Werner Electric Supply is well known for providing businesses with everything from electrical supplies to network solutions, but there’s another side of the Grand Chute company that doesn’t receive much attention: its robust training program.
“Well-trained customers are long-term customers, and if our customers are thriving, then we thrive too,” Rodney Howard, a process product manager at Werner, says about the importance of offering a variety of training courses designed to help customers get the most out of their equipment.
Werner began offering its industrial automation courses on Rockwell Automation equipment more than 30 years ago as leaders saw that engineers needed additional training to work with newer, tech-driven products. At the time, engineers did not learn programming skills as part of their training, so Werner-led classes could fill the gap, says Lawrence Ortner, a technical support manager at Werner.
Employees still must keep up to date as technology continues to advance, he says, adding the Werner courses range from teaching foundational skills to more advanced topics. In 2019, more than 700 students attended 150 classes.
“Our training program follows directly from the technical support we provide our customers,” Ortner says. “Our classes take maintenance personnel and engineers from not even knowing the right questions to ask to being comfortable troubleshooting controls, developing their own programs and knowing what is possible and what is not.”
The industrial automation courses are held on a regular schedule at Werner branches throughout Wisconsin, and the classes qualify for continuing education credit. They can be tailored to the students’ abilities and individualized, if necessary, for a customer.
“We really provide the students with what they need to know — it’s a very hands-on program that allows them to go at their own pace,” he says.
While Werner’s industrial automation courses have been around for three decades, the company’s International Society of Automation (ISA) training program is a more recent addition. The ISA program provides students with an opportunity to earn continuing education credits or become a certified control systems technician (CCST) depending on the class, Howard says.
“With the aging workforce and accompanying brain drain, these classes provide a way to fill in some of that information,” he says. “Process control is becoming more important in manufacturing, and this is something businesses need to address.”
Howard points to Rockwell Automation’s growth in the area of process control as more manufacturers embrace the tenets of Industry 4.0 as an example of the changing industry.
“As more companies understand the tighter product specs, they realize the best way to do that is providing their employees with more training,” he says, adding that engineers and engineering technicians need multifaceted skills and that training can help meet those needs.
Werner’s industrial automation controls and ISA classes fit together naturally, Howard says. “Everyone wants to know how to tune a controller. Lawrence’s classes tell you how to get everything connected and we go from there,” he says. “The goal is to become a one-stop shop for training.”