FM: What sorts of prizes and incentives do you award the winners?
MG: We have a first, second and third place in our internal competition. They get an all-expense paid trip to the competition, as well as their spouse, for the weekend. The winners get a personalized watch, and the first and second place winners go on and we cover all expenses for them to compete in the TMC SuperTech competition.
FM: Does your corporate competition prepare your technicians for SuperTech?
MG: I believe so. We do our competition on live vehicles. My field managers and I will sit down, we’ll develop several problems, we’ll ‘bug’ the trucks with those problems, we’ll test them and validate that they will be dysfunctional on the unit. Then we bring the competitors in—they have all the tools, all the diagrams, all the information they need to perform that task. And we give it to them is a way they would get it in the real world: the driver walks in with a complaint form that says, ‘Air conditioning doesn’t work,’ or ‘The truck doesn’t pull properly,’ and it’s up to them to repair it just as they would if they had gotten that information from the driver. Then we watch their routine, and they are scored on points for completing tasks, and they are also expected to complete the paperwork; if they don’t complete the paperwork correctly, they lose points for that. So it’s an all-inclusive test, just like it would be on the job.
FM: How did you assemble your team for last year’s SuperTech competition? There was a whole crowd wearing Con-way shirts!
MG: You’re referring to the staff and family members who attended. It was a combination of the component directors and our parent company. The field directors put the program together with regard to who would attend. We got the approvals as required, and went there to support our mechanics, to take photographs, and to encourage family members to participate, and it turned out to be a very positive event for everybody.
FM: SuperTech starts with a written exam, and only the technicians who pass that exam move on to the hands-on competition. Did all of your technicians pass the exam and get into the final round?
MG: Out of all the competitors, only one didn’t make it to the actual hands-on test. But he absolutely had a great time, and then he was able to go on and cheer his teammates.
FM: When the technicians got back to work after SuperTech, did you notice any difference in their job performance?
MG: I can’t say it changed their work habits or their skill levels, but it certainly put a focus in areas where we needed improvement, and how to go about getting that information. It also created a very strong internal pride with the other mechanics, when they learned about what happened when the competitors came back and spoke of how well it went, and what a good experience it was for them.
FM: Did that stir up more interest in SuperTech this year?
MG: I believe it did. We had a lot of people try out this year. And it’s hard limiting it to just the two per business unit when you have that many mechanics.
FM: For you to be able to put together such a big group of SuperTech competitors, you must have a great training program. What’s your secret?
MG: We have a lot of good vendor support, where the vendors will come in and educate upon request. In Central, we take it a step further. We’ve built a training room where we bring in mechanics and give them training in air conditioning, in electrical, in diagnostics and repair. In fact, we’ve got a class going on right now. And, we’ll also do a traveling road show, where I’ll go around where mechanics are requesting assistance for air conditioning, for example—this time of year that’s a real hot topic. We’ll go and offer training on their site, refresher course type of information, to help them pass the ASE test and to be more proficient at what they do. We also offer a tuition reimbursement program, where the mechanic can get addition training on their own, and we’ll cover the cost. It’s a benefit you don’t see very often.