Customers near and far benefit from the training versatility offered by lab
Richard Wilson, Assistant Director, Gas Mobile Training
Design the ultimate mobile training lab,” they said, clearly underestimating the imagination of the group we had assembled. With award-winning Lineman Hall of Fame Inductee Mark Groves’ Innovations team alongside a team of gas SMEs, we sketched out a million-dollar semi with multiple slides that even included a kitchen sink. Quickly, we were brought back down to Earth and reined in our thinking—though we couldn’t resist including a coffee maker. Today, we have an operator qualification and training lab unlike any other in the industry, one that we can fit into any company yard.
The design we landed on is a well-equipped, self-contained workhorse of a lab complete with its own power, air, and Wi-Fi. This lab, not to be confused with a utility trailer full of equipment where learning takes place on the ground with a pile of tools, actually has a separate interior classroom with heat and AC where we can do computer-based training and testing. Both sides of the lab have doors that open upward to provide cover over the eight workstations (four on each side). Right in the center, a door opens to our massive tool cabinet and small consumables storage area. The tool drawers carry everything from aluminum pipe wrenches to pipe threading tools, scrapers, Cadweld equipment, and anything else you might need to perform training and operator qualifications.
The true versatility of this lab has led to a demand that far outweighs the supply. It fits into most any type of training and fills the needs for most any kind of operator qualification (OQ) testing. Already, customers—including companies with their own training centers—have used the lab in various, unexpected ways. An example of this was a company in Detroit, Michigan, called InfraSource. When they were faced with the perfect storm of needing to finish training and OQs within a two-week period, we sent four of our training specialists and one lab to their location and helped them get through the log jam. Trainees were being processed through OQs all over the lab; some were taking computer-based testing in the classroom while others were getting evaluated on various tasks in the bays around the outside. The lab has also been a welcome relief to special projects groups. We have helped the Mears Group with several large projects where they rent an empty yard and we come in with our staff of evaluators and a lab and set up testing right on the project site. This saves the companies we serve valuable production time by not requiring the staff to travel off site to test. They can keep working until it is their turn to test and then they are right back to production.
The design of the lab also allows setup to take place in the middle of nowhere with no facilities in sight. Already, the lab has traveled to parking lots, empty fields, and even downtown corporate offices. It’s multifunctional, mobile, and top-of-the-line—if gas training is needed, this lab can most likely do it. Equipped with a group of in-house drivers, the lab can be driven to any location in the U.S. for as long as is needed. In Florida, the lab was used to train for several months, while other places, like St. George, Utah, required the use of the lab for only a few short weeks. One lab facilitated training and OQs for a large pipeline-replacement project in Cincinnati, Ohio, for an eight-month period, while another lab stayed with one customer for nearly a year. The mobile aspect of this lab ensures it can meet the training needs of each customer—almost as though each training is custom-built!
The development and subsequent success of the GasTech Mobile Training lab has even spawned a new lab, which is a shorter version that we created to do appliance light-up training with a two-day light-up and customer service course that accompanies it. The feedback has been fantastic, and this lab has already been used in several locations all over the U.S. We are currently adding steel-tapping equipment to that lab and a tie-in box is being built to challenge the students to complete taps and bypasses in a confined space. Updates like these continue to raise the standards for mobile training—and we’re just getting started.
What we can offer is limited only by our imaginations. Did I mention the lab has a built-in coffee maker?
The Handline Magazine
This story was originally published in Northwest Lineman College’s The Handline Magazine, Summer 2022 issue.