Manufacturers, dealers discuss value of dealer training

By |  June 26, 2020
Terex MPS dealer training Photo: Terex MPS

Terex MPS hosts annual events for dealers to increase their knowledge about the company’s equipment. Photo: Terex MPS

Although the typical equipment dealer represents an array of product lines, aggregate producers often look at dealers as the face for a manufacturer’s various makes and models.

Dealers, after all, are the ones with a presence in specific markets, giving them more regular face time with customers than manufacturers. But without a thorough understanding of the equipment they’re selling, dealers would not be able to effectively sell or deliver the necessary services for equipment that they do.

To that end, manufacturers are tasked with keeping dealers up to speed on their latest products and making sure they understand the full features of equipment. Manufacturers also must ensure dealers can troubleshoot equipment when problems surface.

“You’re only as good in the market as your dealer, and it’s up to us to train our dealers,” says John Garrison, vice president of sales at Superior Industries. “Really, it’s up to [manufacturers] to make sure we’re putting a good amount of content out there.”

Bringing dealers together

To educate dealers, Superior hosts in-person events dedicated to dealer training starting in the late fall and extending into early spring. In total, the company hosts between 12 and 18 training events every year.

In 2018, Superior Industries hosted an open house for dealers at its factory in Morris, Minnesota, aiming to provide its dealer partners with a greater understanding of products before they attended the next ConExpo-Con/Agg.

“Before ConExpo, we wanted to pull our dealers together,” Garrison says. “So we let them know everything we’ve been working on – everything that they were going to see at the show – and gave them some higher-level training on the wider line of products that we were going to be offering.”

A manufacturer’s facilities can play a critical role in dealer education. Terex MPS, for example, utilizes an 18,000-sq.-ft. facility in Oklahoma City to train dealers, hosting an annual service school for its distribution network there.

The Oklahoma City location features indoor and outdoor spaces that allow Terex MPS to bring in large equipment. The company also has an auditorium and several classroom-style rooms where training sessions on equipment can take place.

Because some Terex MPS dealers cover up to five states with a number of employees, Terex MPS also conducts personalized training schools for dealers upon request.

“If there are individual requests for dealers, we’ll do our best to accommodate them with a personalized training school,” says Spencer Kossl, manager of business development at Terex MPS. “Because we do have a broad range of equipment, and depending on the equipment that they have in their territory, there may be a concentrated amount of some equipment that they want specific training on. So we can tailor a training program to that with our service, parts and product management teams.”

Training in new times

Superior Industries dealer training classroom Photo: Superior

Superior Industries hosted dealers in August 2018 at its facilities in Morris, Minnesota, for a pre-ConExpo-Con/Agg training event. Photo: Superior

While classroom-style training is popular within the aggregate industry, the coronavirus pandemic presents new challenges that constrain dealers and manufacturers from getting together en masse.

Still, manufacturers have found ways to keep dealer education going. Similar to a number of other industry companies, Superior is utilizing Zoom, a video conference platform, to host dealer training sessions and educational webinars.
While Superior would prefer to host in-person meetings, Garrison says the company is reaching a greater audience now through the virtual platform.

“We have learned [online training makes it] easy to catch people at different times,” Garrison says. “You can have classes in different time zones. You can prerecord some of the content and just make it available online [as] password-protected, so dealers can log in and watch it at their convenience. So it really does help.”

Similarly, Terex MPS is not allowing the pandemic to prevent it from staying in front of dealers. The company set up weekly video conferences to offer technical support and address other key areas. Terex MPS plans to continue with this the video conferences as long as traveling is not an option.

What the future holds

While virtual training is on the rise in 2020, the in-person experience is still highly valued within the aggregate industry. Larry Hetzel, owner and CEO of Wisconsin-based Rock Machinery Co., makes a case in point.

“We were at a customer site,” Hetzel says. “The customer was renting our equipment. They liked what they saw, so they asked if we could do additional training for others in their company and provide more information.”

Hetzel originally planned to do the training alongside a service manager, but saw an opportunity to expand the in-person training with a representative from Astec Industries.

“It was a very good one-on-one interaction,” Hetzel says. “They had a lot of questions that wouldn’t show up on a Zoom meeting. You have to see that expression on [the customer’s] face to make sure they understand the point you are making. There were some very important features over our competitors that are not very easily explained or understood.”

Hetzel’s example is a reminder that this is very much a hands-on industry. And with technology constantly evolving, it’s vital that dealers have opportunities to reassess a product’s basics but also grasp new features that are continuously being introduced.

“Dealer education is the cornerstone of creating the greatest value for our customers,” says Justin Mellott, inventory manager at Mellott Company. “This includes [not only] manufacturers educating us as dealers, but also us educating customers with that information.”

For Mellott Company, contract crushing has elevated its own understanding of aggregate processing equipment. Because the company is utilizing equipment on its own jobsites, it has firsthand experience to pass on to others.

“I would consider contract crushing one of our competitive advantages – understanding not only what equipment works, but how it works in the field and how it produces material,” Mellott says. “Having that experience to be able to troubleshoot and know what the common issues are is important. We’ve experienced them and fixed them.”

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About the Author:

Carly Bemer (McFadden) is a former Associate Editor for Pit & Quarry.

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