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Back to school: Factory training about new technologies offers huge returns on small investments

Technology is rapidly changing the products we have purchased and used for years. Today’s industrial products now have standard components and technology that did not exist even five years ago. For this reason, up-to-date training for both maintenance technicians and sales personnel is more important than ever. Manufacturers recognize the importance of this as a value-added service and generally offer these types of training sessions free of charge.

Getting a Boost

In the past, an electric chain hoist, for example, typically was offered as either a single or two speed via contractor control and pole change motors. A typical two-speed hoist had a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio, and speeds could not be changed without rewinding motors or adding expensive electronics.

Today, variable frequency drives have evolved to the point where pole change motors soon will be obsolete. Drives today are smaller—fitting inside the control cover of the hoist—and economical to the point where they virtually cost the same as or less than a pole change motor. These drives can be programmed two-speed and offer the end user the ability to adjust the speeds to as fast as a 1:1.1 ratio or as slow as a 12:1 ratio. Drives also can be programmed to offer the end user true variable speed, which allows the user to hold and maintain a speed anywhere between the programmed low speed and programmed high speed. In addition, today’s drives provide valuable preventative maintenance information, such as hours of run time and starts on the motor. This information is valuable for documenting usage and scheduling routine maintenance to the hoist, such as oil changes or brake inspections.

Custom Care

Drives are electronic, which has created a host of new distributor, technician and end user training. Whether setting a paper roll or lowering a die, end users want the flexibility of easily changing the speed on their hoist to adapt to their particular application. The days of providing a “standard product” right out of the box no longer exist. Although the drives are easy to program, with instructions included in each owner’s manual, most sales, technicians and maintenance personnel still prefer factory training on programming and sales of these drives.

The Pitch

Sales training provides the tools necessary to promote and demonstrate the features and benefits that make the product stand out from the competition. Focused on the entire product offering, factory training allows salespeople to see side-by-side comparisons of product and internal components. At the same time, most salespeople want a general understanding of routine maintenance and frequently asked questions by end users. Often, programming the variable frequency drive becomes a hot topic of discussion, and a salesperson who successfully programs the hoist speeds is more likely to gain a sale.

Fast Fixes

Maintenance technician training consists of classroom work followed by hands-on disassembling and assembling of the entire product line. Discussion also includes electrical and mechanical theory, electrical systems and variable frequency drives. Each technician receives valuable hands-on repair and preventive maintenance techniques, as well as a complete binder of owner’s manuals and a certificate stating the technician is qualified to repair the product.

However, because technology changes so often, it is imperative that technicians are recertified every couple of years to familiarize themselves with the new product offerings.

Keeping in mind that most training today carries minimal expense, simply get your sales staff and technicians to the manufacturer’s facility; the maker will pick up the rest. It is in the manufacturer’s best interest to have factory-trained salespeople and technicians.

Training is extremely successful for both distributors and end users. We often see repeat personnel and repeat distributors and end users. The distributors that invest in training tend to be the most successful. We see a direct correlation between training and sales, and the end users that are trained on our products are often customers for life. After all, knowledge is power.

Bret Lussow is the business development sales manager at Harrington Hoists Inc., Manheim, Pa. For more information, visit