians would clean up this industry and encourage shops to use quality products and do proper installations,” says Bennewies.
company has built its own warehouse, stocking 1500 windshields and 2000
tempered lites and boasts a complete inventory of truckwindshields built from 1970 to 2006. This allows the company to quickly source glass and service customers quickly.
One of the keys to the company’s success is its ability to provide fast service to its customers. However, sourcing the large variety of glass they need and getting it delivered was an obstacle to this. The company’s solution was to build their own warehouse and stock their entire inventory so that it is readily available when customers call. “We have 1500 windshields and 2000 tempered parts. We have windshields for every heavy truck on the road built from 1970 to 2006. When a new vehicle is introduced, like the new Volvo, we will stock the glass,” says Bennewies, adding that glass for the new high-end European models are getting expensive and so are the adhesives they require. “We are looking at $40 for a tube of adhesives compared to $8 per tube,” he explains.
While some glass shops cut corners and prices to remain competitive, the philosophy behind Warren Auto Glass is the exact opposite: To do quality work you have to invest in quality products and adjust your shop prices accordingly. It is difficult to argue against this philosophy. After all, the company has recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in business and it continues to grow every year.
“Sure we charge more than other shops but we put in good quality products and do good quality work. Word gets around and this gives us a competitive edge.” -end