Train in vain?

In a rapidly changing business environment it can seem like you are being left behind. How can you keep up? By hopping on the ‘train’, that’s how...

Published:  27 July, 2018

You’re never too old to learn, as they say. Well in this industry they should say you are never too old to stop learning. If you do stop learning, you might never catch up, and then where will you be?
    
In June, like much of the industry we were at Automechanika Birmingham. As always it was highly illuminating. We are not going to give you a full lowdown on the event here though. If you want that, turn to page 30 where we have all the info you are ever likely to need. There is one aspect of it we would like to cover though – change, and what the impact can be.

During our three days at the show, we noted all the new technology, factoring in electric vehicles and hybrids, as well as all the ongoing developments within the internal combustion engine. EVs and hybrids might take up the column inches, but it is conventional powertrain vehicles that make up the majority on the roads still, and will continue to do so for some time. It might sound like stating the obvious, but it was made very clear that nothing will stay the same forever, so businesses that work on vehicles (that means you, dear readers) need to make sure they keep up to date.

We’re not telling you anything you didn’t know. It’s just one of those situations where you walk through the various halls, and remember that all that development you spend all your year writing about is a tangible thing, that you can go and touch and see.

Off-topic; On-message
While we were at the show, we were able to speak to a wide range of industry figures. One tries to stay focused on the key issues in these sorts of interviews, but during our sit-down (on surprisingly comfortable stools considering their vertiginous height) with IMI chief executive Steve Nash, we went a little off-topic. We were supposed to be talking about Automechanika Birmingham, and you can see that in the show feature, but we ended up talking about the history of the sector and where technology is going.

"The IMI will be 100 years old in 2020,” said Steve. “There is a real parallel in what was happening then, and what is happening now. 100 years ago,  just after the First World War we had seen that natural explosion in technology that wars create. Before the war, cars were very noticablely horseless carriages. By the 1920s you had sophisticated cars, and it was no longer appropriate to have the local blacksmith tending to them, which is what happened. This is why we were set up.  It was to try and introduce some professional standards to the industry.

“Fast forward 100 years and we are there again at the quantum point we were then, where the technology is moving rapidly ahead of the people in the industry, and we have got to move rapidly to keep up. I don't think it is appropriate to ask people to engage with potentially lethal high voltage electrics without knowing they are properly equipped and trained."

Steve added: "If you look at Volkswagen, they are quoted as saying that from 2019 they will bring out a new electric vehicle to somewhere within one of their ranges every month. We are moving into a different era, and the skills have got to move with the times."

Technology     
Move with the times indeed. It’s a lot to take in, but no challenge is insurmountable. While the various technological marvels and new products on show might seem too much to deal with, if you make sure you regularly undertake training to develop your skills, you should be able to keep up and get a handle on it all.

Through the show, there were many seminars available for free. Some were in Aftermarket’s very own Seminar Theatre, as well as in the various other dedicated venues. Considering the extent of development going on in the sector, we wonder sometimes why these sorts of sessions are not completely overrun by businesses looking to stay up to date. Obviously not everyone can attend, you need to stay up to date.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is something you need to pursue. Training is not just for the young. It is vital for existing technicians, to stay young in mind and attitude.

We regularly talk about training, as regular readers know. We have a standalone section that covers it every month (pages 62-63 in this issue while we have your attention), where we discuss and cover training, both in terms of outcomes and available courses. You don’t just need ongoing training because of changes to vehicle construction and engine type either. MOT requirements mean testers need to undertake annual training, and the new MOT regulations that came into force in May have only reinforced this.

Top idea
Training can take you a long way. We recently held the finals for Top Technician and Top Garage. One thing that we always notice at the semi-finals and the finals of Top Technician is that when you are talking to the contestants, training comes up constantly. They will tell you about all the courses they have been on, and all the skills development they pursue. If they come up across a difficult problem they will research and follow it through to its successful conclusion. Accessing training and looking to find the route case of particularly interesting problems are both goals for participants. CPD is a mantra and a passion here.

This might not always be the best use of time and resources in the moment, but they see it as an investment in the future. It will pay off later for them. Clearly when you are looking at the bottom line and trying to keep pushing forward and push jobs out the door this cannot always be the priority. However, if you can factor this kind of thinking into your day and follow up with training, you will be heading in the right direction.

In the end, it’s all investment whether it is a spanking new piece of kit, or training to enable you to work on the latest vehicles. Equipment will always need to be replaced in the end, sad as it is to admit when you have bought the latest doohickey that really will help you, but knowledge breeds knowledge, sparks new ideas, and helps you and your business grow. Put your money where your life is, and get to it.



Related Articles

  • In the heat of the fault  

    At the workshop we cover all kinds of vehicles, old, new, big and small but with all these vehicles we need up to date diagnostic equipment to be able locate faults within the electrical system.
        
    In the workshop this summer was a 2009 Volkswagen Golf that had an intermittent issue which meant the car would go into limp mode, the cruise control was disabled and the climate control wouldn’t work. Understandably in the weather we were having the lack of air conditioning was a major concern to the customer. No one wants to be without air conditioning in 30Cº.
        
    I plugged in the trusty diagnostics reader and came up with four faults. These included turbo boost sensor, manifold pressure, throttle pedal position sensor and ‘fuel system
    too rich’.
        
    In my experience cars can throw up all kinds of trouble codes even when there is no issue with that part. I wouldn’t say some manufacturers are more troublesome than others but if a light does appear on the dash it’s best to get it checked out as soon as possible.

    Issues
    I cleared the fault codes and told the customer to see how it drove and if the issues resolved themselves. The customer had the car for just an hour before they called and said that the problem had reoccurred, as much as this is a pain for the customer I always clear the faults and see if it happens again rather than changing unnecessary sensors. I got the Golf back into the workshop and once again plugged the computer in, which brought up one code. This was the throttle position sensor. A quick call to VW and a discussion with their parts people showed that this particular issue can lead to the cruise and climate control not working.
        
    Next day delivery on the part means the car came back in the following day. One bolt, two plastic clips and an electrical connection later and the pedal was off. Gone are the days of the throttle cable. The throttle response is now done by a sensor on the pedal which works out how far the pedal is being pushed and tells the engine how to respond. It is clever stuff,  when it works.
        
    A pedal replacement on the Golf only takes five minutes and another clear of the fault code before taking the car for a road test. On the test drive cruise and climate control were checked as well as making sure no dash lights had appeared.
        
    Modern mechanics have become very computerised. Dash lights appear whether it is indicating an issue with the airbag systems, ABS or engine and diagnostic computers are so important to narrow down what the issue could be. I dislike the reliance that some workshops put on just trusting what appears on the screen of the diagnostics. It is still imperative that mechanics test sensors and look into live data to make sure that unnecessary components are not replaced and the costs put onto the customer, who will have to pay.


  • Skills, bills and jaw-aches  

    I knew starting a business would never prove easy but we don’t get anywhere in life without taking a risk or two. Having been in the industry for a few years now I have learnt that the two main attributes a successful car repair workshop needs is the skill to diagnose and repair and the ability to communicate with their customers.
        
    Modern car repair facilities have seen a dramatic change in recent years with the huge advancements in computer-related faults. The main tool of repair has seen the demise of the hammer and the growth of the diagnostics fault reader. I am a hands-on mechanic and much prefer older vehicles where I don’t need to locate the OBD port before the bonnet release, but I have to move with the times if I am to succeed as a business and that is why I am looking at hybrid servicing and trying to tap into that market. It is tough for me to admit that as I love working on classics and I will still have a part of the workshop for the golden oldies but it is hard to ignore the impact hybrid and electric vehicles are starting to have on the repair market.

    Communication
    The car repair industry has a pretty bad reputation – lets be honest. My female friends and family dread having to buy a car or go to a garage. Communication for me is so important, as with any business it is crucial that you are able to talk to customers and listen to their concerns without belittling them. The issue with car repairs is that it is a complicated process that is difficult to explain in layman’s terms and which can alienate an individual if they don’t understand. There is also the problem of distrust. If a customer doesn’t understand the problem and how you are able to fix it you risk confusion and doubt. There are so many horror stories of people being fleeced and conned as they don’t understand how a car works that every customer feels like you are going to do the same, it takes a long time to earn a good reputation and just one bad experience to send your business crashing down.

    I always like to explain as simply as possible with the work I am doing, I keep the broken part so that I can show the customer what I have replaced and what their hard earned cash has been spent on, I also take pictures and probably over explain everything. It is important for my business that I gain a good reputation as word of mouth is my main advertisement. As busy as a car workshop is always make time to have a friendly chat with your customers, especially if they have a trade, you never know when you might need a plumber!

    So, this month has been busy, productive, stressful and hot (I am writing this in July) but the world of car repair stands still for no-one.

  • IMI launches new international EV training solution   

    Launching today (Tuesday 11 September) at Automechanika Frankfurt, the IMI is showcasing its new Electric Vehicle eLearning modules designed to transform the way people undertake training within the workplace.

    With full-electric car sales in the EU set to reach 200,000 this year, the IMI has connected with Germany’s training academy, Lucas Nülle, to make continual learning convenient and interactive for individuals of all abilities.

    Steve Nash, Chief Executive at the IMI, said: “Making sure that an employer and its employees are ready for the increased number of ultra-low emission vehicles is paramount to future-proofing a business. Being able to service and maintain these vehicles safely should be the key focus, especially when the industry is experiencing the biggest growth in automotive technology that we’ve ever seen.

    “Advances in new technology are creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs across the world, and individuals working in the industry should be adopting this new training to make themselves leaders in their area of expertise. It’s an exciting time for the motor industry and the IMI is committed to making sure we’re ready to embrace the changes that are set to transform the sector.”

  • Chicane Executive Search goes live 

    Automotive marketing agency Chicane has launched new recruitment service. Chicane Executive Search (CES) will find the right candidates to fill key vacancies in the sector.

  • Mental health and money top worries says Ben report 

    Working age people in the motor industry are contacting Ben in increasing numbers due to financial concerns and mental health challenges according to the charity’s Impact Report for 2017-18 87% of those who contact the organisation to discuss low income, anxiety and depression are in work, according to the latest issue of the annual study.

Most read content


Search

Sign Up

For the latest news and updates from Aftermarket Magazine.


Poll

Where should the next Automechanika show be held?



Facebook


©DFA Media 1999-2018