Auto Glass Week™ Sessions Deep Dive into Calibration Growth, Trends and Challenges

Calibration was a big discussion topic during Auto Glass Week (AGW) 2023. The event took place Sept. 19-21 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in Virginia Beach, Va., bringing together installers, technicians, suppliers and many others. Educational sessions covered a range of topics, with calibration being a focus for several.

In his market update, Nick St. Denis, research director for Key Media & Research, parent company of AGRR magazine, offered a look at some calibration trends.

“97% of new vehicles in the U.S. have at least one Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) feature,” said St. Denis, adding that one in five vehicles currently on the road have an ADAS feature.

“In 20 years, 95% of all registered vehicles in the U.S. will include most ADAS features,” he added.

He looked at Belron’s number of repair/replacement vs. calibration jobs as an example. Drawing from the company’s financial reports, in 2019, 7 in 100 jobs were calibration. By 2022, that number grew to 20 in 100.

St. Denis also offered a look at the estimated percentage of registered vehicles by feature in 2020 vs. 2026. Rear cameras, for example, are expected to increase from 44% to 71%; lane departure warning from 14% to 44%; and autonomous breaking from 11% to 43%.

“The presence of calibration among those in the industry is expanding exponentially,” he said.

Moderated by Jacques Navant (far left) calibration panelists (from left to right) Josh McFarlin, Chris Sobieski, Chris Chesney and Peter Brown weighed in on trends and challenges the industry is facing.

Panel Discussion

The calibration conversation continued with a panel discussion titled “Evaluating Calibration Business Strategy and Equipment.” Jacques Navant, chair of the AGSC Advanced ADAS Committee and technical director of Don’s Mobile Glass, moderated the session. The panel included a number of subject-matter experts: Josh McFarlin, president and chief operations officer at AirPro Diagnostics; Chris Chesney, vice president of training and organizational development for Repairify/asTech; Chris Sobieski, North American special projects manager at Snap-on Equipment; and Peter Brown, president of Tiny and Sons and vice president of the Auto Glass Safety Council™.

One of the hot topic questions asked whether calibrations should be done in a controlled environment vs. outside.

McFarlin said full size targets you should be in a controlled environment.

“You can control the otherwise uncontrollable environmental elements,” he said.

Sobieski added, “They should absolutely be done in a controlled environment and following the OEM procedures. Direct sunlight will wash out what the camera is looking at. Proper lighting in the shop is critical.”

Brown agreed, and said his company put a lot of effort into getting the area of the shop ready for calibrating. This included making sure the floor is level, proper lighting, etc.

Panelists also discussed what it takes to be successful at calibration.

“Research and prepare before getting into it,” said McFarlin. “Understand the requirements and what your needs are. Know your work mix and what you’re willing or able to keep in house vs. continuing to send out. You will likely still need partners to sublet [jobs].”

Chesney added, “The goal is to return the vehicle to the way it was designed.”

Brown likened the rise of calibration to the introduction of the second airbag in 1998. “The hardest part for the independent business is the learning curve,” he said. “That’s why AGSC is so important. It’s a hard process, but it’s rewarding when you do it right.”

Panelists also discussed the challenges around getting paid for their work.
“It’s a process,” said Brown. “You have to prove that you did it right. Documenting [everything] is critical.”

Chesney agreed. “We take a picture of everything … and put all the documents in a package for the customer …”

“It’s all about documentation,” Sobieski added. “It comes down to documenting that the work was performed. You need to have everything documented, all the way down to the VIN of the vehicles.”

He continued, “It’s great to show someone that you did it, but it’s the message from the manufacturer’s position statement that you must do it. It’s no longer open for interpretation. It’s mandatory that it be done.”

And as far as the future? Panelists all agreed: more calibrations, plus preparing with documentation, research and education.

“The future is bright, but also scary,” said Sobieski. “There is no safety standard yet, but it is coming. Technicians will continue to grow. Calibration is not going away, and we need to continue to educate ourselves.”

“Repair, replace and recalibrate – that’s the future,” said Brown.

Ellen Rogers is editor of AGRR’s sister publication, USGlass Magazine.

This article is from glassBYTEs™, the free e-newsletter that covers the latest auto glass industry news. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to Auto Glass Repair and Replacement (AGRR) magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

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