"If you look at the 14 skills stations we have, it's a pretty good cross-section of everything a technician is going to have to work on," he says. "We're covering the major vehicle systems and the most current information. When a guy comes to this competition, he's going to go back to his shop to talk about the experience and the parts that challenged him, and the company is going to benefit from this guy wanting to improve. I've seen some of these competitors now for three or four years, and a lot of them have improved their work methods and the way they go about things, just because of some of the things they've been exposed to. It's had a positive effect all the way around."
Arrants says he is pleased to see fleet managers starting to use the competition as designed--to determine the strengths and areas in need of improvements in their training programs; especially the fleets that bring a large number of technicians.
"When they leave, all of the technicians have their scores on the workstations, so a good fleet manager or training director is going to review those scores and find out if there is a consistency with their techs in an area we're testing, and if there is an area of improvement that they focus their training on next year, and not utilize valuable training dollars training on an area they all did well on," he says. "Since we make sure that the skill sets that we test the technicians on are skill sets they would utilize every day in their job, if they scored low in that area, then they know they need to focus some attention, if they wanted to come back next year, on those areas."
Do you need to justify some money for technician training? Arrants says TMCSuperTech is the ticket.
"What better way than (using) the scores from the SuperTech competition for them to go back and say, 'Hey, this is what I need and here's why--I had 10 technicians, and nine of the 10 did terrible here and they're the cream of our crop,'" he says. "It can also help them utilize their training dollars to be more cost-effective or if they're trying to increase their budget for training, SuperTech justifies it by showing where the improvements need to be and also how they stack up with some of their competitors. The one benefit that some companies are not utilizing or are not aware of, is the benefit that we provide them on strengths and area of improvements in all these difference areas. That's huge."
Arrants says competing in SuperTech can also help fleets attract and retain their best technicians.
"It's also a reward for a job well done--to show these folks that they think enough of the job that they do to send them on to this competition and take them out of the shop for three days and pay their way," he says. "You talk to all the techs, and they are tickled pink to be there, and they're very happy that their employers have made that investment in them, and they want to do a good job for their bosses. It builds camaraderie between the employer and the employee--it fosters that loyalty, which is very important these days. They're all on the same team and working together. It does a lot for the technician's self-esteem, to know that their employer is willing to invest in them to come to this thing. And within the company, it stirs the competition so that other techs now want to be able to get involved in SuperTech."
A key component to the competition is the amount of vehicles and equipment that a variety of companies bring, some from a significant distance. For the past three years, Phoenix, AZ-based Swift Transportation has supplied trucks and management personnel to mentor the technicians and participate in the educational panels. This year the company brought along a half-dozen EPA SmartWay-Certified "green" trucks to the event--both to help the event and to support the SmartWay program--but it is what the group brought back that was particularly special.
Michele Calbi, Swift Transportation vice-president of procurement and shop operations, says having technician Phillip Mellor win one of the stations was just icing on the cake.
"Technicians have a difficult job in that they must keep up-to-date on the latest, ever-changing technical advancements that the tractor and trailer manufacturers introduce year after year; especially in the diesel engine arena... and we are very proud of Phillip's accomplishment," she says. "And, of course, technicians feel that if one member of the Swift team can win, it is truly possible for them to win as well."
Calbi says there is no greater venue to support technician knowledge and experience than TMCSuperTech.