TRAINING: Eco Operators are learning new ways of working which are better for them – and for the environment
by Nathalie Rothschild
Training staff who work with heavy equipment to become Volvo Eco Operators can help companies reduce fuel consumption, which in turn lowers harmful emissions and cuts costs.
“One of Volvo CE’s core values is protecting the environment and entrepreneurs who can save money by lowering their machines’ fuel consumption are doing the environment a favor,” says Martin Karlsson, an application engineer at Swecon in Sweden.
“The money the entrepreneur saves can be used to invest in new equipment, and newer machines tend to have lower emission levels. In that way, we help entrepreneurs work actively to protect the environment,” says Karlsson, who heads the training and education division at Swecon.
Among other things, Karlsson is responsible for the company’s Eco Operator training, but he and his colleagues have taken the program a step further, tailoring it to suit different clients depending on the sector in which they work: construction, production or industry.
“The course introduces methods for moving and transporting material in the most energy-efficient way possible. Of course, an operator who only drives timber, for instance, is not interested in learning methods for transporting gravel, earth or wood chips, for example. So for those attending my lectures, it is important that they can relate to the material and to the information conveyed,” explains Karlsson, “which is why tailored training is more attractive and effective.”
In short, the Eco Operator training helps machine operators improve their techniques in order to reduce fuel consumption and harmful emissions and lower wear and tear on machines. This can be achieved through proper planning and operation by trained operators.
For Karlsson, the first step involves visiting a company to analyze their fleet by looking at the machines’ data and at how handlers use different operating modes. A productivity and cost study is then carried out
on the worksite and the findings are used as material on the training day that Karlsson runs later on site for the machine operators. The training includes both theory and practical exercises.
Karlsson stresses that it is important that the operator can relate to the information conveyed in the course and can see how it impacts their practical day-to-day work.
“I use the machine data to present driving patterns and to explain the impact of how often you break and accelerate, for instance. I relate the data to how the operators themselves actually work and use the machines because it is important that they understand how and why this affects fuel consumption and how changing their habits can have
an impact,” he continues.
IN THE PICTURE
Karlsson takes photographs on site to integrate into his presentations so that the theory comes to life. Operators can then really relate to how different methods, transportation modes and road surfaces, for instance, affect fuel consumption and emissions.
Swecon also offers individual coaching, according to an operator’s needs and demands. Furthermore, instructors compile a report of the information gathered on site and send it to the machine owner. The documentation can be used as a future reference since it contains a summary of the worksite visit as well as suggestions for improvements. There is also a follow-up visit some time after the training, where a new machine read-off is performed and a before-and-after training comparison is carried out.
“We return to the client about six months after the initial training to ensure operators don’t fall into old habits, which is easily done, says Karlsson. He goes on to say that this year Swecon has trained 250 drivers as Eco Operators and aims to reach 500 by the end of 2016. Swecon plans to employ three full-time staff members to work on its tailored Eco Operator Training next year; currently, there are two
full-time trainers and one part-timer.
Karlsson believes there will always be a need for eco training, even as the introduction of self-automated vehicles looms closer. “It will be a long time before we see fully self-automated construction equipment,” he says. “And even if that happens, supervisors will be in demand and those supervisors need proper training to ensure the machines are as energy-efficient as possible. For instance, a machine cannot determine itself which scoop to use depending on what material is being transported – which is one factor impacting energy use. That will never happen, or at least not in our lifetime, so there will always be a need for this kind of training,” Karlsson concludes.