Topcon Positioning Group’s new John D. Dice Training Center is set up to meet today’s most advanced training needs, the direct result of decades of curriculum development. Attendees get a remarkable learning experience, and often come back for more.
Headquartered in Livermore, California, Topcon Positioning Group is an industry-leading designer, manufacturer and purveyor of measurement and workflow solutions for construction, geospatial and agriculture markets. Topcon unveiled its new John D. Dice Training Center last year. Aimed at keeping customers and dealers up to speed on the most recent Topcon technology solutions, it is one of the latest additions to a growing network of such Centers around the world.
The man whose name adorns the facility, John D. Dice, is a director of Topcon’s Professional Services. A Topcon employee since 1984, he’s been instrumental in the development of the Center’s curriculum, and in the continuing success of the company’s distributor and customer training programs.
“As a measure of success,” Dice said, “we can point to the many end-users who return for additional training opportunities. They’re investing their time to come here, and in most cases, they’re already familiar with the product, but they gain new insights into just what the technology can do. We often get the reaction, ‘Wow, I didn’t know it could do that!’ That really is a measuring stick—participants returning—because they saw greater benefit from the technology when they got back home and put it to use. We’re always happy when they return, often bringing other people from their organizations with them, year after year because they see the value in the training.”
Topcon Positioning Group’s global headquarters now comprises more than 15 acres, bringing the total of land owned in the Tri-Valley area to nearly 80 acres at an investment exceeding $20 million. Topcon has also purchased a nearly-31,000-square-foot building it had previously been leasing, and it has purchased 60 acres nearby that have been earmarked for a new, state-of-the-art testing site for the company’s construction, geospatial and agricultural products and solutions.
Dice said the Training Center welcomes about 2,000 trainees every year. The majority of Topcon’s more than 120 e-learnings or training sessions can be grouped into a wide range of ‘learning tracks.’ Some cover specific Topcon solutions such as 3D-MC grade control software, while others deal with more hands-on topics like how to operate an excavator with Topcon hardware onboard.
“We’re focused on approximately two dozen tracks,” Dice said. “They’re based on our solutions—including GNSS and machine control—for a broad range of applications. For the machine control tracks, we break it into specific classes for the machinery, dozers or excavators, for instance, with hands-on training on the machines. In addition to the solution categories, we have tracks for different types of participants—is this a training session for technicians coming in to learn how to bolt the gear on, calibrate it and get it going? If it’s a session for dealer sales reps, we’ll focus on learning the features and benefits. For end users, we will tailor the class to focus on functionality, showing them how they can get the best productivity and workflow processes.”
Making it Memorable
Everyone knows that all work and no play make Jack and Jill dull and inefficient learners, or something like that. Ron Oberlander is Topcon Positioning Group’s vice president of global professional services. He said the trainees who come to the John D. Dice Training Center are treated like guests and can expect a warm, stimulating and fun experience.
The view of the surroundings from the facility is certainly pleasing. California’s Tri-Valley area is known for its Mediterranean climate, wineries and nature. “Of course, lunchtime is great,” Oberlander said, “You can walk outside and sit down, depending on how hot it is, and just relax. When we’re done with our training day, you know, with the sun going down, we’ll get outside again. At five o’clock, we don’t want them to go home, so we go over to the fridge, which is full of cold beverages. We’ll get people something to drink and something to eat, some gear, like T-shirts. We’ve usually got some music playing in the background, dartboards and other games.”
“It’s a relaxing environment,” Dice said. “When they’re on their own home ground, out there working, we know the dealers are doing their best to train their customers. But when they come here, it’s a different environment. We want them to relax. It’s a fun event, a good event, and we think that makes for a better and more effective learning experience.”
“This site is totally run by the professional services team,” Oberlander said. “So it’s not about a sales pitch, it’s not marketing.”
All Together Now
Topcon wants participants to be satisfied, so the Training Center provides a tailored program, aimed at today’s evolving demographic, with the ultimate goal of helping trainees to be more productive in their work. And this can even mean helping them to better understand non-Topcon solutions. The team knows that many if not most of today’s job sites are running mixed fleets, meaning different types and makes of machines, different types and makes of solutions, as well as engineering and design software from different companies.
“Our customers may have a mix of all three positioning manufacturers,” Oberlander said. “So we have made a very conscious effort, unlike our competitors, to say we have an open format. We want to help you communicate with our machines and find the proper way to communicate with our software, whatever other system elements you’re using.”
Dice expanded on this flexibility: “We might have contractors who are working with a major percentage of Caterpillar machinery, but it won’t be 100%. They will have some other machinery. How is that customer going to work out starting up a base station? How are they going to localize the job site? When the OEMs come here, they kind of get their minds opened up. There’s more to it than just making this machine work. A machine has to work within an environment. Once you’re on Sitelink, Topcon’s web-based construction site management platform, you’re going to need to get the files and get the job going and get communicating with these other machines on site, regardless of what brand they are.”
John D. Dice Training Center sessions include classroom, and real, on-site, hands-on experience with some of the latest construction machinery on the market. Trainees are advised to put on their boots and roll up their sleeves, and when the weather is really bad, they can stay inside for sessions encompassing remote, connected machinery and virtual simulations. When it’s all done, Dice and Oberlander know they will have rekindled some old friendships, turned up some new converts and made new acquaintances who’ll be coming around again for more.