It was December 2018 when the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) and the International Association for Foundation Drilling (ADSC) announced the introduction of a certification program for drill rig operators.
There was no formal training prior to this, so the associations formed a joint task force in February 2017 to take a proactive stance.
The outcome was the establishment of written and practical examinations for Foundation Drill Rig (FDR) and Anchor/Micropile Drill Rig (AMP).
Now, Equipment Corporation of America (ECA) has taken their role in drill rig operator training to a new level with the establishment of the ECA Training Center in Jacksonville, Florida.
The facility will offer a host of training types and exams related to its Bauer and Klemm lines of equipment.
A deep commitment to training
ECA’s expansion into training predated NCCCO Certification, according to Dave Schell, ECA’s corporate director of parts and service.
“The idea behind our training program kicked off a couple years ago,” he said. “We saw the need to elevate our technicians to the next level, and on the customer side, there wasn’t any specific training readily available in the United States. We saw the opportunity to fill that gap.”
For ECA, 2017 was a pivotal year, as the company was named by Bauer Maschinen as a Bauer Regional Training Center. It was then that serious discussions began about taking a more prominent role in foundation equipment training. The initial focus was placed on developing technical and operator’s training for Bauer machinery.
Creating the ECA drill rig Training Center
In 2018, ECA knew that it wanted to make a more serious commitment to practical training, after having success with numerous classroom sessions. There was a one-acre parcel adjacent to ECA Jacksonville in Green Cove Springs, Florida that was being used for storage. After a series of negotiations with the owner, ECA leased the land, and invested in sitework, fencing and signage. The ECA Training Center was official.
“The goal from day one was to have a dedicated location separate of our current facilities where we could operate a machine, drill a hole and have live exercises,” Schell said. “The training center has been key to fulfilling our customers’ training needs.”
The ECA Training Center is dedicated to practical use, NCCCO examinations and live demonstrations, it also has a dedicated spot for classroom training. On any given day, trainers can be found assembling and disassembling rigs and executing specific drilling operations for a crowd of trainees.
Jacksonville was the ideal location, even though ECA has eight other locations in the United States and Canada, due to its moderate climate that allows customers to receive training year-round.
From Florida to the Great White North
Despite the substantial investment in the ECA Training Center, the company continues to take training to the offices and jobsites of its customers from Florida to the most remote corners of Canada.
ECA is focused on three categories of training at this point, all of which focus on Bauer and Klemm equipment.
Technical Training provides a basic knowledge of the principles of electrical and hydraulic systems for equipment technicians. This certified program includes both classroom (theoretical) and hands-on (practical) instruction.
Drill rig operator training
Operator Training is a certified program that focuses on safety and efficiency. Each Program includes 4.5 days of classroom training. There is also in-depth discussion on how to execute different drilling methods with the proper equipment and tools.
The NCCCO Exam is intended to improve safety for all foundation drill rig and anchor/micropile rig operators. This certification program was designed by experts from all aspects of the industry and is not specific to one manufacturer of drill rigs.
ECA has also taken its training to the next generation of operators at Fleming College. In fact, some of the graduates of the Resources Drilling Technician Course may one day be running Bauer and Klemm rigs in Canada or the United States.
“Fleming College’s Resources Drilling Technician program and ECA Canada have been building a strong relationship since the 40-year-old program introduced Foundation Drilling to the program five years ago,” said Charlie Morettie, program coordinator, Resources Drilling Technician at Fleming College.
“They have hosted our students at their shop for classes and also provided the OT-B training to our students.”
As ECA does a substantial amount of business in Canada, it was critical to comply with Canadian regulations. Now, its Bauer theoretical drill rig operator’s training conforms to the requirements of the Ontario Ministry of Training’s Standard for Foundation Drill Rig Operator Licensing.
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“We have fostered relationships or partnerships with vendors such as ECA for programs including technician or mechanical training, assistance in our Driller Schools, and hydraulic and electrical training. ECA continues to serve a vital role as a partner in our continued focus on training,” said John Willett Equipment superintendent of Keller Foundations.
Much of the momentum behind ECA bringing training in-house traces back to two trainers: Joe Kinworthy and Burt Kerns. Kinworthy is a certified Bauer trainer and Kerns is Klemm certified.
“Safety is always the number one topic that probably is discussed the most in the class,” Kinworthy said, noting that today’s owners are putting safety before low bid when evaluating contractors. “I see this training as a partnership with our customers to share the knowledge.”
Safety is not the only objective of ECA’s training. It also focuses on operational efficiency, maintenance and technical principles. ECA understands that customer satisfaction is driven by the productivity of its operators and technicians. The company wants its customers to be safe, productive and knowledgeable of its equipment.
“A knowledgeable customer generally is a happy customer,” Schell said. “We want to give them the feeling that they’re in control of their machine.”
Never ending updates
Bauer and Klemm are constantly innovating, which results in never-ending equipment technology updates.
“Drilling a hole is no longer just drilling a hole,” said Burt Kerns, ECA’s Klemm specialist, technician and trainer, noting that assistant systems, safety protocols, remote control and new applications have made running the equipment more challenging. “Our training ultimately helps them to figure it out, and ultimately makes them better, safer and more productive drillers.”