Volunteering to work on SuperTech is a big commitment, no doubt about it. But every year, more and more industry professionals sign up to volunteer as skill station chairs and judges, which means that every year more and more fleets and manufacturers give their employees the time to attend SuperTech committee meetings, and to travel to the event itself. What do these individuals and companies get out of their willingness to support SuperTech?
Tire & Wheel Chairman
“I started off in this business changing oil, changing tires, when I was right out of high school, and I worked my way through school and to where I am today. But I’m not going to be here forever; somebody’s going to have to take my place. So, I look at this as an opportunity to develop the next generation of maintenance managers.
“Today’s technicians are more ‘computerized’ and less ‘hands-on.’ So what I focus on in my area is ‘hands-on’ skills that will be needed currently and in the future. It doesn’t matter what happens with the 2010 engines; trucks are still going to need 18 tires that need to be installed, that need to run down the road straight, that are going to encounter wear—none of that’s going to change. That’s where I’ve focused my part of the competition.
“I always learn, and I always talk to the competitors. Some of the competitors are 20 years old, some are 30, some are 40, and you learn different ways to get the same point across. Some of them are very focused, some of them look at it as a job, but some of them look at it as, ‘How can I get better?’
“Another thing I see happening—and I try to promote this—is the competitors are starting to develop their networks; their networks of help. That’s something that you have to acquire over years, and I encourage the competitors to talk to people. They’re not expected to know everything, but they probably know somebody that knows the answer, so don’t feel bad about asking!
“Bridgestone is a sponsoring company, but they’re also a participating company in the TMC mission. The Professional Technician Development Committee (PTDC) brings together the OEs, the aftermarket suppliers and the fleets to better understand how a product is used and how it reacts, how it wears, and how it satisfies the end-user. SuperTech gives us the ‘hands-on’ end of that. It doesn’t matter how many tests you run on a product; when it gets out there in the field in everybody’s hands, that’s when you’re going to find out how a product actually reacts.
“It’s a learning experience for everyone, at all levels. My VP is very engaged in SuperTech, because it’s a huge flow of information, as long as we keep those lines of information open.”
Wheel End Chairman
“I wanted to become more involved with TMC and the industry in general. I thought that the SuperTech program would be a great way to do this. Many things that I do in my job with Consolidated Metco overlap the things I have been able to do to support the SuperTech program.
“Since the beginning of the SuperTech program I have been involved with numerous state and fleet maintenance competitions, as well as the annual TMC SuperTech competition. This has enabled me to watch hundreds of technicians perform a variety of tasks related to our company’s products.
“As you watch technicians work, you start to see the differences in the way they each approach the same job. At the beginning of each competition I give them all the same instructions: Identify the task, obtain the proper work instructions, and complete the task based on those written instructions. Many technicians are able to quickly find the proper work instructions and complete the task based on those instructions. Others seem to struggle with the documentation. This has caused me to look at the way our company presents our service information. In some cases, we have not done a good job of providing user-friendly documentation. We continue to evolve our documentation in an effort to make it as accurate and as easy to use as possible.
“I have asked many of my company’s suppliers and competitors to serve as judges for the wheel end competition. They all have done so willingly. They have all given their time during the competition, helped to develop test questions, and provided technical support for our portion of the skills challenge.
“Because of the relationships I have developed working with them in the SuperTech event, I don’t hesitate to call them at other times of the year if I need technical support or have questions about their products. This is typical of all TMC projects. Customers and competitors work together for the overall good of the industry.
“The SuperTech program gives a technician the opportunity to receive much deserved recognition for their contributions to the industry. I know of many cases where it has caused companies to re-evaluate and improve their own training programs. Each SuperTech event provides an opportunity for the technicians in attendance to receive specialized technical training on a variety of equipment maintenance topics.”
Tire & Wheel Sponsor and Judge
“This will be our second year with SuperTech. Last year, we supplied two air compressors and all of the 1-inch guns for the Tire & Wheel segment of the competition. George Arrants (SuperTech Chairman) got us up and running. He pursued us pretty heavily last year to get involved with this.
“We really didn’t know what our involvement was going to be until we got there! We thought we would supply this equipment, and then observe and see how this all plays out. Once I got there last year I met with George and some of the other TMC officials, and Randy Patterson, who heads up the Tire & Wheel end of it, asked me to be a judge, which actually worked out very well.
“I think the competitors are showcasing their talents. I think it’s a big support for the training that’s going on all year for these technicians. I heard a lot of the buzz going around about certain fleets that had enhanced their training to get their guys prepared for this, which I think is very encouraging.
“So many people think of the stereotypical image of the mechanic as the guy with grease under his fingernails, but these guys take it to a whole different level. They are so professional, and their training is so superior.
“My company uses the event to showcase new products. Last year we introduced our rotary screw compressors, which were pretty impressive to a lot of people. They would be standing next to the compressors, talking to me, and they would ask ‘Could you kick this thing in so I can hear what it sounds like?’ and I’d say, ‘Well, it’s running right now.’ That happened quite a few times.
“Also, we support the winner of the Tire & Wheel Skill Station with a gift certificate for tools. We did that last year, and we’ll be doing it again this year.
“As far as I’m concerned, we will be involved with TMC and this event as long as they’ll have us.”
Service Information Chairman
“I didn’t try to get involved... I was curiously interested in what was going on. I’m a member of TMC, and I would sit in on the meetings. Someone came up with the idea of doing a service information skill station, and then George Arrants, the chairman, who worked for Snap-on at the time, mentioned to the committee that Snap-on had a company, Mitchell1, that had a service information product, and they approached me.
“And of course I said yes. I’m an ASE Master Technician myself, so I knew the importance of service information, and I also was responsible for transitioning Mitchell1 from print to electronic. So, I knew the industry was heading away from the print product towards electronic. The younger generation seems to embrace it quite readily, but the older guys were not really embracing it; they were sticking to the old shop manuals or figuring it out on their own. But that creates a productivity issue, so it just became obvious that we need to make sure that the technician of today knows how to use a computer, knows how to jump on the internet, knows how to look things up and get quickly back to work and fix the vehicle. So, this was a good way to test that.
“The first year, nobody knew what (our product) was, and that’s to be expected. The second year, most of the returning technicians found out that they had scored kind of poorly on the system, so they had their shop owners or service managers contact us, and at the very least we would provide them with a 14-day trial that they could use leading up to the exam to practice. So, I think what we’re going to do this year is allow TMC to send out a message to all contestants telling them that they can contact us and get the free 14-day trial if they don’t already have it in their shop. So they can at least play on a level playing field with the guys who already have it, and they can practice with it leading up to the competition.
“I just felt that getting involved (in SuperTech) was an obligation. We’re the only company out there that has a system that covers all makes and models, and with a competition like this you can’t say ‘Let’s just test on Freightliner,’ or, ‘Let’s just test on Detroit Diesel.’ So, in order to make the competition fair, you have to test on all the different parts of the vehicle and spread it around from manufacturer to manufacturer. Our system would allow that, and we were the only one out there, so we needed to do this.
“Plus, it’s a way of giving back. As a member of TMC, I want to be able to support their efforts, so it was kind of a no-brainer.”