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Watts Water Technologies held a grand opening for its latest Watts Works Learning Center, April 12, in Fort Worth, Texas.
The 3,600-square-foot center features an 800-square-foot classroom with space for up to 18 people, plus a 2,800-square-foot hands-on wet lab, featuring a number of working Watts products, including the following:
Products are also on display and in action in the building’s mechanical room which is behind a glass wall alongside the entrance to the offices.
“If you buy our products,” said Greg Gyorda, director of training for Watts, “then we will train you for life. Training is our company’s DNA.”
The center is inside a 250,000-square-foot building that houses the headquarters and manufacturing operations of PVI, the water heater company acquired by Watts in 2016. PVI, which currently employs 200 people, has been making commercial, institutional and industrial water heaters in Fort Worth since 1961 and moved its operations to the current site three years ago.
The Fort Worth operation also produces BLÜCHER stainless-steel trench and HygienicPro drains, Lync Engineered System Solutions and Ames and Watts in-building risers.
Many of the other Learning Centers are purposefully located in Watts manufacturing facilities so that they, too, serve as an extension of the classroom.
“There’s nothing better than bringing our customers in, train them firsthand, take a manufacturing tour and experience our people and our culture,” Gyorda said.
Stirling Boston, national sales director, took us on an extensive tour where he highlighted the company’s manufacturing expertise and explained how Watts builds pressure vessels and heat exchangers from duplex stainless steel, it calls AquaPLEX.
“Aiding in the proper fabrication of these vessels is our in-house pickle/passivation process,” Boston explained. “Once finished, the tanks are naturally immune to corrosion in hot potable water and require no supplemental tank linings or anode protection systems giving our water heaters superior reliability, product longevity and overall lower cost of ownership over the life of our products.”
Four-part Training Strategy
Watts opened its first Learning Center in Blauvelt, New York in 2010 and has since opened others in North Andover, Massachusetts; (Watts’ corporate headquarters) in 2016; Woodland, California in 2016; St. Pauls, North Carolina in 2018; Burlington, Ontario, Canada in 2019 and finally in Fort Worth.
“Brick and mortar facilities are just a part of a larger focus Watts has around training,” Gyorda added “We literally have hundreds of people in the Watts family who are out educating customer every day, every week, every month throughout North America.”
Gyorda went on to outline Watts’ four-part training strategy:
Lunch and Learns: These training events are typically led by the Watts’ sales team and presented at a customers’ location either in person or virtually.
“I’d say pre-Covid, our Lunch and Learns were an hour,” Gyorda explained. “But the world’s changed and less is more so now the ‘sweet spot’ is about a half hour.”
Gyorda added that Watts have 50-some approved Lunch and Learns ready to be taught on demand.
Which is not say that the Lunch and Learns can’t be longer. Watts has a variety of 60-minute CEU courses for plumbing engineers and designers.
“We’ve got more than two dozen topics we can take to engineering firms,” Gyorda said, adding that Watts instructors are approved by the American Society of Plumbing Engineers and the American Institute of Architects.
The CEU courses can be taught either in person or through an interactive webinar.
Online Learning: Or, eLearning. These self-paced courses are short, online modules all accessible 24/7 through the company’s Learning Management System. Users have to score at least an 80 percent on knowledge tested at the end of one module in order to continue to proceed on to the next.
“I’d say it’s the fastest growing part of our training program,” Gyorda added. “One key benefit of online learning is that a user can take the training on their schedule and on the device of their choosing.”
The eLearning platform was actually launched in 2019 for Watts employees.
“And then after about 5,000 Watts employees went through online learning, we figured this would be just as valuable to our customers,” Gyorda added. “We took it to market to customers in the fourth quarter of 2019 and then Covid hit in 2020 and eLearning just took off.”
Virtual Instructor-Led Training: The newest component of Watts training, these are interactive, online education events hosted by a live facilitator and connecting in real-time with students through a video conferencing platform.
“We’re offering this from our North Andover headquarters,” Gyorda explained. “That way if a customer can’t come to our facility or we can’t get into their facility, then we can still bring them into a virtual training session.”
VILT training duration can be customized for the targeted audience and scheduled based on specific needs.
“Typically, we aim for 30–45-minute sessions leaving time for participants to ask questions throughout the program,” Gyorda explained.
VILT training typically features live demonstrations on a product or system which is captured on a live video feed. A PowerPoint presentation may be incorporated to reinforce certain topics.
This training is just getting started so check back in a future issue for more.
Instructor-Led Training: Which brings us back to Fort Worth since these events are typically held at a Learning Center and is the only training that requires students to come to Watts.
“This training uses a blended learning approach,” Gyorda explained, “consisting of classroom time, hands-on demonstration and peer-to-peer conversations. Usually, we spend no more than half our time in the classroom and the other half in the hands-on lab.”
Gyorda added that Watts has about three dozen approved subject matter experts on staff that travel among the six Learning Centers. ILT serves a big audience including contractors, engineers, wholesalers, manufacturers reps and even Watts employees.
At the Fort Worth Learning Center, visitors can choose from a variety of courses including the following: