Have you ever wondered how and where the employees of the various car manufacturers learn to deal with the public, to get to know the cars they deal with and to repair them? This week we were guests of the BMW Group Training Center of San Donato Milanese, where we have spent a day as BMW men. Here we discovered the human and personal imprint that has been inserted into this place, where sales people, mechanics and more are trained. Among the new challenges proposed by the electric, those that came with the pandemic and a new way of training staff, we have seen and done many things that are definitely out of our ordinary. Are you curious?
For 15 years, the BMW Group Training Center has been training mechanics and salesmen: from 2020, however, there is a new way of training staff
The BMW Group Training Center is not a last-minute novelty – quite the opposite. The Bavarian Group, including BMW, MINI and BMW Motorrad, has in fact set up several Training Centers. What are? It is real schools where you can train your employees, scattered all over the world. The Italian one is located in San Donato Milanese, at the Italian headquarters of BMW. The Center was born in 2006, and today celebrates i 15 years of life.
Here all the 4,200 employees of the BMW brands, BMW Motorrad e MINI who work in official centers, and thousands of people attend courses every year. The Center is in fact designed to host up to 20,000 training days, and provides different courses depending on the duties. The BMW Group has indeed identified well 22 professional figures within its own network, 12 in the sales part and 10 between acceptance and maintenance. All of these people, throughout their career within the brand, need to be constantly trained, updated and educated on new models and new sales strategies. And new figures are also often introduced. To give you an example, in the last two years they have in fact made it into the BMW staff more than 400 High Voltage technicians. Who I am? These technicians, internal to BMW Italy, intervene in the most delicate situations concerning the batteries of electrified vehicles.
But especially in this period of transition to electric cars, the BMW staff becomes a point of reference for the customer who wants to learn and receive clarifications on new technologies. But how did they continue their work despite the problems created by the pandemic? After years of live work, BMW had already introduced a kind of in its Training Center back in 2018 TV hub, which allowed staff to be trained even remotely. This unexpected foresight became fundamental in 2020, when face-to-face lessons, as in education, became impossible.
BMW has so enhanced distance learning, with dozens of online courses held live, and not with pre-recorded lessons. Today, there are still 79% home-trained staff, while BMW would like to achieve parity between online and live lessons. But the real revolution that the BMW Group Training Center wants to implement is in the way it trains its staff.
After 2020, people, customers and employees are at the center
After the pandemic, in fact, the automotive world has accelerated its process of change. There are more and more proposals, more and more technologies on the plate, but the most important thing has returned to the center: people. After years in which the focus fluctuated between customer and product, new technologies and innovations, today both customers and employees return to the center.
This has BMW’s approach changed both in sales and communication strategies, but also in the training strategy of its personnel. Although I have always favored a teaching style, pass me the term, more interesting and interactive, from this year the real focus is on aptitudes, the abilities of everyone. Today, as never before, it is not only the product that is proposed to the public that is important, but also the connection that one has with customers. For this reason, the BMW Group staff does not become only the one who explains and shows the customer the products and personalized opportunities, but becomes the first business card of the brand. The Training Center then develops a personalized learning path, focusing on individual skills and learning preferences.
Since its formation the employee gets involved, becomes passionate about his work and what he does. This is achieved by using more interactive, more proactive techniques, taking advantage of the e minimizing the theory. At the BMW Group Training Center, people get their hands on it, whatever their role in the network. In 2021, to date there have been 12,270 training days, and all aimed at involving the employee. Only in this way, once in the field, will he be enthusiastic and happy with his work, infecting the customer and making the purchase of a car or the maintenance of your car a beautiful moment to remember.
Our journey in the BMW Group Training Center: from Gamification to the replacement of the MINI Electric battery…
To make us understand what it means to participate in a day dedicated to BMW employees, for a day we dressed as those who attend these courses. We got involved in three different activities, two as mechanics of the BMW and MINI brands and the third as experts in the technology of the new BMW iX. Let’s start immediately with the two more technical experiences, which however have reserved two completely opposite approaches. Although on paper we have in fact carried out similar repairs on two electric cars, first on the MINI Cooper SE and then on the BMW iX3, the first time we worked through gamification, while the second time we took apart an engine from a BMW iX3. Let’s start from the first experience, the one with the MINI Cooper SE battery. We talked about gamification: what is that?
It’s about a learning technique that aims to teach knowledge and skills through a virtual game. Obviously this is not a video game made to entertain, but a serious game, a serious game. Developed by a Milanese startup, AnotheReality, the game we tried was the first ever used by BMW Italy, and it was fun but very instructive to use it. The software offers the user to repair the battery of a MINI Cooper S Electric. Unlike other solutions that involve the use of virtual reality, visors or helmets, BMW has chosen a simpler approach. This game indeed was designed to be simply used on any computer. The program can be downloaded easily from the BMW technician portal, has very low system requirements and can be used with a mouse and keyboard.
The reason for this choice is simple, and that’s what led to the birth of this game. For electric cars, in fact, the procedures to be used are incredibly different from those used on traditional cars. And due to their still scarce diffusion, it can happen that months, if not years, can pass from the practical course to the effective use of the skills learned. Thanks to this quick and easy tool, the mechanic can review key steps and mistakes not to be done on the real battery in minutes.. To explain the concept well, they gave us a typical example. An electric MINI arrives at a BMW center with the problematic battery. Our employee, who does not always work on electric car batteries, as soon as he knows that the car will arrive at the workshop, downloads the game and carries out the operations on the computer that he will then have to do on the real MINI.
This allows the technician to work without pressure, which on the works on electric cars are still present, and allows to remember specific techniques, rules and solutions learned in the field. We have tried the system (with poor results…), and we have seen how the software is educational but also very strict. If you make a serious mistake, such as touching a component with your hands or using the wrong tool, the simulation stops. In fact, it is necessary to choose the right tools, the correct procedure and the exact sequence, otherwise the intervention fails. So you understand in an instant the mistakes you should never make, and you get excellent learning results. According to BMW, in fact, using this system allows the technician to remember more than 80% of the procedures correctly. What are the results obtained with a traditional method? 10%: a landslide victory.
… when disassembling an electrical module …
After simulating the disassembly of the battery of a MINI Cooper SE, we really got our hands on, or rather, in workshop. The second step was in fact dedicated toElectromobility, that is the space where the technicians of the BMW Service Centers learn to take care of the Group’s electrical systems. To make us understand what the mechanics of the house come to learn, the guys from the BMW Group Training Center put us to the test by making us disassemble and reassemble an electric drive module of BMW iX3.
I don’t call it an engine because it would be inaccurate to define it only as an engine. The electrical module of BMW iX3 is in fact a very compact casing inside which we find the 286 hp engine and 400 Nm of torque, the gearbox, the differential, the cooling and lubrication system plus the transformer, called EME. The whole thing weighs just over 100 kg, and has revolutionized the design of BMW electric vehicles. In fact, in a space and low weight, performance worthy of a 3.0 straight six-cylinder is achieved. But… what is EME? Without boring you, EME is in a nutshell a Power converter, which takes care of transforming the direct current coming from the battery into alternating current, which powers the motor. And it is precisely this, placed above the powertrain, the component that we went to replace, or rather, whose replacement we have simulated.
Supervised by the teachers of the BMW Group Training Center, we first disassembled and then reassembled the defective component. We used all the tools with great skill, carefully tightened the screws with a torque wrench and put everything back together. What struck me is theextreme simplicity of operations. Once the safety of the entire system has been removed, which is fundamental since the iX3 is a high voltage system, all the steps are simple and quick to …