Matco was pleased when it got its first full Maintenance and Repair Contract, for a fleet of 26 machines — mostly Cat 777s and 992Gs — for a mining customer. But as the dealership took on the responsibility of caring for this fleet, it became apparent that it would also have to build a workforce of technicians to do the job.
In response, Matco developed an aggressive plan to expand its team, implementing a unique mining training program that has helped increased its service — expanding its workforce to nearly 450 technicians.
Matco looked inside its own organization, identifying the most skilled technicians across all the industries it serves and providing them additional training on mining equipment. “Our top technicians were invited to take part in a focused training program, says Alfredo Fonseca, General Service Manager. “They learned a lot about safety, and they spent six months on the sites working with veteran technicians, doing repairs and mine-specific maintenance.
“The best technicians earn a certification by Matco,” says Fonseca. “And the best of the best get Cat-certified,” he says.
“Ten years have passed since the beginning of this successful business relationship, and both the mining customer and Matco have benefited,” Fonseca says. “This is reflected in the growth both companies have experienced — the customer fleet and Matco’s workforce have expanded to about four times their original size.”
Building Simulators—And Technicians
Like other companies facing a shortage in technicians, Matco began looking for a way to speed up the learning process. As they considered options, they kept in mind the adage: “What you hear, you forget. What you see, you remember. What you do, you understand.”
“We decided to use hands-on simulators to break the formal way we used to do training,” says Fonseca. “We were doing classes, tests, etc., which are important — but our goal wasn’t to be a school. We needed to certify that students either can or cannot perform a specific skill.”
“The challenge was where to get the simulators for all of these skills we need to measure,” he continues. “So we decided, ‘We’re going to build them.’ Then we said, ‘Where do we get the manpower to build these simulators.’ And we decided, what better way for students to learn than to build the simulators themselves?”
In partnership with a local university, Matco developed the Programa Practicantes Internship Program, which takes the school’s best students each year and gives them the opportunity to learn at Matco. The majority of the interns are studying to be electrical or electronic engineers. Interns receive compensation for transportation and other expenses.
Projects are defined based on service department needs relative to training, technician development, operations, etc. Local universities are solicited for candidates in their sixth semester or higher. The new interns are introduced to the service team and the project to be developed is assigned. Once they are familiar with the project, a work plan is presented.
The most common project is to design a training simulator. Typically these are based on components donated from Cat as a result of warranty failure. Matco interns have developed dozens of simulators. The majority are engines, but some projects simulate transmissions or hydraulics. Others focus on topics like safety, contamination control and service truck design.
From day one, the students are a part of the Matco organization. “They feel like they are working in the company, learning and preparing for real life. I treat these guys like they were any other service engineer in the company,” Fonseca says. “They are more than just students; they commit to finishing the projects they are responsible for in a timely manner. That kind of early commitment shapes the character of our future service engineers.”
Reaping The Benefits
“The results of the program have proven to be invaluable,” say Fonseca. “The interns have fulfilled service department needs through the development of lube trucks, training materials, filtration and fluid dispensing systems, and service shop control systems — all of which ultimately lead to more efficient operations while reducing cost and increasing revenues.”
Matco’s training philosophy has been modified as a result of the training aids. The training is organized to provide 30 percent class time and 70 percent simulator time. The results have been reflected in a rise in the technicians’ production capacity, parts and machine sales, and a reduction of redo in the shop — which has been reduced from 6 percent to 1 percent three years in a row; the Cat benchmark is 2 percent.
For more information about Cat dealer support for mining operations, visit www.cat.com/mining.