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AUG / SEPT.2016

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MCI Academy educates the industry


O F F I C I A L

BUSRide Maintenance Field Test:

LMS spawns MCI Academy

MCI operators make the move to higher learning By David Hubbard Motor Coach Industries (MCI), Des Plaines, IL, rolled out the first course in its new, comprehensive MCI Academy in May to essentially test the interest level within the industry for the more intense, fully-developed maintenance training regimens to come. Reaching out to a small test group of customers, the first session involved three-and-a-half days of HVAC training as part of an intended series in the curriculum. “Our goal for the MCI Academy is to help our customers train their maintenance personnel to much higher standards,” says Scott Crawford, manager, MCI Technical Training. “The motorcoach industry has reached the point where operators need to rethink this area of their operations. Companies would be better served by offering their mechanics and technicians an established career path to follow.” “Typically, they all share the same title,” he adds. “Other than the size of their paychecks, there is little to distinguish the veteran in the shop from the new hire.” Crawford is probably safe in saying motorcoach operators generally feel that the trucking and transit industries are drawing talent away from their operations, largely because of the training and development programs they provide. “Our industry has always been behind in this respect,” Crawford says. “But MCI is changing that. For operators who need to bring new hires up to speed quickly, or advance the skills of seasoned technicians, MCI Academy is the solution.” LMS supports the MCI Academy According to MCI, the Academy has evolved from the company’s own history in training MCI technicians. The company established its National Training Center in 2007 at its parts distribution center in Louisville, KY, where it hosts the popular hands-on Technical Tune Up and Advanced TuneUp events. In 2015, MCI debuted its comprehensive online Learning 2

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Management System (LMS), which is now the foundation for the MCI Academy to combine all existing training platforms into a more progressive curriculum leading to certificates and diplomas. Today, more than 4,000 active employees of MCI customers are able to select from more than 400 courses in the LMS library on major coach components and systems. As students, they typically schedule their own time to study online in their shops. LMS maintains an account and transcript for each student and documents all training activity. MCI operators can then track each employee through fully-customized reports. “MCI is working very hard to change the often-heard mindset that outside training is an unnecessary expense or cost prohibitive at best,” Crawford says. “While the actual amount saved by sending employees for additional training is difficult to document, the true burden on the company comes from not investing in employee training.” Contrary to another prevailing attitude, that an operator’s shop is too busy to allow employees time for training, more than a few MCI customers are investigating incentive programs by which they compensate techs for training on the job and even in their own time. BUSRide Maintenance spoke with five such motorcoach companies actively engaged in LMS training to understand their unique applications of this versatile system. Generally, they each spoke to the time constraints but also to the returns through knowledge gained, more accurate troubleshooting and diagnosis, and faster, cost-efficient repairs. “LMS training is on-demand training, which works best for us,” says Aaron Kopa, corporate director of maintenance, The Martz Group, Wilkes-Barre, PA. “This program gives us flexibility to arrange for our techs to train at work or at home, for which we pay them for dedicating off-duty time to their LMS training.” Kopa says Martz incorporates the LMS training requirements busridemaintenance.com


into its pay-grade structure, as do the other companies BUSRide visited that include Bloom Bus Lines, Taunton, MA. “We select the LMS courses we feel are the most important to our operations and encourage our employees to go through the training,” says George Sweezey, assistant maintenance director, Bloom Bus Lines, Taunton, MA. “As an incentive, we attach a pay raise for the employee’s successful completion of LMS training.” Long engaged in its own intensive maintenance training, Arrow Stage Lines, Omaha, NB, incorporated the LMS program into its programs to better serve technicians in its multiple locations. “We have found the LMS curriculum very beneficial in helping technicians coming over from the trucking industry, as well technical training school graduates, to better understand the unique characteristics of a motorcoach,” says Ray Smith, Arrow safety and maintenance manager, located in Denver, CO. “I routinely invite self-assessments from our technicians to determine strengths and shortcomings in their overall skill levels and areas of interest. I can then assign specific LMS courses to address their shortcomings and fields that might need more attention.” In conjunction with the LMS training, Smith says he works to align the tech with a “champion” veteran experienced in that area to lend further hands-on support. MCI Academy raises the bar With most MCI customers firmly committed and engaged in the LMS platform, as well as attending the Technical Tune-Ups and advanced training at the Louisville facility, the announcement of the MCI Academy comes as great news. “MCI has come a long way in a short time to broaden the scope of training,” says Bruce Sands, shop foreman for Cavallo

Bus Lines, Indianapolis, IN. “From a technical standpoint, much of our work is very difficult to learn without help from someone who has ‘been there; done that,’ someone who can answer questions, demonstrate and explain with hands-on knowledge without digging it out of a book.” According to MCI, the programs as presented in the MCI Academy have never existed before now, and are being conducted at more advanced levels than the previous Technical Tune-Ups. “Students coming to Louisville for the Tune-Ups got as much out of the class as they put in,” Crawford says. “They were not formally tested on what they had learned, which is completely different under MCI Academy.” MCI Academy is settling into place with its more intense curriculum offering certifications and diplomas on the major motorcoach systems. System Qualifications in which students complete a combination of LMS online courses and instructor-led classroom training at the National Training Center in Louisville, KY. Certificate Programs bring maintenance personnel along sequentially to higher skill levels, through MCI Level 1, 2 and 3 technician training. Diploma Programs consist of intense, in-depth, multipleweek training on HVAC and electrical systems, and the presentation of a diploma upon completion of the course. Continuing Education Programs keep technicians abreast of advancing technologies and new industry procedures, and sharpen skills on common systems. On-Site Training brings MCI training to the customers’ shops and coach fleets for at least three days of scheduled training in any combination of maintenance topics. MCI says interest and participation from the industry will determine the ultimate number and frequency of class.

On-site training brings MCI training to the customers’ shops and coach fleets for at least three days of scheduled training in any combination of maintenance topics.

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Diplomas Programs consist of intense, in-depth, multiple-week training, and the presentation of a diploma upon completion of the course.

Coach operators on board Following the roll-out HVAC session in May, the MCI Academy is clearly the next step according to the operators who participated. “We really applaud MCI for taking a big step to offer more than what is available through the Technical Tune-Ups,” Sweezey says. “It just takes more time to fully understand the systems on a coach.” “Though the MCI Academy programs will be more difficult to schedule, and our employees will be away for longer periods of time, we do want to continue to send our mechanics to those sessions,” Kopa says. “This level of training is something that we were looking for from MCI,” he continues. “We have wanted something more ‘hands-on.’ When mechanics and technicians can actually apply all they have gained from training, they retain the information much easier, and are really learning what to do with what they are being taught.” Likewise, Free Enterprise System says it has no qualms about sending its most qualified employees MCI Academy for specialized training, after the two techs returned from the first session with positive reports. “We were actually surprised by their enthusiasm,” says Gary Blanchard of Free Enterprise System. “They are eager to get back for the second installment. Our hope is to eventually get more people through the certificate and diploma programs.” Crawford says the MCI Academy programs teach to the operational science and theories that drive the systems and components. All of which will become paramount in the coming MCI Academy courses focused on electronics and multiplexing — areas which the companies BUSRide Maintenance talked with see as their biggest hurdles and training challenges. 4

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The programs as presented in the MCI Academy have never existed before now, and are being conducted at more advanced levels than the previous Technical Tune-Ups.

“We have really needed this,” Sweezey says. “We are really looking forward to this one. Even our top technicians are unfamiliar with the new electronics in today’s coaches and are starting to fall behind.” Sands concurs, saying electronics are a struggle. “For our older, veteran mechanics, electrical systems are about fuses, relays and wiring diagrams,” he says. “Any up-to-date training they can get in this area will be very helpful.” Crawford says through the MCI Academy, the value of hiring, training and retraining technicians will become even more obvious. “For example, look to the savings benefits in learning to make an accurate diagnosis, and choosing replacement parts wisely and frugally, and not just throwing parts at a problem until something sticks,” he says. “With the proper training, mechanics and techs will become better versed in how to always methodically search out the original source of a problem on any system.” Readers interested in learning more about the MCI Academy may email: Scott.Crawford@mcicoach.com.

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