June 22, 2018
Dealer Tech Wars started at Riggs Cat in 2014 as an effort to engage their technicians in friendly competition to determine their best technicians. The next year, Warren Cat joined in, brought in other dealers, and the event has grown from less than 100 to more than 1,100 technicians taking part, with the final 42 gathering in Oklahoma City for the finals this year.
The competition is divided into four categories – trucks, electric power generation, engines and machines. It features multiple skills tests, a written exam to measure technical knowledge plus hands-on, problem-solving and troubleshooting where technicians perform repairs.
Warren Cat Service Technician Guy Morgan competed in the industrial engine category in 2017 and in the truck category this year. He feels this competition highlights the changes and challenges in the industry.
“Throughout my career, technology has probably changed tenfold,” Morgan says. “When I first started, there was no electronics on either trucks or machines whatsoever. They were all mechanical engines and now we’ve got machines with nine ECMs (electronic control modules) on them, and without a very broad knowledge of computers and wiring and electronics, you’re kind of left out in the woods.”
Caterpillar Vice President Phil Kelliher was on hand for the event. He believes the critical thinking and problem-solving skills the technicians bring to the table are key to our success and one of the largest differentiators that Caterpillar has versus the competition.
“If we had to pick one role within a dealership that is the heart of the dealership, it’s the service technician,” Kelliher says. “Making sure that we’re repairing a machine that might have a technical difficulty. More importantly, supporting a machine with parts and keeping that machine up and running, rebuilding machines and engines as they go through their lives. It’s critical to what the dealer does. It’s critical to what we do with our customers.”
The event also features activities meant to build camaraderie, including an equipment rodeo and remote-controlled car contest that help fill the time when they’re not competing. Organizers say it’s a great way to recruit and retain and show technicians how much they are valued by their respective dealerships.
Finding technicians is a significant challenge today, with substantial recruiting efforts taking place at technical and vocational schools and the military. One program that Warren Cat runs with Fort Sil in Lawton, Oklahoma, is focused on identifying qualified service men and women looking for a great second career after serving our country.
“Our technicians truly do have a passion for the business,” Warren Cat Senior VP Ronnie Lane says. “They want to see our customers successful. It just seems that there’s not that many people interested in this type of career anymore, but we’re here to show you that you can have a very long and fruitful career, a very beneficial career in this industry, and not always have to get your hands dirty.”