Cracking it big in autoglass

Cindy Preller

FOR A man who has built up a successful business fixing cracked windscreens, developing a product that prevents cracks was seen by many of his friends and colleagues as being somewhat counterproductive.

But Gordon Pope disagrees and is pushing ahead with his latest product Edgeprotect, which is essentially is a film placed over the edge of the windscreens to prevent cracks and reduce windscreens from breaking.

“People have been telling me, ‘Gordon, you are shooting yourself in the foot,’ but I believe I am being proactive by reducing the risk to insurance companies and offering a value add-on to my customers. Safety has always been my first priority. The national glass companies are also skeptical about the product, probably thinking this research cannot come out of a garage in PE,” Pope said.

But this is exactly where the idea and research for Edgeprotect started.

Pope has worked in the autoglass industry since 1988 and started his own business, PE Windscreens, in 1993. During this time he has noticed that about 60% of the chips in windows which started at the edge resulted in the window cracking and the entire windscreen needing to be replaced because it was not roadworthy anymore.

“When a windscreen is manufactured, the edges have to be heat-toughened to ensure that it will not crack when normal vehicle body twisting forces are transferred to it.

“As a result of the edge toughening, a stressed compensating area forms 1mm to 50mm from the edge and this area can fracture far easier than the rest of the windscreen,” Pope said.

As a result of this manufacturing process – which he researched extensively, even visiting a local glass manufacturing factory to view production of the glass windscreens – Pope found that the edge of windows fracture two and a half times easier than the rest of the windshield.

Last year Pope started researching a solution for this problem in his workshop. For more than 10 months customers of PE Windscreens may have wondered why Pope was breaking windscreen after windscreen with everything from paintball guns to stencil-pens.

His workshop foreman, Xolisa Poni, managed to run the business while Pope was doing his research and worked closely with Pope in finding a solution. “I got shot a couple of times and also broke a few windscreens myself, but we are proud of the product and think it will save people money,” Poni said.

Poni, who spent a few days at PE Windscreens for an internship during his Grade 10 year in Newton Park Technical High School, showed a keen interest in the business and Pope said he started working for him straight after school and has over the past 10 years become his right-hand man.

“He grew up in the SOS Children’s Village and is proof that hard work and determination can get you anywhere. He is an exceptionally good glass fitter and an integral part of my business,” Pope said.

Together Poni and Pope finally found the right product which they import and mould onto the glass using fluids. They fit the film strip across the edge of the windscreen only, because it would be too costly to fit the entire windscreen and would interfere with the working of the wipers.

Pope did not want to give away the “trade secret” of the composition of the film strip.

Despite most national glass companies turning down the idea of Edgeprotect, Pope was issued with an ISO certificate for “plastic films for the automotive industry” and also registered the design with the Department of Trade and Industry.

Since January he has been selling Edgeprotect from his Cape Road-business and has fitted fleets of several local companies with the product, which he guarantees for 12 months.

He is currently approaching insurance companies, to endorse reduced premiums for clients who fit Edgeprotect.

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