Wirtgen Group is committed to supplying the road building and repair sector with a highly skilled workforce. Construction Plant News reports from the manufacturer’s Newark training facility.
With time on the network limited and deadlines non-negotiable, there is no doubt that the highways business is amongst the most intense that the construction industry has to offer. Not only that, but the consequences for failure and delay in terms of increased disruption are significant and costly. That’s why contractors need to be confident they are in possession of not just the latest machinery, but the most highly skilled operators at the controls, and Wirtgen is in a position to help with both.
Its brands of pavers, planers and rollers already enjoys an enviable market share amongst its peers, but with the opening of its new head office, the company is now uniquely placed to support its customers through the provision of over 50 training courses. Programmes lasting from one to four days presently cover its Vogele, Wirtgen and Hamm machines, with the Kleeman range of jaw crushers likely to join that prospectus very shortly. Wirtgen is actually the only firm to offer full Mineral Products Qualifications Council (MPQC) and Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) accredited tuition from its new and impressive Nottinghamshire facility. The Newark Centre for Training and Technology features a large indoor classroom, a separate training bay with space for three machines as well as theory presentations, and an outdoor area where black top can be laid, planed or rolled.
Instruction can be provided to operators, site managers, service engineers and workshop personnel, with skill-sets ranging from the complete novice to experienced workers who may need familiarisation on new technologies and techniques. “We see a huge potential in what we have here, and are already looking to expand,” explains Wirtgen Product Trainer, Andy Kent. “Our role is primarily to allow attendees to get the most out of the machine, and we’ll spend a lot of time playing with the settings on a unit so that operators can see the effect it might have on a jobsite. Ultimately, it’s about being more productive and producing a better product, but contractors also understand that there’s the opportunity to increase the life of the equipment. On our operator course we will demonstrate the correct way to tip material into a machine, for example, because if you’re a contractor with only a couple of units in your fleet, getting another 1,000 hours out of a particular component could be significant to your bottom line.”
Wirtgen’s training is also supported with the latest technology. The ErgoPlus App, for instance, provides information on the likes of dashboards and controllers, with a simple and short instructional videos to guide learners through the process. “Everybody now has a mobile phone in the pocket,” adds fellow trainer, Ian Wright, “so, rather than rely on worksheets, or a manual that might get lost, having that kind of easily accessible information is an excellent resource.”
When you’re laying asphalt you only get one shot at it or the lot will invariably have to come back up again. That’s why the Centre for Training and Technology is a space where it’s safe to make mistakes – indeed they are positively encouraged. Similarly, the outdoor training area provides a site where trainers are totally in control in a way that they never could be on a live job. Moreover, it the combined, real world experience of 45 years that allows former operator, Ian and service engineer, Andy to bring these areas alive, and engage with the kind of on-site issues that industry personnel will encounter on a daily basis.
On the course we attended the training bay housed three Vogele pavers, a Super 800 3-i, a Super 1303 3-i, and the largest wheeled paver in the stable – the Super 1803 3-i. This 16metre pave width machine is probably the most popular amongst contractors and an obvious choice for course attendees on which to learn. In fact, the UK market remains a predominately wheeled one, with the 1803 prized for its top speed of up to 20kmh, and the kind of all-round functionality that will see it in use anywhere from new housing schemes to motorway work. This multi-purpose space can combine theory and practical teaching, all in one room, and allows learners to familiarise themselves with the likes of the 1803 on a whiteboard, and with a screwdriver in hand.
“The challenge is to condense the course into a period of time that employers are comfortable with their employees attending, which is why our operator course is three days,” continues Andy. “From our perspective, being able to offer the buyers of machinery expert intuition is also a useful sales tool but it also ensures that our machines get the reputation they deserve because they are being used properly.”
Highways England and local authorities will always demand value for money from their supply chain. That’s why the latest technologies, and a workforce that is confident in utilising it to its fullest extent, is imperative. As the only manufacturer in the highways sector that provides fully accredited training Wirtgen is in a position to ensure that an investment in its machines can also be an investment in your own people and, with plans to further extend its head office with a completely separate training academy adjacent to the existing building, they are on the right road to educating the workforce of tomorrow.