AGRR Magazine Exclusive: Interview with Jim Latch

PPG announced the appointment of five new vice presidents last month, including Jim Latch as the new vice president of the company's ARG division. Latch, whose role as vice president took effect July 1, spoke to AGRR magazine/ regarding what the new appointment means to himself and what it might mean to the industry.

AGRR: You're one of the developers of LYNX. In what ways do you see this new appointment contributing to the continued growth of LYNX/METRYX?

Latch: Let me begin by saying I am pleased to be back. I look forward to working closely with both our ARG and LYNX businesses, but most importantly with our customers we serve. I was fortunate to be involved with LYNX when we started the business back in 1994. Today, I do not directly manage LYNX on a day-to-day basis; however I am responsible for working with our team to lead LYNX into the future, and that is exciting.

The objective we have always had is to create value for our customers in the auto replacement glass and insurance industries. In the 1990's, when we started, that objective was achieved by creating a new independent means for auto glass retailers to access work from the insurance segment and improved connectivity to create efficiencies. For the insurance industry, LYNX provided a new alternative and innovative business models to better meet their need for customer choice, process consistency, and technological leadership. These are all accomplishments for us to continue to build on, but we must also change in order to continue to grow and meet our customers' needs.

The kind of change that we foresee is still rooted in the objective of creating value for customers. METRYX is one example of that kind of change. Though still very new, METRYX is designed to document verifiable differentiation among auto glass retailers and to use those verifiable differentiating factors in the customer service process. Doing so will help create new opportunity and an improved ROI for the retailers that are most consistently differentiated; it will create value for car owners by helping to link them with the most qualified retailers in their area; and it will create value for the insurance industry by helping them to both gain insight into value beyond price and afford their policyholders with access to the most favorably differentiate retailers. We continue to lead this initiative, but we also encourage other leadership groups in the industry to help create understanding and market demand for quality and professional standards that will help differentiate the industry.

Another change that LYNX will help lead is the creation of value and opportunity in the auto glass value chain beyond the insured segment. We all see the softening that has occurred in insured claim activity. Higher deductibles, safer vehicles, safer drivers, moderate weather and some "claim avoidance" behaviors among consumers all contribute to this. But the growing consumer segment does not diminish the market's need for efficient and consistent access to consumers, and the consumers' need for information and insight that will assist them is gaining satisfaction in their auto glass repair or replacement experience. Many consumers traditionally looked to their insurance agent for advice when they needed auto glass work. A growing number of consumers are trying to make these decisions independently. They are creating demand for both new sources and types of information, and efficient means of linking up with their choice of retailer. LYNX and METRYX are some of the tools that we will use to help meet that market need.

AGRR: What challenges do you foresee facing in this new position?

Latch: The biggest and most exciting challenges have to do with change management. The ARG and LYNX businesses are looking at the industry and the growth opportunities it affords with new eyes, and are determined to be creative in service to the industry. For example, utilizing the Internet to create new service solutions for customers, helping our customers adapt and grow with the changes in the industry, creating demand for increased levels of quality in products and services are things that we see the need to do beyond the day-to-day management of our core competencies.

AGRR: What would you like to accomplish as vice president of ARG?

Latch: I have been in the ARG industry for most of my career. So the opportunity to continue to build on our fine heritage is not just another assignment. The auto glass industry has been somewhat embattled, but I am encouraged by the actions of our leadership team.

Responsible leadership is a fundamental goal. Our growth objectives are focused on equipping PPG's customers with the capabilities to thrive and grow in the current and future business climate. It will require more than just trying harder. We are committed to being more responsive to market forces and the needs of our customers, to seek and embrace change, to innovate and integrate new strategies more quickly than ever before.

PPG is well positioned from a manufacturing, distribution, and services position offering to meet these expectations. PPG will maintain our high quality and reliability of parts. We will continue to be 'More Than Glass'™ with the leading package of point of sale software via GTS™, GLAXIS™ for seamless transactions, PPG PROSTARS™ branded network, vintage parts sourcing, and by expanding our car care products beyond Aquapel™.

AGRR: What can the industry expect now that you're leading up the ARG division of PPG?

Latch: I believe that many people look to PPG as a leader. We are intent on continuing to earn that honor in the future. Our values have not changed. The industry recognizes PPG for consistency in values. We aspire to be known as well for focusing and for performing in areas that matter most to our customers.

AGRR: Is there anything I have not asked that you want the industry to know, either about yourself or about your new role with the company?

Latch: Just that when I left LYNX to join PPG's Automotive Refinish business in 2001, I wrote to a number of long-standing friends in the auto replacement glass and insurance industries to say thank you and best wishes. I consider myself fortunate to have the unique opportunity of a second chance to work again with many of those folks. It's the people that make these businesses great.

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