29 June 2023

CASE: Technical courses at Eneco innovated with GPAL Academy

Employing over 140 technicians, energy company Eneco installs and maintains thousands of central heating boilers in the Netherlands. Maybe even the one hanging in your home. Due to the enormous growth the company is experiencing, a lot of new mechanics are needed. However, with the current staff shortages, this is quite difficult. 

The solution: train staff yourself! In the words of Sebas, service coordinator at Eneco:

“You can’t get engineers off the street these days, but you can get apprentices!” 

Eneco therefore started training lateral entrants to become full mechanical engineers in their own academy. They reinforce these technical training courses with GPAL.  

The Challenge 

New technicians are trained in the Eneco Company Academy in Schiedam and Utrecht, where there are more than 15 different types of working central heating installations. One day a week, new technicians receive an explanation of these installations and are allowed to practice on them themselves. The rest of the week, they accompany an experienced mechanic, where they can immediately apply their newly acquired knowledge on the job. In general a good approach, however in practice this sometimes can cause some issues. For instance, knowledge concerning operations that occur rarely in practice is quickly forgotten. 

In order to support new mechanics even better during their training and work, knowledge should be easily accessible, always and everywhere. In 2020, Eneco started GPAL Workplace Learning. With the GPAL app, mechanics have access to instructional videos always and everywhere and thus perform their work faster and more efficiently. Hundreds of video instructions have already been created and shared by colleagues. As a result of this succes, Eneco is now also implementing this in their own company academy. 

The challenge: to support new technicians during their training (and work) by making knowledge easily available anytime and anywhere via video instructions.

The Approach 

Strengthening Eneco Academy with GPAL Academy 

To strengthen technical training, GPAL is now in full use within the Eneco Academy. Experienced technicians make short instruction videos, in collaboration with Sebas, on how to dismantle central heating boilers and how to perform basic maintenance on the various models. In doing so, the expert is filmed using an ordinary mobile phone and a wireless microphone. 

By uploading these instructional videos in the GPAL App, students can easily search and watch videos. The videos also make it easier for them to practise on central heating systems independently, or in a group, and go over that one tricky topic again, for example. The instructors are still there, but now have a more coaching role.

Below you will see an example of an instruction video at Eneco concerning the dismanteling of a front plate.

In the workplace 

The interesting thing, of course, is that new employees also have the videos available when they are at work for the rest of the week. This allows them to continue practising as they work, while at the same time requiring less support. Often, mechanics can see in advance which work order or type of boiler they are going to encounter at the next customer. It can then be useful to quickly watch a video to refresh the relevant knowledge. 

Video instructions are also used in an innovative way for more experienced mechanics. For instance, experienced mechanics watch video instructions themselves, but also make short videos on how to perform common or returning malfunctions and errors. This innovates knowledge sharing within the organisation.

The Results

Meanwhile, hundreds of instructional videos have been made for and by Eneco mechanics and all Service & Maintenance mechanics are actively using the App. This has led to some great results. 

Smart & effective training of apprentices

Imparting knowledge through video resonates well with technically-minded mechanics. Sebas explains that mechanics learn best by doing and not by reading about it in long-winded manuals.

“The knowledge transfer you achieve with GPAL cannot be matched, especially when you present the information in a booklet with QR codes that link to the videos. A mechanic doesn’t want to read, they want to see, understand and do. They learn best that way and that’s why I’m so happy with GPAL.”
– Sebas, service coordinator

Furthermore, explaining complex operations is a lot easier if you can demonstrate it visually in a video. Watching short instructional videos is thus not only perceived as more fun, but also more effective. 

An extra helping hand 

By using instructional videos, new mechanics always have a helping hand while working. This not only ensures that new technicians can do their work better, but also gives them more self-confidence. With GPAL, new mechanics can do their job properly on their own faster, while constantly learning and growing. 

“If you are standing in front of a boiler in someone’s home and you have forgotten how to dismantle it and the customer is breathing down your neck, you are already 1-0 down. It’s very different if you are able to watch a video on your phone beforehand, and immediately open the boiler with confidence.”
– Sebas, service coordinator

Insight into the learning process

Eneco uses GPAL not only as a learning app, but also to gain insight into the learning process. Eneco already used all kinds of channels to provide mechanics with information, such as Whatsapp, podcasts and email, but it was difficult to see whether mechanics had actually seen the information, let alone whether they actually understood it.

To solve this problem, Sebas now uses the GPAL TODO feature. With this feature, you can prepare a series of videos and make them mandatory for different groups of mechanics within the company. For example, TODO is used to refresh knowledge on security measures or to explain certain software, such as Power BI. This gives more insight into who has already acquired what knowledge, including easy follow-up. 

“I take a look into the GPAL app every so often to see who has already watched videos and who has not. I can also pass that on to the team managers, so they know exactly who needs a little more prompting.”
– Sebas, service coordinator

Rollout within other Eneco units

Recently, the use of GPAL has expended from Service & Maintenance to also include other departments within Eneco. Since the beginning of this year, the business school started a pilot for heat pumps. This involves making videos to explain how to install and maintain heat pumps. This pilot has been very successful and soon GPAL will be implemented further.