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Point Of View: Will Manufacturers And Suppliers Finally See Value In Training?

I spend a great deal of time in my mind making sure I am always aware of the generational differences that may exist between me — a long-term veteran of this industry with more overall miles on my chassis than I wish — and those in the industry who are from the various generations after mine. As impactful as we Baby Boomers have been — and will continue to be — we veterans of the industry must always acknowledge that those in the path behind us have different experiences, different motivations, different perspectives, different ways of looking at things. The key, I believe, is to be open to the possibilities, all the while sharing our particular historical perspective and the vast amount of experience to put things in the proper context.

As I came up in the world, as well as while learning the ins and outs of this industry, one fundamental of aftermarket training involved mobile technical training fleets that brought well-qualified and knowledgeable industry trainers right to the doorsteps of parts stores and their shop customers. By the same token, sales reps made regular contact in the stores and shops as well, getting training and cataloging and sales information into the hands of those who get the service work done, the real sales force of the aftermarket manufacturers and suppliers. These technical training vehicles not only delivered information and insight into the hands of those who needed it most, they also represented the commitment of those companies whose logos were on the sides of the vehicles — extending and enhancing the overall brand of those particular companies not only in the minds of the shop and/or store customers but also with the consumers who paid the invoice and supported the shop and/or store supported by that manufacturer.

But, over time and because of various changes in the marketplace, shifts in the economy and — in my opinion — a lack of real financial commitment to getting the necessary technical training into the field, companies moved away from this strategy, walking away from the expense of this type of endeavor, a pretty profound financial hit. So, for many, many years, the concept of the mobile technical training fleet became a thing of the past; ironic in an era when people in our industry were screaming in frustration about Right To Repair and the lack of technical information reaching the shop level. That’s why, back in February, I found Federal-Mogul’s announcement concerning the enhancement of its training program with the launch of a fleet of mobile training units, a “localized, problem-solving approach to technical education,” such a seminal moment.

“We are leveraging our extensive technician training programs delivered at our central training center in St. Louis by taking the training, resources and experts on the road, with a phased roll-out of a fleet of fully-equipped mobile training units throughout the United States and Canada,” said Paul Johnson, vice president, Federal-Mogul North American Aftermarket. “The result will be enhanced training accessibility, less time away from the shop and greater return on investment for technicians and shop owners.”

According to information from Federal-Mogul, the mobile units will be centrally scheduled and dispatched over several geographic territories throughout the United States and Canada, delivering core training to techs using “experiential, on-site instruction and new web-based and virtual training technologies.” Through mobile training, the company will deploy resources directly into the market on-demand, providing flexibility to address market and customer requirements and increasing successful service visits in the most efficient manner possible. “This is part of a broader strategy of bringing turnkey training services to the market, increasing curriculum penetration and maximizing customer value by delivering the best possible customer experience,” the press release said. The fleet will supplement the company’s Technical Education Center as well as its online class offerings and technical hotline. Though Federal-Mogul’s numbers may not have been what they would have wanted lately and the company has reduced its North American aftermarket sales staff, this move is a commitment to the shops and technicians and one that hopefully is a trend we would love to see emulated by others in the business.

This industry always talks the talk when it comes to a commitment at the shop level, but too few companies are walking the walk when it comes to putting their money where the mouth is. Maybe this will begin a period in our industry when the manufacturers and suppliers see the value to investment in world-class training, especially during a time when this industry has a real opportunity to take an even more firm hold on the automotive service sector.

Gary A. Molinaro, Editor/Publisher