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HTP opened its new 2,600 sq. ft. Training Center with an open house Feb. 9-10, at its corporate headquarters in New Bedford, Mass. “Our customers learn better using their hands,” said Chris Bernier, HTP’s technical field manager. “I can tell them all about what a sensor does, but the best way to understand that sensor is to give them one and let them take it apart.”
“Take it apart” turns out to be an apt description for the new center. While the center also includes space for a lunchroom and a traditional sit-down classroom, the real training takes place in a main room that features live-fire equipment on one side and workbenches on the other side to understand dry equipment.
The live-fire side features most every type of heating and hot water product HTP makes for the residential and light commercial markets.
“We have a little over 3 million Btu of firepower on display here,” Bernier explained. “Our biggest functioning unit is 750,000 Btu.”
Students get their own laptops, combustion analyzers, multimeters, manometers and hand tools to walk through the classwork on the working models.
“We like to think that the new center is one big toolbox,” Bernier said. “We take them step-by-step through an installation, but it’s much more than that. We review the overall product, how to work with and program the controls, conduct combustion analysis — pretty much everything else they need to know whether it’s to install or troubleshoot our equipment. We keep them busy all day long.”
Large screens TVs are strategically positioned above many of the boilers and water heaters to allow everyone a chance to see the finer points of the units’ inner workings.
“That way everyone gets the same show,” Bernier added. “Our ideal size for a class is 12 to 16 people. The camera system is set up so that when I’m in front of a product, and we’re going through the entire display and setup, everybody can see what they need to see. And, of course, everyone gets a chance to get their hands on the equipment, too.”
To properly teach the crowd, Bernier wears a headset that feeds into the monitors’ sound bars.
Working Mechanical Room
The training center, however, isn’t just a big toolbox. It’s a real mechanical room for the building with some of the working units providing heat and domestic hot water to the facility and its seven bathrooms and four kitchens.
HTP also manufactures solar thermal panels and up on the roof are four panels fed into one of the water heaters. Above that heater is a display that monitors the performance of the solar array. A live link is also included on the HTP’s web site. While the weather wasn’t particularly sunny on the day of our visit, Bernier said the total for the day before was 20,000 Btu. The company is also working on translating the Btu total into real dollars and cents savings that homeowners would save with solar power vs. fossil fuels.
On the opposite side of the room are 16 workbenches dedicated to taking apart dry units.
“The live-fire side is for diagnostics and troubleshooting,” Bernier said. “We don’t want to rip those apart. That’s what the benches are for.”
To be precise, the “classroom” actually begins in the lobby.
“Every class starts the same way,” Bernier explained. “We gather in the lobby and hear our CEO or one of our executives give an introduction to the company. We then move on to the classroom for some basic presentations.”
Depending on the length of the classes — with some as short as half-day and others as long as two days — class participants may also fit in a tour of the company’s manufacturing facility located a few miles away.
Bernier trades classroom duties with Brent Brehant, HTP’s technical trainer. The class schedule is posted on HTP’s website and allows not only for online registration, but also give options for hotel accommodations.
Bernier was key to opening the training center. He joined HTP about a year after spending a 30-year career in the plumbing and heating industry as a contractor, rep and, finally, a national sales and service manager for another manufacturer. Bernier not only helped design the center, but also developed the curriculum and hired more personnel to the company’s training staff.
While geared for contractors, the training center, which was completed and unofficially opened in January, has also hosted wholesalers and reps.
“We’ve even had some local trade and tech schools bring in their students,” Bernier added.