You can do a lot of things on your own as a dealer, but if you aren’t trained properly you will have problems from day one. To hit the ground running in the propane market, you need to obtain all the necessary training to properly sell, install and maintain propane conversion kits. An educated staff, including sales, technicians and management will help put customers at ease when moving over to propane with your business by their side.
Calling all techs
There is a large customer base for the service department working on propane units in addition to doing mower conversion and maintenance. All mechanics in the shop should be involved in the training so there is a cohesive adaption of the new technology instead of it being considered a specialty. The industry is quickly moving in the direction of alternative fuels in multiple areas, not just commercial equipment. It is reaching the residential side and is already taking hold in generators.
We knew at some point that we would see a residential walk behind or trimmer running on propane. So we had both our residential and commercial mower mechanics receive the training. It is best to be ahead of that curve than trying to catch up.
If you start of by choosing the right kit, you will get the appropriate training to go with. There are several websites selling kits that are not EPA-approved, or even engine-specific, meaning you are playing the part of engineer in place of purchasing a fully engineered kit. If you are going to buy conversion kits from an EPA-approved manufacturer, they will be ready to provide you with the training and tools your service department and sales staff will need to perform successfully in the propane market. Keep in mind, you usually get what you pay for, and free training is not always what it seems (read the fine print) and can be less than comprehensive.
Tech Services provides the training to any dealer who wants to buy kits. It is a requirement before they are allowed to sell or install them. Tech Services charges a flat-rate for in-dealership training of up to 10 people. Anything over 10 in the training environment takes away from the class interaction and limits the hands-on experience they want to provide. Larger groups are often accommodated, usually due to sales staff and class auditors that are customers wanting to understand the technology.
In a larger group of techs, it helps to do multiple conversions so everyone is on the same page. The Electronic Tuner used in Tech Services installations and for turning the mower is a focal point of the installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting training.
Training is divided between classroom time and hands-on instruction. Classroom time focuses on the physical properties, differences of the fuel from gasoline, history of the fuel, and benefits of propane. It is recommended that sales staff attend the class room portion to further their propane knowledge and be ready to share its benefits with customers. Interested dealers can request training at Tech Services headquarters in Tampa, FL, regional trainings that are held annually around the country, or an in-house training at their dealership.
Technology continues to advance and propane fuel solutions are no different. Once a technician has been through an initial training, he will have a good basis and understanding of the fuel system differences between propane and gasoline as well as how to install and service the current systems successfully. As new conversion kits, installation techniques, and component advancements becomes available, additional training should be planned for, to keep the technician proficient. Also, any new hires that come on after the initial employee training, should be sent to a training session.
Training is always available for the individual, or larger group at Tech Services in-house training facilities.
Staff education on propane handling is also an important part of training. Depending on the state you are in, there is licensing that should be obtained to provide and handle propane fuel. The propane company that supplies your fuel and tank can assist you with obtaining training and certifying usage.
If you want to work independently and not be locked into one supplier, you can purchase your own fueling station equipment and obtain that licensing on your own. Visit the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) for more information on fuel training and certification.
Dave Wood of Smitty's Lawn & Garden in Olathe, KS, is a stakeholder in a company called Tech Services Incorporated. Tech Services has partnered with EnviroGard to become its exclusive sales and marketing arm with worldwide rights for EnviroGard EPA-certified propane conversion kits.