In only a few short years, the Technology & Maintenance Council’s (TMC) SuperTech Challenge has grown into a much-anticipated event for fleets to send their best technicians to stack up against other top techs from around the country.
The competition is intense, with some participants spending their vacation time to prepare for the event. Of course, for the few who successfully run the gauntlet to claim victory in one of the 12 skills stations, there are some definite perks.
At last year’s event, those winners received prizes that not only affirmed their “top technician” status but can help them to become even better and more efficient in the shop. Panasonic and Noregon Systems provided winning technicians with some equipment to help make their jobs a bit easier in the future—Panasonic donated 12 Toughbook CF-19 computers, valued at $4,000 each, and Noregon provided their JPRO® Fleet Diagnostic software tool and a year’s worth of free software upgrades.
Panasonic has been involved with TMC for some time, but after hearing about last year’s SuperTech competition, they dove right in to help out. Bill Presler, Panasonic Computer Solutions senior business development manager, for transportation says company officials were quite surprised by how much TMC members and technicians alike appreciated the gesture.
“It was like we had just found a cure for world hunger,” Presler chuckles. “We didn’t realize how big of an event this is to the technicians—(they) would get up to get their award for winning their station, and they were so moved by this; it was the equivalent of winning an Oscar. It was so amazing to see the passion that they had for what they were doing, and how much people appreciate some recognition and honor for the excellence that they bring to the task.”
Noregon Systems director of fleet sales Michael Kinney says their relationship with Panasonic led them to also partner with SuperTech, donating $30,000 worth of diagnostic and software tools so the station winners had something to run on their new Toughbooks.
“We wanted to turn it into a working tool for the winners,” he says. “We’ve looked at other computers; other products out there to use as a platform, and there’s nothing better in our minds than a Panasonic Toughbook. It’s perfect for this environment.”
THE “NEW” TECHNICIAN
Presler says it was an easy decision to return to Nashville this year with a fresh supply of Toughbooks for the station winners. The job of the truck technician has clearly changed in the past generation, though techs sometimes still get a bad rap as “old school” mechanics whose only use for a computer in their service bay is as a paperweight. He says that perception is changing, though.
“We heard people say it would be difficult for the technicians to adopt a mobile computer, and I always thought that was an interesting position, because these are such technically savvy people,” Presler says. “They’re used to reading manuals and understanding how things work and spending time with something until they understand it at a much deeper level than a non-technical person would. We heard some resistance every now and again, but where we would see customers adopting them, they seemed to work out great.”
Presler says one industry expert at a recent event put it best—“It’s easier to teach an old mechanic to use a computer than it is to teach a young mechanic to work on trucks.”
“There is a sea change, and people understand that productivity enhancements are necessary on the floor of the shop,” he says. “It’s necessary to look at whatever productivity tools can increase the ability to do the job, doing essentially more with less, and those tools can make employees more satisfied with their jobs, and reduce turnover.”
The “new breed” of technician, Kinney says, is very technologically savvy and is just as comfortable at the keyboard as under the hood. For these techs, staying on top of computers and modern diagnostic software is becoming a necessary part of their job description, and can greatly benefit their fleet.