Andy Campbell, Regional Manager at Motor Parts Direct, gives PMF an insight into the group’s approach to training, after a successful Gates Technical Workshop.
Suppliers have always provided a source of training opportunities,but finding the right blend of subject matter, timing, cost and location has always required a delicate balance. At a Gates Technical Workshop at the Plymouth branch of Motor Parts Direct, one of MPD’s Regional Managers took time out to explain the group’s approach to training.
“There are 16 branches in the West Country. As a group, we are under pressure from Head Office to do more training,” says Andy Campbell. “The company believes that one way of growing sales is to get closer to customers. Staff training, as well as training that we arrange for our installer customers, helps us to achieve that. If you can draw customers away from their environment, you stand a much better chance of getting to know them and to appreciate their needs. We try to run an event at one of our branches every month.”
“MPD believes that one way of growing sales is to get closer to customers. Staff training, as well as training that we arrange for our installer customers, helps us to achieve that.”
Early in 2016, MPD hosted a Gates Technical Workshop in Paignton’s South Devon College. Around 20 of the college’s second year students were involved in an afternoon training session, which gave the trainees a chance to speak to an OE manufacturer – and one of the world’s largest manufacturers of belts and tensioners – about trends in drive system design. There was also an opportunity to learn about some basic drive system diagnostic techniques.
It was a particularly useful experience for the lecturers from the vehicle maintenance training department, who had also been invited to join the group: “This kind of format acts as a kind of ‘train the trainers’ session. It’s an approach that we’ve used with some of our other suppliers like KYB, TRW and LuK. Suppliers like it because it is a more efficient use of the time being provided by their technical experts.”
MPD accepts installation issues are more likely to be a cause of problems, rather than faulty products. Andy says that the best garages believe this too: “The more progressive garages are aware that by being involved in more training, they can help to minimise the number of fitting problems that waste their time and cost them money.”
MPD has 91 branches around the UK. Training is always organised in association with its suppliers and the company says that Gates is one of the more proactive training providers. Gates says its Technical Workshops are useful, informal in nature and work best with larger groups. These are arranged locally, which is good for motor factors and their installer customers.
“We prefer to hold events at the branches because it gives customers an opportunity to meet the staff, see the brands that we supply and examine the range of products we have available. We try to encourage the branch managers to take ownership of each event, so they organise the venue, decide which customers to invite and work with the supplier on the training programme. That helps to give them the incentive to make it work.”
With a wide range of suppliers, the type of training opportunities varies and some require more specific environments. At MPD’s Honiton branch, for instance, the training was held on the premises of a local garage.
“Where we have organised diagnostic training – with PICO for example – it’s hands-on training. By the very nature of it, it has to be workshop-based and works best with small groups.”