Inside Zoeller's Center for ExcellenceThe Southern PHC Magazine editorial team visited Zoeller's Louisville, Ky., headquarters, plant, and training facility.
For an industry with an aging workforce, training the next generation is a top priority. Zoeller Company’s Center for Excellence in Louisville, Ky., was created with just that in mind. “The hands-on aspect is something that is so needed in this industry,” says Dave Farmer, trainer at The Center for Excellence. “Having a place where we can actually do that is just phenomenal.”
Opened in September 2015, Zoeller created The Center for Excellence with not only contractors in mind, but their own workforce as well. “We’re no different than anybody else,” says Farmer. “We have an aging workforce. We realize the value in passing along that knowledge to our own staff.”
The importance of hands-on training
One of the things Farmer looks for- ward to as a trainer is seeing the “aha” moment. He knows the importance of hands-on learning. Farmer spent time out in the field when he worked with Zoeller Onsite (now Clarus Environmental), and has experience with the issues contractors encounter and the kind of re- al-world troubleshooting that they need.
In the past, Zoeller had a training room, but no place to physically show the products in action, “and really be able to get into the nuts and bolts of it,” he says.
Now, the 6,000-square-foot facility includes a state-of-the-art classroom and a demonstration room, where industry professionals—including contractors and engineers—can see Zoeller’s latest products and concepts in action.
“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I think the hands-on training is probably worth many more than that, to be able to actually see the product work,” says Farmer. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had guys here and you see the light bulb come on and they really get it—they know what we’ve been talking about all this time. It just came full circle for them.”
Developing a relationship
Zoeller holds trainings each year for their reps and wholesalers, says Farmer. “We’ve expanded upon that with the facilities at The Center for Excellence,” he says.
There are trainings each month for local plumbers who need continuing education credits. “We have a continuing education course that satisfies the requirement here in Kentucky,” he says, adding that they’ve also done continuing education classes for engineers. “We put together custom classes, so if we have a rep that wants to bring in a particular contractor and they’re very interested in [a particular product], we put together a custom training class specifically for them.”
Contractors who come for training, says Farmer, can expect to get good, general knowledge about pumps and will learn a lot about Zoeller’s product line. “If they need specific training,” he says, “[they’ll get] general understanding, basic troubleshooting, startup—all of the various aspects that would go into that.”
Groups from all over the country—and all over the world— come to The Center for Excellence for training. The goal, he adds, is to really get to know the customer and the customer gets to know us. “They know who to call [if they have a question],” he says. “I feel like we really develop not only a business relationship when it’s over, but a true friendship.”
Farmer says they try to make learning not only educational, but fun. “If we do an hour of [classroom work], we like to have an hour demo,” he says. “We try to keep that 50-50 mix.” Training at The Center for Excellence is offered, in most cases, free of charge. The continuing education classes have a nominal charge.
For contractors or engineers interested in training, Farmer says they can reach out to their local distributor or rep to find out when training is being held. If they want to set up a specific training, Zoeller will work with them to schedule it for their preferred date and time.
“What’s so cool about The Center for Excellence is we can custom-tailor whatever we’re doing for the audience,” says Farmer. “If we have engineers coming in, we’ll focus what we’re doing—maybe it’s more classroom stuff, more equations and things like that, as opposed to hands-on. We absolutely custom- tailor the classes for the audience.” Several international trainings are held each year. “Those are typically a week-long training,” adds Farmer.
People of all skill levels are welcome at the training classes. “One of the things that we try to do with all of our trainings is try to reach out to the people who are coming, try to gauge what their skill level is, and we try to accommodate that,” says Farmer.
“Plumbing contractors in general are getting older, but we have also seen—especially with our hands-on training classes— we’re getting a lot of the younger guys coming in,” he says. “We know there’s a long way to go and lot of training that needs to be done, which is why I feel the Center is so valuable. We need to pass that knowledge along. That’s really what we’re about— passing that knowledge along. If we can shorten that learning curve for the new, young contractor, it makes us all better professionals in the end.”
Looking to the future
Staying up-to-date with all the changes in plumbing technology is a challenge, but Zoeller is keeping up with the challenge. “We have lots of contractors and customers that come in.
Sometimes they’re letting us know about what’s out there,” says Farmer. “But we also work with groups for our continuing education [and] we find out a lot about things going on through those sources as well.” Attending trade shows, conferences, and other industry events also helps keep them in the know. And with new technology and advances come new products, and contractors want to stay current.
“We’ve been open since 2015, and we’re already to the point now [that] we know we need to grow, we need to add new demos,” says Farmer. “It’s a living thing; we need to keep expanding and growing and changing because people won’t want to come back if we don’t. But I think it’s exciting. I’m excited for the future.”
Benefit from 80 Years of Pump Expertise
For 80 years, Zoeller has been a name associated with high-quality pumps. At the company’s Center for Excellence in Louisville, Ky., contractors, engineers, and other industry professionals have the opportunity to learn from Zoeller experts in a hands-on environment.
Who: Contractors, engineers, and other industry professionals seeking practical and technical knowledge of Zoeller products
What: Customized, hands-on training on Zoeller products; continuing education classes are also offered for Kentucky licensed plumbers
When: Custom training classes can be arranged through Zoeller manufacturer’s representatives and local distributors; continuing education classes are offered monthly for local plumbers
Where: The Center for Excellence, Zoeller’s 6,000-square- foot, state-of-the-art classroom and hands-on demonstration room, located at 3649 Cane Run Rd., Louisville, Ky. 40211
How: Contractors and engineers interested in training can get in touch with their local distributor or manufacturer’s representative to find out when training is being held or to schedule a customized training class