Astec’s Customer Schools continues a strong tradition of education, as the recent 2018 program illustrated, with a total of 654 students representing 42 U.S. states, six Canadian provinces and five other countries – Ukraine, Poland, France, Kazakhstan and Russia – in attendance at one of the eight sessions held earlier this year in Chattanooga, TN. It was the best attended Advanced Customer Schools since Astec launched the program 40 years ago.
“We work hard to make the Astec schools experience the best in the industry,” notes Michael Holbrook, Astec service schools’ administrator. “The response to the schools each year is phenomenal. Available spaces always fill quickly after registration opens. We feel like the industry values what our schools offer.”
THE SCHOOL ATTENDEES GAIN A LOT FROM SHARING WITH FELLOW ATTENDEES.
—Michael Holbrook, Astec Service Schools Administrator
The success of the schools is due largely to the format of lectures backed by actual hands-on applications.
“Astec places an emphasis on a hands-on experience. The ability to learn through doing helps our students understand the troubleshooting, service and maintenance tasks that we teach,” Holbrook says.
Providing ready access to plant experts is also a crucial component to the success of the program.
“Accessibility is also something important at Astec and it’s on full display during schools. Our classes are taught by service techs and engineers with in-field experience. This provides our attendees with invaluable face-time with a team of experts,” Holbrook states. “During class, between classes and at evening events, Astec personnel are available to answer questions and share information.” The added experience of learning with your peers also provides ample opportunity to exchange ideas. “We’ve also learned that our school attendees gain a lot from sharing with their fellow attendees, so we try to make sure those opportunities for open discussion are available,” Holbrook adds.
STRONG LEARNING TRADITION GAINED MOMENTUM
According to Astec Co-founder, Norm Smith, the first Astec Customer School was held in 1978 at the Ramada Inn on 23rd Street in Chattanooga. “Blackrock Contracting, West Virginia, bought three batch plants, so Mr. Leo Vecellio Sr. sent a group to the school,” Smith recalled. Ten attendees participated in the first learning event, which became an annual event in the early ‘80s’ and draws hundreds of participants each year.
What was the objective of the training — to support customers who owned Astec equipment or something else? The primary objective of the training, first and foremost, is to support customers, who experience a reduction in downtime, faster troubleshooting and improved efficiency after attending the schools. An additional benefit is a reduction in service calls. Another benefit, according to Smith, is that customers have a chance to meet the service, parts and engineering people. “When they call in they have met the person they are discussing their problems with,” Smith says.
How has the program grown and changed over the years? Smith notes, “Major change has been from all lectures to more hands-on. The tours have always been very popular. The tours made a major improvement when the shop personnel were included to talk about what they did in their areas.”
Are there companies who repeatedly send employees to the annual event? “Yes, many companies send employees every year. And some attendees make it a point to return every few years, because of the value they see in the education they receive at the Astec Advanced Customer Schools.”
What does Astec do to improve the learning experience each year? “Each year Astec evaluates attendee feedback and reviews industry trends to create an evolving curriculum to help each attendee maximize efficiency and production at his/her facility.”