Starting this summer, the nearly 200 technicians who work for Inland Truck Parts at its locations in 10 states across the central U.S. will be heading to the Kansas City area to train in a new, dedicated training facility, complete with classroom space for nearly 100 students,
Everyone has time and budget constraints these days, so your plan to create a useful training program have to be realistic. Hands-on training is best, but you might need to look at other alternatives.
three service bays and nine rebuilding benches.
The company previously brought techs from various locations to its Kansas City-area headquarters for training classes that may last two or four days, but President and CEO Dave Scheer believes the investment will mean higher-quality training for his drive-in service and component rebuilding techs.
The building itself is a million-dollar investment, not counting the equipment, and the real cost is the trainers, the technician travel and the lost productivity.
"The cost is greater, in my opinion, to not do it," Scheer says.
The training challenge
Scheer knows that technician training has never been more important than it is today. Independent service providers face more competition from dealer shops than ever. Customers face increasing pressures to keep equipment in tip-top shape to avoid poor scores under the DOT's new Compliance, Safety, Accountability enforcement regime.
If you want to keep up with the dealers, you're going to have to invest in training your technicians. For instance, Worldwide Truck and Equipment, a past American Truck Dealers/Heavy Duty Trucking Truck Dealer of the Year, budgets two weeks of training every year for every technician on the payroll.
Another nominee for Truck Dealer of the Year, Omaha Truck Center, built a state-of-the-art training center with older and current engines that can be run on a water dyno. Different breakdowns can be simulated, allowing for hands-on training of diagnostics and repairs. Two full-time trainers focus their efforts on keeping the dealership's staff up to date, and they're in the process of hiring a third.
"This is one of the things that helps us keep technicians," said Trey Mytty, president and CEO. "They get continuous training."
Training for technicians also can make a big difference in your shop's efficiency. We're not talking just in terms of clearing jobs quickly but also about ensuring that those jobs don't come back 500 miles later because the thing wasn't fixed right the first time.
"One thing's for sure," said Bendix veteran Ron Gervais, who now runs his own training company, Freinmeister Group, "is that it is less expensive to provide training than it is to allow an untrained employee to perform a task he or she knows little about."
What form will your technician training take? First, the experts will tell you, decide what you need. Take a look from 30,000 feet and assess your team's strengths and weaknesses. Do you need to improve performance? Specific product knowledge? Maybe a return to the fundamentals?