SOUTHFIELD, Mich.Federal-Mogul Motorparts, a division of Federal-Mogul Holding Corp., recently completed the third phase in the expansion of its Garage Gurus technical training centers, giving it 12 facilities across 10 states.
Federal-Mogul debuted its network of technical training and product support resources in the spring of 2015, calling it a first-of-its-kind comprehensive technical education platform offering onsite, online and on-demand training for automotive service businesses.
It all started from this demand for training and this strategy of, if we could just take our 40-year-old Moog training center in St. Louis that was loved by many...and just somehow take that out to all these other markets, that would really be fantastic, said Brent Berman, director, training and consumer experience, Federal-Mogul Motorparts. So we did that, and we built out all these centers and locations.
An element of Federal-Mogul's Tech First initiativeaimed at strengthening training support for automotive service professionalsGarage Gurus opened its first four training facilities in Skokie, Ill.; Van Nuys, Calif.; St. Louis; and New York City's Bronx borough.
The company's second phase of expansion included new training centers in Atlanta; Baltimore; Dallas/Ft. Worth; and Rancho Dominguez, Calif. Finally, the Garage Gurus network expanded into Detroit; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla; Houston; and Stoughton, Mass.
Mr. Berman said each market was selected based on its proximity to a large number of technicians.
The markets were all strategically picked, not based on our distribution footprint or anything like that, Mr. Berman said. They were strictly based on technician- and shop-penetration demographic information. We knew that the consumer, the client...was the end technician because we identified that was the void we kept hearing about from customers.
At the initial launch of Garage Gurus, Federal-Mogul said it was seeking to open 15 service centers by year-end 2015, with an end goal of 20 locations.
Mr. Berman said that number is still a possibility, but the company is taking time to gauge the success of its current facilities before deciding on further expansion.
I think we're going to walk and measure, walk and measure before we run, Mr. Berman said. We had a very aggressive rollout last year throughout the year.
He noted that Federal-Mogul expects to know by December where the program is headed in terms of expansion.
As of now, Mr. Berman said Garage Gurus' training is within reach of tens of thousands of technicians, service writers and other automotive service professionals. One challenge the program faced in 2015 was dealing with different dynamics in each market, which Federal-Mogul quickly learned required adjustments to training length and times.
The things that we did in St. Louis, we sort of Xeroxed the whole thing and templated it across the country, Mr. Berman told Tire Business.
One-, two-, three- and four-day training courses work wonderfully in St. Louis, they work great in Detroit, they work great in Dallas. They don't work so well in the Bronx and they don't work so well in North Los Angeles.
It allowed us to kind of assess each market in 2015, he continued. We changed up the curriculum portfolio towards the end of 2015 for 2016 so we could be more nimble and offer evening courses, offer half-day courses and give some of our regional trainers the ability, if they wanted, to do weekend courses.
According to Mr. Berman, these flexibility improvements to the training program were necessary because shops in more heavily saturated urban areas are typically too busy to make time for traditional training.
You talk to the shop owners there and they flat-out say yield management is the least of their concerns, empty bays is the least of their concerns, Mr. Berman said. Hours in the day is their biggest concern.
They are so overbooked at the service level. They know they need to let their guys go for training, but they just simply cannot sacrifice a guy for two days or three days.
Among the changes, Garage Gurus launched test preparation courses for the ASE A4 Automotive Steering and Suspension and A5 Brakes certification exams. Led by ASE-certified Gurus, each of the courses will review all topics included in the exam, test procedures, guidelines and sample questions.
Also new to the curriculum are the following four-hour evening workshops available through any Garage Gurus training center:
c Analyzing Today's Ignition Systems (IGN.303.1.WS);
c How to Use Your Lab Scope (IGN.305.1.WS);
c Understanding Fuel Trims (IGN.304.1.WS);
c Advanced Brake System Service Tips and Techniques (BRK.206.1.WS);
c ABS Wheel Speed Sensor Testing (BRK.207.1.WS);
c Diagnosing Modern Chassis Systems (SS.105.1.WS);
c Calibrating Steering Angle Sensors (SS.106.1.WS); and
c Fel-Pro Engine Misfire Diagnostics (ENG.404.1.WS).
This year the response has been fantastic, Mr. Berman said. We're starting to see the trends that we expected to see, but each market is a little different. Certain markets have exceeded our expectations by just changing the time of day we're offering courses, and certain markets are doing just fine with the traditional day-off-work and committing to the whole day or two-day type course.
Mr. Berman said each center serves as a multi-purpose facilityallowing the company space for employee training and meetingsand Federal-Mogul launched them with a goal of providing two full weeks of technician training per month. The company has reached that goal at each facility and is now booked through the summer.
He added that Garage Gurus is in a good position to adjust its training as car technology changes in the future.
We've got a curriculum team, Mr. Berman said. I think where we'd like to see it go is we'd like to see us collaborate with other system manufacturers or other complementary manufacturers, or engineers or something like that to make sure that we can continually meet all the training needs, present and future.
In 2016, Federal-Mogul is looking to enhance its program in other ways.
The company plans to upgrade its Gurus On-Call phone center, including some text and video chat support for customers as opposed to strictly audio. These upgrades are expected to roll out by the third quarter, Mr. Berman said.
In addition, Garage Gurus plans to add another 10 Gurus-On-The-Go product technology vans to its existing fleet of 40 before year-end. The vans, which Federal-Mogul launched alongside its training facilities, operate out of each center and visit repair shops in their respective regions.
According to Mr. Berman, the vans have been highly successful for the company.
I can't say enough about them, he said. I think every person in the supply chain would give you a positive answer.
The technicians love it, he continued. They love the regional support. They love that there's a recognizable facea person to contactand the ability to develop a relationship. Partners love it because, as opposed to just doing a technician call and dropping a couple of catalogues off, it's a real presentation and it shows a commitment.
While the industry at large has taken a more proactive approach to technical training, Mr. Berman said dealers and manufacturers alike need to do a better job of attracting talent to the field.
This is a huge risk to our industry, the lack of incoming technicians and the aging of the current technicians.... I think we're going to have to continue, as an industry, to beat the drum and extol the virtues of getting into the automotive service space, Mr. Berman said.
We're doing that with our scholarship program. We're doing that by partnering with a gentleman named Mike Rowe and partnering with his scholarship foundation. We need to generate some good press about skilled trades, and then anybody who's coming in, when you have a chasm...there's going to be a need to train these folks to get them caught up to either old technologies or new technologies because they're going to be busy.
The techs over the next five, 10 years are going to be in demand, he continued. They're going to be busy, and they're going to need training and they're going to need trainers to be versatile and connected with them in a number of different ways and on different levels.
As a result, he said, dealers who want to survive need to be thinking about expanding in order to keep good technicians.
The shops that want to survive are going to have to expand to keep their good technicians there because they won't be able to replace the technicians, so they're going to have to have something more than just a busy shop to keep an A-level technician for the long haul, Mr. Berman said.
I don't know exactly what that is.... That's up to the business owner, he added. But I can guarantee you one thing: One element that's going to be consistent is they're going to have a training plan/program for these employees, and it's going to be either cost-shared or funded by the dealers.
If they want to keep their good techs happy and keep their customers happy, they're going to have to make that investment in training if they want to survive.
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