A couple of weeks ago I woke up on a Saturday morning to find out I had no hot water. Immediately I went into troubleshooting mode, hurried to the basement of my house and noticed the pilot light on my hot water heater wasn't on. I followed the directions on the unit, checked the inspection glass to see if the pilot light came on after multiple tries with the ignitor... and nothing. Since my heating boiler has this problem where the thermocouple often goes bad, I narrowed it down to either the thermocouple or the ignitor.
For most of us who live in NYC a contractor is just a phone call away. After calling two plumber friends and getting disappointed to hear that they were both away for the weekend, I went to my next best friend… the internet. I decided to go on to a website and look for a local plumbing contractor who had the most positive reviews (there wasn’t a really long list to choose from and not a lot of reviews). The call center that answered put me on hold while they reached someone from the company. The contractor, who they connected me to, told me to text him a photo of the unit along with the make and model.
Not even a minute later he calls me back and said, “You know, I deal with those units all the time and I would really suggest that you replace it.” I listened in shock and then responded with, “My unit has never given me a problem in the past and I truly believe it’s the thermocouple.” He insisted that these units have a device inside that usually gives lots of problems once it's opened up. I have to admit for a short moment I did feel some anxiety but I asked again, “So if you have to replace the thermocouple what would it be?” He said, “Look I’m guessing that it will be a minimum of $350 for me to replace that part.” I personally know the thermocouple cost about $15 and the one with the ignitor combination is about $40 so I said, “Thank You” and hung up. Given it was a weekend I called with the expectation that the cost would be escalated so I understood the justification of the pricing! But two things crossed my mind in that moment. This guy plays into people's fear and tries to take advantage of them OR he was trained to just replace, rather than repair. Personally I think it was a combination of both. I didn’t bother trying to call anyone else. It was time for me to practice what I teach.
I looked at the photo I had taken with the Make and Model and decided to go onto the internet to see how much work was really involved. Sometimes there is so much content on the internet that it’s often hard to find a really good, straight to the point, video. Fortunately, I was lucky! I found one with a guy who was clear, concise, and straight to the point. (Very similar to how I create and conduct my training videos with contractors.)Before I continue with my story, let it be known, I always emphasize, "Unless you have been formally trained or worked on similar equipment, don’t touch it!” After watching the video I truly felt the confidence to search through my tool box (which I will admit had some cobwebs on it), take a trip to home depot, and replace the part. Proud to say, I got it to work in about an hour.
The truth is I’m not a mechanic, but I am mechanically inclined, love working with my hands and learning new things. Even though I hadn’t picked up my tools for a long while, there are certain things you just can’t forget. Like many people who are mechanically inclined, have worked on mechanical equipment, and use tools; taking directions, especially from a training video, is second nature.
Although some of the older generation resist technology, the internet and smartphones have more workforce employees utilizing pdfs and videos to do practically everything! We also can’t deny that today’s generation is being trained to have more user friendly resources at their fingertips and it’s becoming more challenging to recruit a younger generation with antiquated systems. While every industry is evolving, existing buildings are struggling to catch up. With equipment continuously changing, trade schools can’t create curriculums fast enough to keep up. Equipment specific training videos are the answer.
I believe owners of facilities will have a much more productive workforce if they offer more user friendly and navigable training. Here’s why I say that, I have worked amongst facility operators in all industries long enough to understand their behavior in both union and non-union environments. Most of the time workforce operators are afraid of asking for help or are too lazy to go read a manual and in some cases it’s impossible to access a manual because the equipment is so old.
I am sharing my personal story because we often get dependent on external resources not even realizing what we can do ourselves or in-house. I know a contractors' time is worth money, as a business owner, mine is too. There will always be a need for contractors to do large scale projects and tasks that internal staff are not equipped to do but if you have the staff in your facility already, utilize their skills.
I encourage workforce training to not only increase the longevity of equipment but to also have it run more efficiently in addition to having staff handle small tasks that they don't often do on a daily basis. Training videos provide consistent information, it acts as a refresher and reference. It also alleviates the embarrassment of some who are often too proud to ask for help, or think they know it all, and saves owners on premature replacement. If owners take the responsibility to provide the necessary training in the format I offer: with coaching, training videos, hands-on courses, and monthly engagement; they will have a more productive staff and the results I’ve mentioned.
I waited to share this story as I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any of the failures my contractor friend, from my brief phone conversation, insisted would happen. I am happy to say that it’s been about three weeks and I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy many hot baths.
Once your staff is trained with safe practices, fundamentals to gain knowledge of mechanical systems, ways to properly handle tools, and have a desire to learn, everything is possible!
Enhanced Building Solutions LLC (EBS) offers mobile training solutions for the commercial and maritime industry. Training staff to operate buildings efficiently is necessary. EBS offers consulting and coaching services, virtual walk-throughs, custom technical training videos in mini navigable clips, in addition to online learning. Our training methods provide consistent information, saves on employee turnover, and minimizes liabilities. Nothing will ever replace hands-on learning but blending it with online learning will create an ultimate training solution. Are you ready to be a pioneer in the industry?