Located in Louisville, Kentucky, Zoeller’s state-of-the-art training facility, the Center for Excellence (CFE), has been drawing contractors, engineers and distributors in for product training over the past five years. Like every other facet of the industry, Zoeller had to act quickly, adjust operations and prioritize health and safety when the pandemic lockdowns began in March. How did these adjustments affect the CFE’s training capabilities? Dave Farmer, director of training at Zoeller, explains the company took this time to make improvements around the CFE.
“While it was unfortunate to have to halt in-person trainings, the CFE team was able to focus efforts on policy and process improvements, completing several maintenance projects around the facility that would have been challenging to complete with trainings in process,” he says. “Several new demos were created, including a working demo with Zoeller’s 540 Flex Water-Powered Backup, as well as one with our Progressive Cavity unit.”
The CFE promptly closed its doors in March, and was able to open back up in August with several new programs in place.
“Another important improvement was the development of a process that will allow us to create and organize an even more tailored experience with content designed for each and every customer group that steps foot in our facility,” Farmer notes.
With a focus on an improved online experience, Zoeller was in the process of developing a new Learning Management Software (LMS) early in 2020. Zoeller University was launched internally in July, introduced to reps in August and then to distributors in September. The company plans to expand availability to contractors and engineers soon.
“Zoeller University has allowed Zoeller Pump Co., Clarus Environmental and Zoeller Engineered Products customers the opportunity to learn at their own pace and time,” says Anna Zeman, CFE training coordinator. “Courses on Zoeller University range from product trainings and technical knowledge to policy recaps and updates.”
“In addition, webinars have been utilized and created on several popular topics that would typically be covered at the CFE to allow interested learners and customers to explore those concepts with us or view the recordings at a later date,” she adds.
Zoeller also tailors its trainings for different audiences, notes BJ Hentrup, marketing manager.
“It is not a one size fits all approach,” he says.” For example, the material that plumbers and contractors are interested in typically isn’t the same for engineers and vice versa. The information for reps can be completely different as well, as all guest have different roles out there in the world and require a different set up tools to best do their jobs. Tailoring our trainings is the best way to get the right information to right groups of people.”
Zoeller Pump also released its webinar schedule through December 2020, and customers can register for these free webinars at www.zoellerpumps.com.
Continued online training developments
Zoeller’s main goal is to safely allow customers back in to the CFE when they are ready while simultaneously increasing the number of continuing education courses and online training options.
“Our main goal will be to get our customers safely back into the CFE where we can further educate on Zoeller products and customers can see our products first-hand in our live demos,” says Taylor Powers, corporate marketing coordinator. “Another goal is to train and enlist more instructors to give presentations so we have a mix of new faces and expand our expertise. The CFE team is working diligently to come up with more demonstration carts so we are able to showcase more of our products and how they work.”
Zoeller University’s online platform is launching two to three new classes per month for enrolled learners.
“The CFE has been featured in several Zoeller University courses and will be featured frequently as we develop more courses,” Zeman says. “The CFE Campus has also been hosting two Continuing Education trainings per month for local plumbers. In a few months, we expect more Continuing Education trainings to be added.”
Balancing virtual and in-person options
The continued unknown industry-wide is how to balance new virtual business processes with traditional in-person interactions as it becomes safe to meet and gather in groups.
“While we think we will see more virtual options, such as webinars, nothing can take the place of live trainings where visitors have the opportunity to ask questions, meet in-person and learn first-hand what Zoeller is all about. In the future, Zoeller plans to have a good balance between virtual and in-person trainings,” Powers notes.
Farmer says the CFE has found that breaking trainings into smaller groups (to comply with social distancing) has been beneficial.
“We are easily able to accommodate 30 to 40 people for our in-person trainings, but to encourage social distancing, we are limiting these groups to 20 for the time being. We have found it very beneficial to break out into smaller groups for our factory tours and live training demos.”
“We are following all CDC guidelines and continuing to review them during these ever-changing times,” Hentrup adds. “We require all the things you have come to expect, such as face masks, temperature checks at the door, social distancing, hand sanitizer stations and all food is individually packaged. We have the building disinfected every weekend and are continuously wiping down surfaces, such as door handles, counter tops, desks and chairs to ensure our guests’ safety.”
It seems one silver lining coming from COVID-19 is the prompt for manufacturers to ramp-up virtual training options, and it’s clear Zoeller was ahead of the curve in doing so. Industry pros have the option to choose virtual or in-person training.
“We are excited about our new online options, as well as the improvements we’ve made to the CFE this year,” Famer says.
“The responses from attendees and customers have been positive,” Farmer notes. “Zoeller does not want to pressure customers into returning to the CFE until they feel comfortable. When they do feel comfortable, they will be welcomed back with open arms — our team is excited to show them what’s been perfected while they were away.”
Editor’s Note: PM Engineer Chief Editor Nicole Krawcke contributed to this article.