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RoboTech

Your future team building will take a plan of action to attract the right talent and offer the right training. Here is what you need to consider to train the automotive recycler technician of tomorrow.

The education and development of new automotive recycler technicians is essential to the future of the industry. Automotive technology programs at the technical and vocational college level, as the industry evolves, can meet the challenges facing both students and educators.
It is getting really hard to adequately train new technicians in one or two years when they come to technical colleges. The closure of many high school automotive training programs has led to more under-prepared students. This requires our industry training to start at a more basic level. An even bigger problem is that technology in vehicles is changing so quickly it is harder to include everything in the curriculum that the student needs to know.

Educators on Vehicle Tech
How are educators supposed to stay current on the vehicle technological changes? Technicians in the field, specifically dismantler technicians, need extensive training. Without any standard program, it is tough to decipher what are the best practices regarding training.

As mentioned in recent Automotive Recycling issues, vehicles are more complicated, with more technology than ever before. As a comparison, the Boeing’s 767 has a little less than 7 million lines of software code and the average vehicle has nearly 11 million lines of code, with multiple computer systems and technologies.

Reliable service information, whether it is OE or aftermarket information, is not complete or easy to use nor fast and affordable to auto recyclers. At this time neither the aftermarket or OE service information satisfies all four criteria. That is something that the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) and Automotive Recyclers Association’s Educational Foundation (ARAEF) are working to improve.

In the meantime, recyclers must take advantage of what is available and adapt ways to secure vehicle information for recycling. Most recyclers have not really adjusted their business to factor in the cost of information and training. It is now a real cost of doing business, and needs to be accommodated in the bottom line.

Limited Dismantling Strategies
Dismantling training requires training prior to the vehicle being in the dismantler bay or work area. Automotive recyclers across the country have developed limited dismantling strategies prior to the car rolling into the dismantling area. Some of those strategies include knowledge of available OE tools and where to turn for service information, including navigation of service information sites.

Another potential option technicians need to be aware of is whether the OE vehicle software connects with their laptop/tablet with a pass-thru device. There is a growing percentage of dismantlers that own a pass-thru device. We see a growing momentum as it allows them to connect to OE software without having to buy twelve different pieces of costly hardware.

Understand Subscription Options
Technicians should be aware of and trained to understand the subscription options for OE service information. They should be provided a company login and find time to practice navigating the service website prior to needing to use it. With many of the OE’s, you can register in advance and have a user name and password set up so when a vehicle rolls in the bay, you can just enter the make and model.

Also, it is a good idea to set up with the required fee, rather than spending time setting up an account at the moment it is needed. Handling those issues prior to dismantling will boost productivity. Many technicians are using “how to” videos that are provided on the internet. Just a word of caution: these may not provide the best and safest practices.

Qualified Tech has Evolved
From a recycling facility owner’s perspective, addressing issues including the labor pool, technician pay and education/training are challenging. The qualified tech has evolved into more than someone who can work on cars. They have to have an analytical mind to understand how something works systematically and use that knowledge to understand procedures for testing how a system works or doesn’t work. They need to establish procedures and be able to dismantle parts in a safe and efficient way.

Attract and Keep a Great Team
To find the right candidates and draw graduates away from the other automotive repair fields, one place to start is with higher pay. We need to pay more and have better working conditions to attract the smarter candidates. We may need to pull them away from other industries. To do this, we have to somehow educate parents in our communities so they understand this is a real career choice and not a dead end dirty job. The ARA Educational Foundation has an initiative under the umbrella of the ARA Strategic Plan to confront this industry problem: How to attract great kids into our great industry and keep them through retirement? ARAEF has identified the road blocks that cause a crisis shortage of qualified automotive recycling technicians:
1. Image of auto recycling profession
2. Defining career path opportunities
3. Limited internships/mentoring programs
4. Parental support of an auto recycling career
5. Guidance counselor support for an auto recycling career
6. High school shop class revival
7. Community college/vo-tech support of auto recycling as a career
8. Shortage of qualified instructors
9. Tech education class attendance for current workforce
10. No scholarships for auto recycling training
11. Poor small business management and supervision
12. Training loses potential techs early to other industries

Reach Out for Expert Help
Over the past decade, we have seen a number of recyclers struggle and many of them go out of business. The auto recyclers that excel are the ones who take advantage of the resources available to them. Successful recyclers reach out for expert help, think outside the box, and refuse to get mired down in their problems. The ARAEF is working to be one of those resources. The advantages of doing so can range from investing in comprehensive information and training resources built for the marketplace, or seeking other specialized resources through sister-industries.

As an ARA member company, for only $55/month you can enroll employees in the ARA University (arauniversity.org) and select training from a suite of courses. Service information is available here from OE websites. There is a tech-assistance hotline to call a mobile diagnostician or even a remote diagnostician who can connect to the vehicle over the internet and deliver the software diagnosis. There are more resource tools to add parts to your inventory.

In larger markets, some recyclers specialize and keep it simple. They comprehensively train and have the right tools for each tech for the limited task they have to do for a defined specialized inventory – like light duty trucks for example. For smaller recyclers in rural communities, they offer good customer support on a broad scale.

Make Yourself Tech-Ready
We, as an industry need to find a better, more efficient and affordable way to deliver inventory and dismantling service resources into automotive recycling businesses. Those who are willing can make themselves tech-ready by learning how to find and use resources and by investing in training and a trained workforce.

Be willing to modify your business model now and pass those costs along to your customers as higher tech parts are available as inventory. That way you keep your place at the table and make a name for yourselves as an industry leader over the next five years.

Fast-forward to the Future
Other industry experts share these thoughts. One expert, Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors, thinks the next five years might bring more change to the automobile industry than the last 50.

“Technological change rarely advances smoothly. It advances in pulses. In revolutions,” writes Barra for the World Economic Forum. Barra says the auto industry is now in the fourth industrial revolution, driven by “the convergence of connectivity, electrification and changing customer needs.”

“We are moving from an industry that, for 100 years,” says Barra, “has relied on vehicles that are stand-alone, mechanically controlled and petroleum-fueled to ones that will soon be interconnected, electronically controlled and fueled by a range of energy sources.” The result, she says, will be cleaner, safer, smarter vehicles, but a real challenge for those who process them.

Ginny Whelan, industry consultant, is a longtime automotive recycler industry leader, was the first woman President of the Automotive Recyclers Association, is an International Educator, current Managing Director of the ARA Educational Foundation, Vice President of the ALS Hope Foundation and Founder of the ARA University. She can be emailed at ginny@araeducation.org or by phone 239-362-1283.