Every year we prepare for it, but we are never truly ready for the bustle of the summer season in the cooling industry. As temperatures increase, so does the higher failure of industrial radiators and the increased demand for air conditioning systems in cars, trucks, and off-road equipment. For us, like many of you, this is the peak of our season with repair work; cars, trucks, buses, and off-road equipment all rely heavily on cooling components for engine and in-cab cooling in the 90° heat and humidity. With the rapid increase in repair order volume and customer calls, it becomes easy to get lost in the day-to-day activities that surround a typical repair shop and lose sight of some important aspects of our business such as safety practices, staying up to date with training, or even taking a chance to sit back and relax.
Over the last year, our company started breaking down our safety practices–some of which we were on top of, and others that had fallen behind the curve and desperately needed to be revisited. It would have been easy to skip a few months of safety training due to being in our “busy season,” but at the NARSA/IDEA 2023 Spring Conference in Rochester, Randy Gardner spoke about some of the best practices for safety and the importance of proper safety etiquette, which encouraged us to continue with our monthly safety program.
At the beginning of the year, we decided to implement a monthly safety program for our shop. Each month our speaker (the former head of safety at Cummins Engine in Rocky Mount), prepares a lesson on different safety topics that are trending with OSHA or what he has noticed during a walkthrough of our facilities. I think we could all agree that shutting down operations for half of the day during our busiest season seems counter intuitive, but with the new hires within our company comes the higher risk of injuries without proper training, so we proceeded with our training schedule. For our company at Rocky Mount Radiator, our immediate goal was to protect ourselves if OSHA came through for an inspection, but shortly after starting our program, we realized that our focus soon became our employees’ safety above the fear of a possible fine. As previously mentioned, we have several new employees at our company, several of which are barely old enough to make a trip around the corner to the local bar. This newfound youth comes with many benefits, but years of proper safety training is not one of them. As our safety courses started, it became apparent that the new hires had not developed proper safety knowledge that others have accumulated over years of working in our sector and were in desperate need of the guidance that our program provided.
With these truths in mind, we then committed to providing consistent, effective training not only from a safety standpoint, but from a processes and procedures standpoint to ensure that our newly acquired talent is staying relevant and up to date with repair practices, heat exchanger education, and the numerous modes of failure identification in our field. A generation, or four in our case, has led to many of the practices around our business becoming second nature, and while any owner instinctively understands the next steps, new hires may require step by step instructions due to lack of proper training, specifically in the busiest months of our season. And while the busy summer months help revenues soar, it often comes at the expense of the owners and managers to serve as question answerers, rather than leaders of the company who empower others to thrive. A simple, but effective practice that we have established is the Friday afternoon training segment, wherein each repair procedure within our company is broken down from start to finish with every employee to acknowledge that everyone is able to pick up where the last left off. Delivery drivers, warehouse personnel, and even front counter are responsible for attending, participating, and growing their competencies in each area.
As training continues, and the ever-present sound of ringing phones fill the air, it becomes easier for our summer months to slip away. But as we grow as a company and continue to better ourselves as individuals, we realize the importance of being able to step away from our business, reflect with colleagues and enjoy the simple moments away from the walls that we call our work. Most recently, this came from a simple fishing trip to a remote section of the North Carolina coast, where the nearest store was hours away by boat and the closest test tank was half a day away. This summer season we were fortunate enough for both my dad and I to escape the confines of the busy summer season and remove ourselves from our “work” for a weekend. But as you all know, putting any radiator guys in a room will certainly result in the discussion of business, which was certainly conducted, along with most importantly a great deal of fellowship, food, fishing, and a few small lies told along the way. It can be easy to fall into routines that lead to monotony or even complacency, especially when so much time is spent within the same four walls and with the same group of people. Networking with colleagues from diverse backgrounds allows us to find perspectives we might not otherwise encounter. I owe a lot of this trip to our team at Rocky Mount Radiator, my wife for holding down the fort while I was away, and Wayne Feeleus and Bobby Duran for encouraging Chuck and I to get away, even in our busiest season.
A simple, but effective practice that we have established is the Friday afternoon training segment, wherein each repair procedure within our company is broken down from start to finish with every employee to acknowledge that everyone is able to pick up where the last left off. Delivery drivers, warehouse personnel, and even front counter are responsible for attending, participating, and growing their competencies in each area.
NARSA/IDEA and the connections we have made over the years continue to provide value to our company. By being afforded the opportunity to connect with other business professionals in our industry, all who encounter similar phenomena including the monstrously busy summer season, I am reminded to continue making the “big things” the “big things” during the grind of the busy season. The key focus on safety, training and continuous improvement of procedures and practices, and remembering to take a well-deserved break have proven to be enormously beneficial to maintaining balance during this challenging season. The lessons, connections, and skills that we have acquired through NARSA/IDEA continue to make this association a viable part of our business.