In this article, Neil Adams, training and development manager at Reesink Turfcare, whose training is industry-leading and also one of the biggest on offer in the industry, says training is fast becoming a necessity, planned for in the annual budget.
Health and safety in the turfcare industry will always be vitally important, but long gone are the days of delivering a handbook with the machine, and that being enough to tick the box.
Customers have realised that it's important, not only for the health and safety of the operator and those nearby, but that machines are a significant investment and, in order to ensure the best results from them and as long a working life as possible, then they need to be operated correctly. In fact, it's long been proven that, where machinery is correctly installed, there was a measurable reduction in damage during operation. Where this was followed by further formal operator training, the maintenance savings between trained and untrained were substantial.
Neil Adams comments: "There is no season for training and we never have 'down-time' or flat periods. It's busy all year round because people buy machinery all year round for various applications. Customers appreciate that, in order to maximise their investment in their machinery, staff need to have the correct training on how to use them to their best advantage."
Effective installation should set the scene for what is to follow. It should place clear emphasis on safe and correct operation, which is then followed by continuing with training to ensure the basics are consolidated into every day work as a matter of course.
There can sometimes be some confusion between installation and operator training and it's important to draw a clear distinction.
Historically, many new machines have been 'installed' simply by leaving the manufacturer's handbook on the seat when the machine has been delivered by the dealer. Today, the sharper legal focus on employee health and safety means the supplier and the employer share a responsibility to provide far more than this - providing a copy of the handbook is not a guarantee that operators will read and understand it before first operating the machine!
Installation is about the handover of new and used machinery to the course manager or head groundsman and should highlight the information about safe and correct operation contained in the manufacturer's handbook. It is normally the responsibility of the supplier and is largely about communicating important information face-to-face to all operators - even if many are already experienced.
'Installation' should cover the safe systems of work, details of the principal operating systems and controls with particular reference to safety guards, interlocks, signs and warning signals; safe starting and stopping and routine maintenance.
Although the supplier is responsible for installation, the process also requires the co-operation of the course manager to ensure that the right operators are made available to learn about the new machine and that the timing and location are suitable.
So where does the installation stop and operator training begin?
Operator training is, as the name suggests, about competence to operate the machine correctly under different conditions and in different applications and, although safety is a key concern, the yardstick is performance.
It's the responsibility of the employer to develop the skills of employees with limited experience of a particular type of machine. In practice, there are many crossovers with the content of turf machinery training courses. For example, health and safety, daily maintenance and use of the controls will often be the same, but things can change, not only in machinery model upgrades but also in legislation.
The past few years have seen an increase in operator training courses. This has come about in part, due to the health and safety executive reviewing the use of machines in the agricultural/groundscare industry and the possible introduction of a mandatory licence for all operators.
Some dealers have seen this structured training as an opportunity to contribute to the safety of the industry and improve customer care and after-sales satisfaction. Manufacturer's training or accredited training through LANTRA and/or the City & Guilds, is generally available from manufacturers, training providers, local dealers, or distributors such as Reesink Turfcare.
We have not yet seen the introduction of a mandatory operator's licence but, casting an eye towards the construction industry with its introduction of the CITB licence for machinery operators, I believe it's only a matter of time before we see something similar in our industry.
Installation is NOT a substitute for operator training. Getting the best from the latest turfcare machinery and equipment takes a considerable amount of skill and knowledge. Skills develop over time with practice. What operators learn and how well they perform is the responsibility of their managers.
Correct manufacturer's training will ensure you receive the latest updates, user tips and uncover the advanced features of the machinery ensuring that the club gets the all-round benefits and usability of the equipment.
A journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step
In the words of the Chinese proverb: a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step - and that's where Reesink can help. For some years now, we've been on a pathway to make more training available at competitive prices making it accessible to all.
One way to do that is by making training as convenient and accessible as possible. We have made sure dates are flexible and that there's the option of training delivered on customers' premises. Some find training in a familiar environment, with their own equipment, makes it even easier to develop or invest in their skills; others prefer offsite individual or group-based training, so we cater for all.
We have a dedicated team and, in partnership with Toro, have created and developed the biggest range of vocational training for land-based disciplines in the industry.
To date, we have eleven courses for turfcare professionals providing all levels of training that cater to not just the novice, but the more experienced, too. We are continually looking and listening to customers about how we can further improve our offering. This set-up means it could not be easier for customers to develop and invest in their employees.
We have also developed a Master Service Technician programme to provide a strategic career pathway for technicians within the dealer, service centre and Reesink workshop locations. The programme demonstrates the company's investment in the people who ultimately deal with the customer, ensuring the best possible training service.
For further information on Reesink's training call 01480 226800 or browse through the range which includes Machine Operator Training for greenkeepers and groundsmen to Compact Tractor Driving Award and Turfcare Mechanic Training online at www.reesinkturfcare.co.uk. Booking can be done through the website and is best done during the initial installation.
Performance: Correct operation means customers profit from promised machine performance, expertly maintaining their turf, adding value to the relationship with their customers and the supplier.
Maintenance: Machine support costs, including warranty claims to the manufacturer, should be reduced as a result of correct operation. What's more, additional emphasis can be placed on areas of potential misuse that subsequently reduce the need for maintenance, which, in turn, saves money.
Relationships: Strong customer relationships are very important. The extra care taken over installation and professional training is likely to be repaid in stronger customer relationships.
Activity Insight: The installer has a unique opportunity to spend up to two hours with the customer, answering operator questions about the new machine and also learning more about how the course manager/head groundsman/employer intends to use it, tailoring advice as necessary.