Bob Sheaf on The Importance of Hands-On Training

Three fluid power professionals grace the Hydraulics & Pneumatics booth with their presence at the International Fluid Power Expo. Located at booth S80156 in the South hall, Brendan Casey, Bob Sheaf, and Ricardo Solorzano are open to answering any questions about the latest trends and technology in fluid power, and can discuss technical details in troubleshooting, maintenance, and other categories.   

This morning, Hydraulics & Pneumatics talked to Bob Sheaf, founder and president of CFC Industrial Training, about his experiences in training the fluid power workforce. Visit his author page here

Q) Hi Bob, what are some challenges your clients face with training new workers?

"What I see a lot is that I go in to teach at a high level because all the OEMs are designing cutting edge technology. They build these pieces of equipment and then put them into plants or out in the field, but then companies do not their train workers to service them and maintain them properly. There is always a huge gap there that needs to be filled because the technology is actually outpacing the training that is needed to keep equipment running. A lot of the time, employers will think that their hydraulics specialists know more about the equipment than they do, so they send them in for training at a level 2 class, when really what these specialists could benefit from is taking a level 1 class for the new technology." 

Q) How can employers make sure their workers are equipped to work with contemporary equipment?

"They need to invest in the training. People will ask me, 'do you know a good mechanic', or 'do you know a good technician; we can't find anyone'. But they aren't willing to send workers through an apprentice program or train them because they don't want to spend the money and then have them leave the company to work for a competitor. But seems illogical to me, because why would you want to keep your employess untrained?"

Q) What resources do you see as useful, beside the courses that you offer? 

"Well, there are a lot of good books out there, and there are a lot of good books here at this booth! But the question is, are you going to be interested in reading them? The most valuable way for people to learn is by doing. They say that you remember about 10% of what you hear, and you remember about 20% of what you see. But you remember 90% of what you touch and feel. So, i recommend TRAINERS. I've built my entire business around this; I have about $400,000 worth of hands-on trainers. 

'Hands-on experience, whether it be electrical, mechanical, hydraulics, or pneumatics can be the most important part of training. I had this one student that was learning how to use a volt meter. He looked through the book, and attended a workshop that showed how him to to the meter. But when it came to plugging the meter into an outlet so that he could measure the voltage, he got scared. He had gotten every question right on the worksheet, but still wasn't comfortable using the tool. So I showed him that it wouldn't hurt him when he plugged it in, and I told him that if he is using good quality instrumentation, it likely will not blow up. Then I had him do it, and he could proceed with the testing. 

'So when it comes to hydraulics, people often worry that adjusting a pump or a relief valve could result damage to the machine. But if they have done it, and they've watched the gages on a trainer, they can understand what takes place in the equipment when they adjust it, and they become more confident. They can say, 'ok, I adjusted a compensator, or 'I adjusted a flow control', and they can watch the direction of the pump to know the effects that the adjustment has on the system. This also helps them to learn troubleshooting."

What is your experience with training people right out of school?

"I think that vocational schools need to prepare their students with less book work and more lab work. I have clients that send me their entry level workers because they have skills, but miss out on important details. For example, one student was tasked with drilling holes for tapping bolts, but he wasn't drilling them straight so it was messing with the assembly. The bolts were going in a bunch of different directions. So we trained him, and now we are doing the entire higher level training for that company.

So while there are some schools out there that are really awesome, I'm going to estimate that there are about 60% of these schools that need to improve their curriculum so that students are educated to get out there and use their hands as technicians or mechanics."

Stay tuned for more interviews with our other fluid power experts, Ricardo Solorzano and Brendan Casey. Or stop by our booth S80156 in the South Hall to ask your own questions!

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