Inland Truck Parts has opened a new state of the art training center in Olathe, Kan.
The 15,000 sq. ft. facility was designed to allow Inland to hold training sessions for all of its employees, and its site in Olathe is centrally located in between all of Inland’s 27 locations across the Midwest and Great Plains. According to Inland, facility houses everything from traditional classrooms to 12 remanufacturing stations: six for manual transmissions and six for Allison automatics. The layout also mimics actual shop environments from Inland’s locations, and a pair of medium-duty trucks and a late-model Class 8 tractor also were purchased for training on everything from preventive maintenance and tune-ups to electronic diagnostics and troubleshooting, the company says.
“It’s just like it is out in the store, so the student gets a full hands-on experience and then can take that knowledge and transfer it right to his main job,” says Dave Scheer, Inland president and CEO. “We even have two drive-in service bays to simulate the real work experience.”
The new facility will be the corporate base for Inland’s two full-time trainers, which the company hopes will provide an environment that promotes uninterrupted attention, for better results. Inland says hands-on technician training will be limited to small groups, so every attendee gets ample opportunity to participate. In fact, Scheer says that a perfect technician training class size is no more than six, giving trainees the chance to be fully engaged and instructors the chance to answer questions. Inland says its training classes will be developed to span no more than two or three days.
“If you go too long, you have a stamina issue that can affect the ability to absorb information,” says Scheer. “These are hard-working technicians who aren’t used to being in classrooms and training sessions all day.”
But with classroom space for up to 100 students, the Olathe training center also offers classes in communication, conflict resolution and other important “soft skills.” That emphasis is a continuation of the long-standing Inland commitment to providing superior customer service, the company says.
The Inland focus on customer relations is reflected in the way employees dress, how they answer the phone, and the way they interact with customers on a daily basis. Scheer credits the fact that since 2002, the company has been 100 percent employee owned. “Our employees are invested emotionally,” he says, “because they have some skin in the game.”
The curriculum at the training center is based on feedback from an Inland training advisory council comprising store, service and shop managers. They are the “boots on the ground” source for anticipating training needs, the company says. It’s a proactive approach to ensure that technicians, equipment and software are all aligned for future customers. Once a list of topics is established, the course outline is posted on the company’s Intranet. Inland says employees then consult with their supervisors and sign up for classes according to individual interests and needs. To encourage full engagement, the choice to take the training is generally voluntary.
Inland relies on suppliers for only about 20 percent of its technician training. Scheer hopes the training center helps set the company apart from independent shops that have traditionally relied heavily on outside sources.
“We provide parts, of course,” says Scheer. “But we also do remanufacturing and drive-in truck service, all in a single facility. There are very few in our industry who can say that.”