In June 2020, 20 German service technicians took part in the successful pilot of a brand-new European John Deere engine diagnostics training program. The Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) quickly brought students from various John Deere agricultural equipment dealers up to speed on the latest engine technologies. It's a clear example of how John Deere integrates innovation into its equipment design, performance, service, and training.
VILT: From idea to reality in just six weeks
The VILT program could not have been more topical. When the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine began, John Deere Power Systems (JDPS) joined forces with its network to develop the German-language engine diagnostics VILT program so that students could continue their John Deere tech training journey.
Working tirelessly together, John Deere video experts, training crew, and Certified Distributor Instructor Hamilton AG turned the program from idea into reality in just six weeks.
"While virtual training is very relevant right now, of course, this isn't a one-time thing," says Daniel Coutinho of the JDPS training organization. "JDPS has been running a VILT program in the U.S. market for a while. In 2018, we developed a ‘Euro VILT' version to address the time-zone and language needs of key European markets. This program won the John Deere Senior Vice President Award of Excellence in 2019."
Worldwide, best-in-class service
The VILT program is part of the John Deere mandatory Service Technician Curriculum for all agricultural, construction, and forestry equipment dealerships, as well as the Power Systems service channel. "Each dealership must have a few technicians certified in engine diagnostics to provide proper engine service and increase equipment uptime and customer satisfaction," Coutinho explains. "This is critical to live up to our brand service promise: maximizing uptime."
The VILT program focuses on engine diagnostics and comprises eight modules, each of which is two to three hours. The engine is covered system by system: from air and exhaust to fuel injection and aftertreatment. When students have completed all modules, they are required to complete assessments and demonstrate their diagnostic skills in a hands-on, four-day session to obtain full certification.
Nicolas Stirnemann, technical director of Hamilton AG and Certified Distributor Instructor, says, "The VILT sessions are live and include videos, Q&As, chats, and simulations. Cutting-edge technology and interactive layouts make it easy for people to share experiences and ask questions."
Virtual training is an innovative way for John Deere and its network to offer best-in-class customer service. "A training session like this would usually take service technicians away from their work for a week," comments Thomas Otten, manager of John Deere GmbH & Co. KG's Training Center, Bruchsal, responsible for training the German branch and market. "With the virtual courses, they can absorb a lot of precise and detailed information in a short time without traveling. This leaves them more time to help customers."
Swiss precision brought to VILT
Hamilton AG, the longtime John Deere engine distributor for Switzerland and Austria, hosted the VILT session in its own studio in Wängi, Switzerland. Hamilton has worked alongside JDPS on the VILT journey, is in step with the most recent virtual training methods, and knows the latest John Deere technologies inside and out.
Marsha Hamilton, CEO of Hamilton AG, agrees that innovative solutions like the virtual training sessions help build customer loyalty. She says, "Customers in our markets demand a high level of customer service. Hosting the training for John Deere shows that we not only have the necessary expertise but will also go the extra mile to support them."
"I'm pleased with the trust that the broader John Deere organization has put in us to lead the German-language sessions. And this pilot training is just the beginning," says Stirnemann. "While the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rollout of the VILT program, the focus remained firmly on delivering a great training program and student experience."
The successful VILT trainings are becoming a fixture for John Deere equipment dealers, with more sessions planned for service technicians throughout Europe in 2021.
While the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rollout of the VILT program, the focus remained firmly on delivering a great training program and student experience.