Training Operators on Construction Equipment Equipped with Advanced Technologies

construction equipment operator trainingConstruction equipment is becoming more complex with each new generation. You can no longer consider these machines just big pieces of iron—they are sophisticated, intelligent and adaptive.

The latest equipment is capable of altering machine parameters in order to meet jobsite conditions, self-diagnosis, GPS, read plans based on 3D blueprints, and work semi- or fully autonomously. Engines have become more complex as well in order to meet strict environmental regulations. Environmental Protection Agency regulations now state engines require diesel exhaust fluid (DEF).

“DEF systems, add a new element into daily maintenance, checking the DEF tank and adding DEF fluid is an extra step that can’t be over looked. Cleanliness is key also for this system to operate properly,” says Brad Goliboski, President, Goliboski Contracting Inc.—a forestry and construction contractor in Ontario—and trainer for Confederation College.

In order to take full advantage of all the features available on newer machines, operators have to fully understand how the machines work. In order for employers to expect the best from their employees, they need to fully train them on these machines.

“The new advancements make it imperative that we train to a manufacturer level to ensure productive, effective, and safe operation,” says Goliboski. “This will insure profitable operation and minimal downtime.”

Ask the Expert

Training people to operate machines that are equipped with advanced technologies comes with challenges. Having trained hundreds of students on how to operate several different types of machines, he understands some of the obstacles that go into training operators on equipment equipped with advanced technologies.

For many new operators of heavy equipment, just operating a large machine can be intimidating, but throw in numerous advanced technologies, and students can put up barriers to learning.

“Mental barriers to learning on the newest equipment are just the intimidation of seeing a lot of new buttons, the introduction of new features and over all better performance of the equipment,” says Goliboski. We turn the speeds and power down on our equipment when we train, and gradually turn them up to normal operational levels when the students are ready.”

In order to fully train his students, Goliboski goes through the entire equipment manual as a team and they discuss each section until everyone understands each section. Then they walk around the machines and familiarize themselves with different aspects of it. Then they get into the cab and start operating the machine in real world conditions—in a forest that is scheduled to be harvested.

“I get to know each student personally and see what their interests are and then use that knowledge to incorporate their interests into the training. It’s a way to keep their attention on track.”

Top Tips on Technology Training

Working with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that provide operational information and equipment-specific training tools is a big help when instructing someone. 

“Being able to contact our local Tigercat dealer with questions and for them to give feedback on how to better use the machines are huge benefits,” says Goliboski. “Even the trainers need training and that’s where a good working relationship with the dealers and manufacturers goes a long way.”

Here are five more tips on training people on construction equipment equipped with advanced technologies:

  1. Determine the gap. Not all people being trained on equipment have the same knowledge, experience and aptitude. Determine their familiarity with basic concepts in order to determine training challenges.
  2. Repeat important concepts. Go over  the concepts that you want the student/employee to learn quickly multiple times. Tie those concepts into other training materials so they remember them and have a better understanding of how different machine aspects are interconnected.
  3. Test their understanding and memory. After teaching several new concepts, review the material with the student/employee. If they have misunderstood a concept, you now have the opportunity and motivation to review the concept again.
  4. Let them experiment. In a way that puts little pressure on them to perform, they can acclimate themselves to working in that environment in a stress-free way. Let them use grade control or return-to-dig features or operate in different power modes just to learn what it is like to operate in those parameters.
  5. Give them specific tasks. Now that they are familiar with operating the machine, give them specific and work-relatable tasks. This could mean having the student use grade control to grade soil according to specifications or just to have them walk around the machine with the before-you-start checklist.

“The rate of change for advanced equipment is moving at a fast pace. The younger students seem to be able to handle all the new technology much better than the older students,” says Goliboski. “We joke that it would be so easy to hire people if we could operate the gear from our smart phones. But one day this will be a reality.”

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