To ensure its customers are getting the most out of their machines, Wirtgen America has expanded its Center for Technology and Training (CTT) located near Nashville, Tennessee.
The expansion, and renovation of the existing facility, was officially unveiled during Wirtgen’s Technology Days held in late March. The event was the first of its kind worldwide, since the company was acquired by John Deere last year.
“As Wirtgen Group has developed its position in the marketplace in North America, we’ve done so on a platform of technology and innovation,” said Jim McEvoy, president of Wirtgen America. “If you’re going to be that guy, you have to back it up.”
As Wirtgen rolls out new technology for its machines, the CTT serves as an education hub for the company’s dealers, service technicians and operators to ensure they are getting the most out of the equipment.
“We see this training effort really being hand-in-hand with our value proposition,” McEvoy said. “If a customer is going to put that much capital into a large asset, it’s really important that they understand how to operate it efficiently.”
In 2017, the tech centre trained about 3,000 people. Now, at more than 3,500 square metres, the CTT will be able to accommodate training about of 5,000 people at the site. As well, the structure was designed to accommodate online virtual training in real time.
“A lot of training is delivered online,” said Wirtgen Group CEO Domenic Ruccolo. “It’s not all about the training that happens in this building. It’s the overall initiative.”
The new centre now includes nine classrooms, two lecture halls, year-round training programs, as well as interactive displays showcasing the latest innovations from Wirtgen.
“As a manufacturer, we have a position that I think is unique because of the breadth of the product offering within our niche,” McEvoy said. “We’re guardrail to guardrail and 20 inches down.”
The centre also includes technology rooms for Wirtgen, Vögele, Hamm and Kleemann — the company’s four brands. The tech rooms feature simulators, touch screens outlining equipment advancements and the finished products created by the machines.
“When folks come in, we want it to be as interactive as possible,” said Matt Graves, Wirtgen America’s director of marketing communications.
At the centre of the CTT is Wirtgen’s hub room, which hosts receptions as well as equipment displays.
“You can physically pull the largest machines you have, except for the surface miners, into the building, light it up and have it show ready,” Graves said. “It really creates excitement and a buzz.”
A learning environment
The original CTT was built in 2009 and included several classrooms and two large amphitheatres. By examining previous training seminars, the design of the centre was reimagined to include smaller classrooms and different delivery methods.
“You could roll through PowerPoint slides at a conference room at the Holiday Inn and tell people you’re training, or you can put them in an environment that’s truly learning,” McEvoy said.
“We’ve been able to adapt and understand. … We call this a training centre. To me, this is a learning environment.”
While the facility has expanded, so has its curriculum.
“Those things have to work together,” McEvoy said. “We’re listening to our customers and trying to understand what their needs are.”
Improving upon new operator skill levels is one need the centre aims to address. McEvoy explained the new training methods will assist their customers to address possible labour shortages.
“Labour is a really big issue in the industry right now. We see this facility as being a really critical component,” McEvoy said. “You have generational changes of people moving out that have been on an asphalt paver for a long time, so you have the next generation that you’re bringing in.”
More than training
Alongside training, Wirtgen’s Tennessee base also serves as its parts centre. In 2017, the centre distributed about 8.5 million parts to customers in North America.
As well, the CTT’s lab hosts research into asphalt density, core samples, sediment and the final product created by Wirtgen equipment.
“This is the hub of what’s really going on as far as the Wirtgen Group is concerned in North America,” Graves said.
At its similar centres around the world, Wirtgen hosts its Technology Days events once every three years.
This year, the North American event in Tennessee welcomed a mix of about 1,200 dealers, operators and Wirtgen employees to learn about the latest technological advancements.
“Everybody comes down here to learn and see the new technical advances, it really gives you an outlook of what’s to come,” said Craig Rutherford, the Canadian technical sales manager for Kleeman. “It gives them some insight into what they can do to better their production and operating costs.”
Daulta O’Hanlan, Wirtgen Americas district sales manager for Ontario, explained Technology Days allows him to show his customers the full range of products the company offers.
“We’re not just Wirtgen, we’re not just milling. We’re Vögele, Hamm and Kleemann,” O’Hanlan said.
“It also lets them know why we do things and how we do things. It gives them a better feeling of who we are as a company.”
Furthermore, Wirtgen employees from across North America visit the centre several times a year to ensure they are fluent in the company’s new technologies.
“As we continue to position ourselves and move forward, the competency of our people is something our customers and dealers value greatly,” McEvoy said. “We really do value having the best people in the industry, and you have to keep the best people in the industry, as the best people in the industry.
“So, you keep feeding them learning opportunities.”