While the cost and importance associated with the crawler tractors on a jobsite usually necessitate a companys best and most talented operators, even seasoned veterans can benefit from professional operator training. In many cases, operator training presents the largest single opportunity for improvements in productivity and reductions in operating costs, says James Kell, manager of the Productivity Management Group, Empire Caterpillar, a regional dealer covering Arizona and part of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula.
This is true of both new and experienced equipment users. Take those who participate in Caterpillars Certified Operator training program. Many have been operating for 20 or 30 years and they may think they know it all, says Brian Sims, senior product demonstrator/instructor, Edwards Demonstration Center, Caterpillar. Thirty years of doing it one way doesnt mean they have been doing it the most efficiently. During each class, everybody learns something... For some it may be a refresher, while others hear our message for the first time. Either way, they learn something they didnt know or had forgotten.
Self-taught operators can realize immediate improvements through structured training. They can definitely develop bad habits when they are not taught correctly, says Sims. A lot of times, they just dont know there is a better way of doing something until we tell and show them. Not only does training help with proficiency, it can increase an operators satisfaction with the job and help them achieve their goals with less effort and fatigue by doing the job correctly the first time.
Of course, even veteran operators need to keep up with machine advancements. Machines are always evolving with new and innovative features, says Gary Svoboda, manager of field training, Komatsu America Corp. Operators who do not understand why a modern machine acts differently or responds the way it does may not be utilizing beneficial features or operational techniques.
Also, the operator who has the initiative to learn can continuously improve existing skills, he adds, or develop new techniques to be safer, more efficient and productive.
There are various self-paced training tools available online or on CD that can allow operators to gain the basics (e.g., maintenance, inspection and operation).
For example, VISTA Training Inc.s computer-based training (CBT) programs allow self-learning based around the operators schedule. Operators get at least the basics, so when they go to a machine they spend less time and less fuel, and there is less risk of damage, says Rick Longstaff, president.
Caterpillar Equipment Training Solutions (ETS) includes self-learning training CDs for operators, technicians, equipment owners and others who want to learn the operating basics. These materials are intended to give end users a basic knowledge of safety, maintenance, pre-operating procedures and operating procedures. There is a self-check exercise at the end of each unit, and a final examination at the end of the program that enables students to print their results.
People are using more classroom and CBT pre-training than they have in the past, Longstaff comments. It allows contractors to make sure an operator already knows key operating concepts before he or she gets on the machine. This helps make on-the-machine operator training time more efficient because it has been augmented by a structured program.
Pre-training also minimizes the amount of time a machine has to be taken out of service. When we send our pre-training CBT out to the contractor, they take advantage of having an operators attention, making sure they are learning the right things as they are moving through, Longstaff points out. By the time our instructors arrive on site, the operators have a solid base, so they are not wasting valuable machine time.