Prime Mover Magazine

Learning on the job

Learning on the job

The Volvo International Service Training Award offers service market professionals a training platform and showcase event in which to test their knowledge. Several Australian teams recently qualified for the prestigious semi-finals in Gothenburg, Sweden, with a Melbourne wildcard winning through to June's world final in Brazil.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” It’s a quote often attributed, perhaps apocryphally, to Benjamin Franklin, who might well have had the Volvo International Service Training Award (VISTA) in mind when he uttered these words. Open to all service market professionals throughout the Volvo Trucks’ and Buses’ global network, VISTA is an international initiative and competition geared at developing and improving the skills and knowledge of its employees. Qualifying for the event, for those that take on the additional workload, means to successfully apply 12 months of newly acquired knowledge over a series of online tests, vetted from across the Volvo international network, and made relevant for service technicians working in dealerships across Australia. For those that qualify, their months of study and training are put to the test in a semi-final, across a series of stations, six in total, on a strict time limit of 25 minutes each.

The 60th anniversary of the competition attracted a total of 5,712 service technicians across 56 teams, making VISTA the largest competition for service market personnel in the world. Team Euro from South Central Trucks in Adelaide and CMV Derrimut in Melbourne were among the six Australian teams that made it through to this year’s event, with the latter, led by breakdown mechanic Justin Westcott, winning through to the finals held later this month in Brazil. Each team comprised a parts expert, a warranty manager and two technicians. As Justin explains it, judges were looking at how teams worked together, closely, and factored in their adherence to procedures.
“It’s about communication and doing things correctly. You might get marks if you complete the task and how you diagnose a fault providing you follow the right procedure,” he says. “Having it all timed certainly made it challenging.”

Judged across six modules under strict time limits, each team tested their technical knowledge and teamwork over a range of timed practical applications such as resistance checks and fault-trace wiring.

Using the Volvo competence portal for the first time Justin says it was an exceptional training tool in which the information researched was more than mere theory, as it provided educational value for every day use.

“It makes you hungry for the answers and that for me was a way of opening up a new world that allows you to know a lot more,” he says. “VISTA was an invaluable experience for the knowledge I gained, alone.”

Kuwar Singh, Team Leader for Team Euro from South Central Trucks in Adelaide, who commenced working for Volvo in 2003, also qualified to participate in Gothenburg. He had previously made it to 2015-16 semis held in Thailand.
“Having worked at Volvo for so long it was my dream to go to Sweden to visit the Volvo motherland,” he says. “What happens during the process is we learn a lot and then we can utilise that in everyday activities in a dealership which definitely brings a profitability to the business.”

Having worked in India and Dubai as a technician previous to landing a sponsored position in Adelaide, in his current role as a warranty co-ordinator, Kuwar says the tasks his team were asked to perform, without notice, were quite tricky.

“There’s a lot of calculations using the service manual where we can find how much time we can allocate for the task,” he says. “I feel proud to represent the Volvo brand, knowing the company invests so heavily in training and development.”

According to Neil Heinemann, Volvo Group Australia’s National Learning & Competence Manager, a former team leader himself, having competed in 2001, VISTA is, among many other utilities, an educational platform that helps service teams work better in close partnership while being exposed to the array of services available on the portal.

“VISTA is essentially a training event disguised as a competition,” he says. “What it does and does well is it builds bonds between these teams, so that they actively share information, they get better at working together, and the best end result is for the  customer.”

Using the competence portal, he claims, helps provide participants with an entry point so they can access a wealth of information from services, tips, and checklists.

“The idea is that they can learn from each other,” Neil says. “If they are familiar with the products it gives them an edge.That’s invaluable for their careers, and it’s also important for the Volvo Group.”

Justin, a country boy from Wallan, an hour north of Melbourne, is one of the prospects Volvo dealer CMV has developed from its talent pool. He was accepted for an apprenticeship in his final year of high school. CMV encouraged him to finish and he did, before he began his current seven-year association with the company. He handpicked his crack team from the service department at Derrimut where everyone was aware of the VISTA competition. After toying with entering the last few times, it was this year that Justin, finally, decided to commit. Although he doesn’t consider himself a leader, the VISTA course has naturally brought that side out of him. Soon Justin had created a messenger group on social media in which to trade different ideas and share newly acquired information.

“We all worked really well as a team and we all knew what we had to do,” he says. “There was a lot of other teams whose leaders spent valuable time instructing their team and I had the luxury of a group who were all knowledgeable in their areas. It was an advantage. All the boys got into it. It was easy on me, really.”

Originally ranked seventh, just outside the top six who qualified for the semi-finals from Australia and New Zealand territory, Derrimut were entered into a wild card draw with 30 other teams representing Volvo regions around the world. In the end, they had some luck on their side, as the team was pulled out of a hat. They joined teams from Adelaide, Perth, Townsville, Sydney, Invercargill and Whangarei, who also qualified for the semi-finals.
Contestants had their knowledge tested on stations, which might have, for one example, a Volvo truck with a fault code. They were given five minutes to read 10 questions before it was time to trace voltages, resistances, diagnose faults with wiring and connectors and confirm there was the right drag on each terminal. 

The varying challenges also included scenarios that involved Pictionary and a virtual reality test. There was a breakdown which required costing the repair, part replacement and even the driver’s wage. It was fleet management in hyper drive. A contrast test featured a genuine part with an aftermarket version. No challenge was limited to any one member of the team.

In 2018 over 184 teams from Australia and 31 teams from New Zealand signed up to enter VISTA.  A record number of teams competed in two theory rounds and a pit-stop challenge as part of the qualification. The final number of participants in the competition worldwide hit 19,706.

According to Justin VISTA represents the chance of a lifetime for Aftersales staff.

“For anyone working at a dealership I suggest you enter,” he says. “You learn a significant amount in the competition and it helps a lot. We went to Sweden all expenses paid and now we’re going to Brazil. You can’t go wrong really.”
Neil Heinemann says the competition nurtures a high-paced learning environment and that VISTA reflects the importance Volvo places on training and development of its staff.

“Throughout the company there’s now people in higher positions who have competed in the competition,” he says. “You can see how it develops staff and what it ultimately does for people. It gives them an edge.”

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