Develop a new range of educational tools targeted towards the elevator industry.
About the project
In 2007 Brugg Wire Rope management discovered that a sizeable source of profit loss was due to customer product returns. The majority of these it was found was not due to wire rope failure but was instead caused by less than careful customer installation or maintenance technique, or the result of surrounding elevator components destructively acting upon the ropes themselves and reducing life expectancy.
Develop and refine elevator industry educational tools in order to reduce product returns and customer complaints due to their own poor installation and maintenance technique and foster the impression that Brugg Lifting was vitally concerned with promoting customer profitability and productivity.
For a five-year period Brugg was seen as a leader in providing help and information to customers and in supplying dynamic educational resources to the industry as a whole. The end result being less product complaints and returns, more personal invitations to jobsites to review worker technique, and good word of mouth leading to a noticeable increase in hoist rope sales.
The fact that the elevator workforce is currently undergoing a demographic change, where older, more experienced workers are being replaced by others who in many cases are less familiar with proper technique is well known in the industry. This is a problem that even major OEMs are struggling with, despite the fact they offer their own training accreditation programs. And while in the Northern U.S. trade unions have historically provided these needed educational resources to their workers, such opportunities have not been readily available throughout much of the rest of the country. This means that many small maintenance companies have to educate their workers using less than thorough, or dull informational materials that do not engage younger audiences who have little inclination to absorb old-fashioned, text-heavy training manuals. The end result being they are unaware of the proper way to install equipment or are unable to recognize the early warning signs and remedy problems before damage becomes irreversible.
It seemed obvious then that if one could create materials that were more visually fulfilling, explanatory, and targeted in tone towards less experienced audiences, then they would serve as a basic primer for a new generation of worker. And this worker, in addition to learning that an elevator installation is not simply an odd conglomeration of parts but is instead a working, interrelated family of components where one impacts another, would view the company offering them this information as a trusted source for advice and, more importantly, for future product purchases.
In short, by providing mainstream industry workers with information that could be more readily processed, those workers would be familiar with your company’s name when it came time to replacing hoist ropes. Considering that the cost of development of even the most elaborate educational tools would only be a percentage of what Brugg was already paying out in product returns, the idea of providing new materials to the industry and also promoting the company itself as an educational resource made obvious strategic sense.
Over a five-year period, I focused on helping Brugg reach out to customers through email marketing campaigns, conference speeches, industry gatherings, NAEC educational sessions, PR work, producing PowerPoint presentations, Elevator World white papers, and created an entire series of brochures, flyers, and online articles on various topics including hoist rope life, rope equalization, and proper installation and maintenance techniques. This concept was so well received that the company’s sister branch in Europe budgeted additional funds for an 18-month developmental project resulting in the Brugg User Reference Guide, consisting of 128 pages and filled with over 300 illustrations. In addition to basic terms, product diagrams, and charts, the book offers step-by-step construction, installation, and maintenance procedures, roping techniques, and provides easy-to-understand discussions on such topics as rope equalization, lubrication, and guides on how to get better rope performance. While others in the industry had created materials similar to this in the past, no one else had gone into such detail and illustrated step-by-step processes in such detail before. In addition to providing a basic industry primer, the resources for the Guide were also used in new customer presentations, environmental graphics, and sales and marketing materials.
The final result of this educational program led to an increase in sales for Brugg Wire rope, fewer product returns, and more requests to speak to the industry as a whole (which served to increase their industry profile versus the competition). Most importantly it led to a noticeable change in customer attitude, who now being better educated in the subject of hoist ropes, was more willing to accept the idea that many onsite rope failures were not automatically due to the rope themselves, but instead could be due to poor worker technique.
I particularly enjoyed interviewing customers, creating materials, developing the team that would provide the resources necessary, maintaining budget and production schedules and learning more about the industry. Indeed, if Brugg had tried to utilize the traditional client/agency method to develop this program (where one has an entire agency staff working on an hourly basis to handle the job) the entire developmental process would have been far costlier, taken more time, and created a less engaging and effective series of educational resources.
This experience has led me to consider other ways of providing information targeted to younger, more visually-focused industry audiences. In the elevator world of tomorrow, one will always need conventional printed materials, both due to legal and Code considerations, but also because print has proven over time to be an unsurpassed source for information retention. However future workers will also demand more visually-focused animation resources in classrooms and online video-based materials that both inform and entertain.
While some find the idea of enlisting new techniques that provide ‘infotainment’ as a dumbing down of the overall educational experience I see it differently. To me it is the natural consequence of adjusting to audiences who have different expectations in how they wish to learn and are now being educated. In my opinion, the company that can adjust and educate future workers will be viewed as an industry leader and will see measurable benefits in both reputation, industry share and in sales.