MRO Magazine

Maintenance advice takes to the road

MRO Magazine   

Transportation & Logistics

With a lot to say, a lot to show and a desire to more tightly focus marketing dollars, several suppliers of maintenance and repair components and systems are crisscrossing the country this year with their trucks, packed with products, teaching...

With a lot to say, a lot to show and a desire to more tightly focus marketing dollars, several suppliers of maintenance and repair components and systems are crisscrossing the country this year with their trucks, packed with products, teaching tools and interactive displays. 

At least three big Canadian suppliers -¿ Leeson Canada, NTN Bearing Corporation of Canada and SKF Canada -¿ will visit as many as 400 end users and distributors by year’s end. 

Of the three companies, Mississauga, ON-based Leeson Canada is the most recent supplier to load up a bandwagon, with “The Regal Beloit Canadian Road Show and BBQ” (Leeson is a Regal Beloit division). In 2010, the company outfitted a 26-ft trailer to display HVAC/R motors, high-efficiency motors, high-efficiency gearing, industrial motors, variable-frequency drives and other hardware. 

Dan McKelvie, national marketing manager for Leeson Canada, explains why. “We found that a lot of our marketing dollars were spent on local things like sending customers to see basketball and football games. But there is a trend to do less of that … we are allocating more money to the Road Show as a way of [replacing] trade shows.” 


Leeson visited 18 distributor locations last fall and forecasts it will visit 66 distributor locations this year. The Road Show has so far restricted its visits to its distributors, but sends posters and other information material ahead of time so they can invite their customers, who will enjoy a BBQ in the bargain.

“It is a pretty tricked-up rig. It is a big walk-through trailer. It is like a mobile trade show,” says Gerry Siemon, owner of Ampro Electric, in London, ON. The Road Show visited his company’s four Ontario branches in London, Sarnia, Tillsonburg and Chatham last September. 

Siemon invited a lot of his customers. “Most are from manufacturing plants. They comment on how nice it is for the Road Show to come to town. Local guys are not going to see this very often. We don’t have trade shows – we pretty well have to go to Kitchener or Toronto for that. It is very difficult to get all the different products that Regal Beloit has on the market to our customers. This Road Show does this very efficiently.”

Anthony Wu, a reliability electrical engineer with Cargill Value Added Meats in London, dropped into the Road Show at Ampro’s London branch. “It is a good way to understand new products. We get to speak to the Leeson representative, ask questions and express our interests and concerns related to their products.”

Wu came away from the Road Show with a hot tip: “They introduced a new stainless steel motor suitable for extreme washdown applications. As a food processing manufacturer, high standards of sanitation are critical. Sometimes it can be challenging to maintain the reliability of motors that undergo daily high-pressure washdowns. This motor could be a possible solution.” 

The Road Show also set up at Gilbert McEachern Electric, a motor shop in Brantford, ON. Owner Mal McEachern comments, “Part of what makes the show work is that the people can get out of the plants. They love coming to this type of thing.” He adds that the Road Show is a great way to re-establish face-to-face relationships, something that has been lost in recent years.

Maintenance buyer Steve LeBlanc, who works at Maidstone Bakeries in Brantford, also dropped in to see the displays. Asked how it helped him, he joked, “I didn’t have to buy lunch that day! It gave us a chance to meet their whole staff, see the inventory and methods and gave us a chance to meet the folks from Leeson.” As for hot tips, he notes, “They had portable generators that I wouldn’t have thought to call them about.”

Since 2007, NTN Bearing Corporation of Canada Ltd., Mississauga, ON, has been delivering bearing training from Newfoundland to British Columbia out of a Ford E350 cutaway with a 14-ft Aerocell cube. Its cargo includes a number of core bearing product samples, including a 23032BK spherical roller bearing measuring 160 mm by 240 mm by 60 mm, and demonstration modules.

The vehicle carries comprehensive maintenance training seminar handout material for participants. Demonstrations are easily set up using three mobile carts that can be wheeled anywhere, such as on to a shop floor, training facility or hotel. NTN engineering staff conducts the training.

This is the company’s second-generation Technical Training Unit (TTU), also known as the Mobile Training Unit. From 2000 to 2006, NTN operated a 40-ft fifth-wheel mobile classroom in Canada and the United States, which incorporated an integrated multimedia presentation theatre and demonstration area. 

Although the TTU is not a mobile classroom, in 2010 NTN installed a heavy-duty slide out truck axle so the TTU can pull into garages and train mechanics on the installation of tapered roller bearing truck axle bearings. Ultimately, explains Marcus Wickert, engineer and manager of technical resources with NTN, “The current concept is to integrate formal training with hands-on training demonstrations on the shop floor, where mechanics face daily real-life challenges. Training kits are organized in the unit to educate them on various bearing products or demonstrate a number of installation techniques.

“The majority of training is conducted for maintenance staff that are installing and maintaining bearings. However, we frequently cater to stores or purchasing personnel who want to further understand part numbering or handling of bearing products.  We have also provided product or technical training at our distributor partners.”

NTN books five to 10 training sessions a month, according to Wickert, who oversees the TTU’s general regional routing and occasionally conducts the on-site training. The training platform is tailored to specific requests. A bearing presentation might last a morning, or NTN might present multiple topics over two or three days.

Last September, for example, NTN distributor M.A.S. Chibougamau arranged a two-day bearing seminar for 30 maintenance staff at the Chantiers Chibougamau Ltee sawmill, 850 km from NTN’s Montreal warehouse.

Inquiries for TTU bookings can be made through NTN’s local business development manager or through the NTN support team. They can also be arranged through a local NTN distributor partner.

In 2011, roughly 225 companies will receive visits from the SKF solutions vehicle during an ambitious, 50-week per year schedule. SKF Canada put its 26-ft Kenworth, essentially a walk-in showroom, on the road on May 17 last year, and it visited 171 companies by year’s end; it replaces a traveling tool truck that SKF had retired after 12 years of service. 

SKF outfitted the solutions vehicle with seven monitors – one for each of the company’s five platforms – bearings, seals, lubrication, mechatronics and reliability services – and two for its industry segments. A 42-in. monitor is wired to a laptop with wireless Internet access. Demonstration equipment includes operating fans and gear that does real-time wireless condition monitoring of the fans’ vibration and speed. 

The on-board hardware also includes a thermal camera, belt alignment tools and a lube board on the back wall, with single-point and multi-point lubrication systems.

The displays are interactive, according to Robert Simpson, product specialist, maintenance products, and marketing coordinator, SKF Canada. For the lubrication monitoring presentation, for example, he explains, “The viewers can jump to single-point monitoring or to greases or multi-point lubrication. They can choose what they are interested in and skip what does not interest them.”

During each appointment, which generally lasts for a morning, SKF has two goals: Enlighten end-users about the five platforms and explain how they allow SKF to create solutions, says Mark Howard, business manager, seals platforms. “As we inform them about what we have and do, w
e ask questions about how their plant is operating. The concept is to discuss what they spend a year and how they can reduce maintenance costs. We want to talk about how to increase uptime and reduce costs.”

The solutions vehicle travels from Vancouver to the Maritimes. For example, it will be in Ontario and Manitoba until May 2011, and in Quebec in September. Each technical representative for a geographical area takes over the solutions vehicle for two weeks. There is always one technical sales representative on board. Local applications engineers, who have a general knowledge of all the platforms, and segment managers (for example, mining, oil and gas or renewable energy) may be on board too.

“The old truck had a lot of millwrights come out to it, but with the new truck we want purchasers and maintenance managers to come in,” Simpson explains. “We want to hear about their problems, etc. Presentations will start the conversations and appointments will be made to address problems in more detail. It is not a hands-on clinic where you are mounting or dismounting bearings. It is more of a show and tell, to show new products.”

Local SKF sales representatives work with authorized distributors to arrange visits with end users, but local companies can ask distributors, or contact SKF about having the solutions vehicle visit them. MRO

Montreal-based Carroll McCormick, an award-winning writer, is the senior contributing editor for Machinery & Equipment MRO.

Online Reader Inquiry Numbers: Leeson 450, NTN Canada 451, SKF Canada 452.


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