MRO Magazine

BSA certification a training benchmark

In a marketplace where "value added" can mean the difference between doing business or not, the Bearing Specialists Association's (BSA) Certified Bearing Specialist (CBS) program has broken important ...

November 1, 2000 | By MRO Magazine

In a marketplace where “value added” can mean the difference between doing business or not, the Bearing Specialists Association’s (BSA) Certified Bearing Specialist (CBS) program has broken important new ground because it identifies bearing industry participants as the knowledgeable professionals they are.

“Industry has always needed to educate the end-user, and the CBS designation is the way to do that,” says Terry Tillsley of Transmission Supplies (SA) Ltd., Lethbridge, Alta., and current association president. “There is no other formal training in the industry.”

The purpose of the CBS program is to instill confidence that certified bearing specialists have the quality of knowledge and critical skills necessary to provide effective service and solutions. The program’s reception has exceeded even BSA’s expectations. Industry feedback makes it clear that customers are very aware of the benefits of certification.

“BSA has set a benchmark,” says Tillsley. “Hopefully CBS will become an industry-wide standard.” Tillsley may get his wish. Applications for the CBS program have exceeded all expectations, with 175 applications for testing in the few months left through the end of 2000 and more arriving daily.


Recently, BDI Canada Inc. of Mississauga, Ont., saw six staff members receive certification: Ken Anderson, Jospi Ban, Gerry Benoit, Steve Ellstrom, John Hunter and Scott Greenwood.

Successful training materials

Industry leaders who rolled up their sleeves to put the program together attribute its success to the credibility of the training and testing materials it uses. The curriculum evolved from the industry’s first educational materials, developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a series of Maintenance Bulletins, which highlighted specific issues and were distributed by BSA members for their customers’ use.

BSA later expanded the bulletins into a self-study format known as the In-House Training Guide (IHTG). The guide provided essential bearing training on sleeve bearings, anti-friction rolling element bearings, unmounted ball bearings, unmounted roller bearings, and mounted bearings. The wealth of information the guide presented and the self-study format made it the mainstay of industry education. Many companies incorporated it into their own training programs.

The guide has been updated periodically to reflect new technology and the latest industry developments. BSA also developed a separate Lubrication Guide to provide generic lubrication information to complement the specifics provided by each bearing manufacturer, and made it part of the IHTG.

Certification the next step

“The certification program picks up the curriculum initially offered by these educational materials and develops it in an expanded and updated format, pulling features and benefits from each manufacturer plus additional technology developments into an in-depth study,” says Charles Nicholson, Bearings and Drives Inc. of Macon, Ga., and one of the CBS program designers.

In developing the CBS program, BSA partnered with a highly qualified team led by Dr. James Sullivan of Southern Illinois University (SIU) to develop study and test materials that would reflect the professionalism the association expected certification to demonstrate. Dr. Sullivan and his SIU team have extensive experience in fluid power, which is a related field, and the university’s personnel are familiar with bearings and machine parts.

Initial test development involved identifying the representative job responsibilities and tasks of bearing specialists. SIU reviewed job descriptions and trade association literature to profile the job of bearing specialists and then conducted a “Developing a Curriculum” (Dacum) workshop, in which incumbent workers, the certification task force members, performed job and task analyses. Fifty other bearing specialists independently verified the results from the Dacum workshop.

Then developers constructed written test items from the job task analysis and related technical information provided by the advisory committee. These test items were reviewed with the certification task force.

After pilot testing, the final tests were written. SIU made revisions to test items based on the pilot test data and constructed two final versions of the Bearing Specialist Certification Examination. The written examination is constructed from a minimum of 200 multiple-choice test items. Test items were reviewed by the Certification Task Force to establish validity and cut-off scores.

BSA leaders believe this test credibility contributes to the program’s value and, of course, to its growing success.

CBS candidates include inside and outside distribution personnel, service engineers, applications engineers, field service technicians, bearing technical support specialists and account managers. Applicants must currently be employed full-time in the bearing distribution industry, must have at least two additional years employment in the industry, and must have successfully completed BSA’s In-House Training Guide.

Taking the test

Preparation for the certification examination consists of self-study using the Bearing Specialist Study Guide, or guided study using subject matter experts within the industry as instructors to conduct review seminars. Sample test items similar to those used on the certification examination have been incorporated throughout the study guide. Pre-tests constructed from sample test items in the study guide are used to assess the readiness of candidates to take the certification examination.

BSA has made CBS testing readily available by having the National Institute for Certification Engineering Technologies (NICET) administer the test in its 131 test centres throughout the U.S. Canadian candidates may schedule tests at a number of university locations throughout the provinces. Among these are, in the west, ASTTBC in British Columbia and Devry Institute of Technology in Calgary, and in Ontario, Algonquin College in Ottawa, the University of Toronto in Toronto, Queen’s University in Kingston, McMaster University in Hamilton, Algoma University College in Sault Ste. Marie, and the University of Western Ontario in London. BSA staff maintains the database for the CBS program, in addition to printing and packaging exams, scoring tests, and notifying candidates of eligibility for certification.

For more information on BSA’s CBS program, contact the BSA office at 630/858-3838; fax 630/790-3095; e-mail or visit the association’s homepage at


Driven by a rapidly evolving global economy, a new model of labour relations is unfolding in Canada, according to the Industrial Relations Outlook 2000 released earlier this year by The Conference Board of Canada.

“The old ways of doing business are no longer relevant,” says Prem Benimadhu, vice-president of the Centre for Management Effectiveness, which produced the report. “In an intensely competitive global economy, agility is required in all business areas. As a result, the union-management relationship is becoming less adversarial and more of a business relationship.” This is increasingly characterized by strategic alliances, co-operation and even partnership, Benimadhu says.

Wages again represent the top issue for unions at the bargaining table, as a buoyant economy and labour shortages in some sectors lead to upward salary pressure. In its Compensation Planning Outlook 2000, the Conference Board predicts wage increases of two per cent in the public sector and more than three per cent in the private sector.

Canadians can expect the year to produce a more stable and positive labour relations climate. The union bargaining agenda will focus on security issues for an aging workforce, including enhanced pensions and health benefits. Management will emphasize the need for productivity and flexibility in order to compete in the global marketplace.

The public sector will dominate collective bargaini
ng in Canada this year, as negotiations take place with the federal public service and various provincial governments, especially Quebec, as well as with teachers, postal workers and hydro workers in Ontario and Quebec. Private sector negotiations will occur in the transportation, primary, communications and retail sectors.

Potential disruptions are possible in the provincial public sector and in the mining and airline industries. Positive change is expected, however, in labour relations in the federal public service.

Flexibility in the union-management relationship is paramount to finding process improvements that will bolster efficiency and effectiveness. In the new economy, productivity initiatives are required for companies’ survival and to keep jobs from moving offshore. As a result, corporations and unions are expected to jointly investigate process improvements that will benefit both parties in the year ahead.

The 20th annual Industrial Relations Outlook 2000 is produced from a roundtable meeting of Canadian union leaders, labour relations executives from major public and private sector organizations, and an academic expert. The report is designed to explore issues and investigate processes that help labour and management build relationships.


A National Shipbuilding and Marine Industries Partnership Project announced in October by Brian Tobin, Minister of Industry, will seek solutions to improve the competitiveness of Canada’s marine industries and help it grow.

“Shipbuilding and repair are part of our heritage, but we have to understand and accept that the industry is changing,” said Tobin. “We can and will compete successfully with the best… in niches and areas we choose… to help lead this industry to a successful adjustment and regeneration.”

An industry-labour team will report by Jan. 15, 2001, with recommendations on policies to rationalize and revitalize the Canadian industrial marine sector.


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