Training: Spring Cleaning

In the spring time, a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of… spring cleaning!

Okay, that’s not quite how the poem goes. But as you attack that pile of rubble in your garage at home, remember that a little April clean-up and organization can go a long way at your fleet maintenance operation. You may find your training plans are in serious need of updating.

First of all, do you remember where your training records are? Are they with your companion qualification records, like those for DOT inspections? If you can locate them, are they on paper and stashed away in a file drawer? This might be the year you decide to move that information to an electronic format. A simple spreadsheet or database can ensure that you find them next spring or any time of the year. If you are more aggressive, it might be time to look into full-blown maintenance management software packages.

You may find while doing this that some training has become stale, relative to the skills and knowledge needed for today’s fleets. Plan some time to reassess your fleet technicians’ needs. Determine if any of those needs can be best met through training, then plan the training required as much in advance as possible. If a technician must be away for a few days to train, treat it like vacation time and formulate backup plans for the remaining staff to cover for the loss.

Should your staff’s knowledge and skills be mostly up-to-date, some “refresher” training could be planned for the remainder of the year. Certainly, lesser-used skills could use some honing. The adage of “use it or lose it” is certainly true here. Also, some cross-training of selected employees to back up the experts may be in order.

Also look at “process” training in addition to technical. Over time, technicians and other staff can slip back into some old, less efficient habits. How carefully are they following check-in, inspections, preventive maintenance and check-out procedures? Can overall workflow be improved? Design some simple presentations and hand-outs, and plan a couple of meetings over pizza lunch.

Speaking of preventive maintenance, when was the last time your technicians participated in any training sessions geared to PM and inspections? You may have spent the past few years chasing training on diagnostics and technology changes, while basic PM processes, inspection forms and related skills have not kept up. Does part of your inspection process include electronic tools and software? If so, have the forms and training been updated?

Vehicles, engines, systems and testing tools are changing rapidly, which means maintenance activity is also changing. A fleet manager needs to take a step back and analyze what the fleet’s current maintenance requirements are, and determine if the maintenance staff is spending productive time in the right efforts.

If you foresee a down year for technical skills improvements, soft skills training may be the way to go. Plan some seminars on time management or customer communication skills for your technicians. And always keep an eye on the currency of your safety training!

Finally, make plans to spend some time with your outside training providers. Have their courses kept up with the times? Have they expanded their curriculum to include any self-paced, media-based modules? Provide feedback from technicians who have attended their classes, and discuss in a constructive manner improvements that can be made. Discuss scheduling of training events, keeping your peak times and technician preferences in mind.

So, while your spring cleaning at home may include that dirty backyard pool, don’t forget to take time to assess and prepare your talent “pool” at work!