Bell & Gossett, UA find partnership mutually beneficial


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B&G adapts industry-leading training for new audience

Interspersed among a sea of Bell & Gossett’s signature red pumps in the UA Instructor Training classroom, 15 craftsmen were intent on unlocking the mystery of a failed mechanical seal during a Pump Service and Maintenance class.

The mechanical seal acts as a sort of barometer of a centrifugal pump — if the seal fails, it’s often indicative of a larger system problem. “The challenge is to figure out why it failed, not just replace it,” said Stan Kutin of Xylem’s Bell & Gossett Little Red Schoolhouse and guest instructor for the debut of the Pump Service and Maintenance class at the 2015 Instructor Training Program (ITP).

The ITP is sponsored by the United Association union of plumbers, fitters, welders and service techs, and draws 2,000 instructors from UA locals across the U.S., Canada and Australia to Ann Arbor, Michigan, each year. During the weeklong instruction, UA instructors train in the latest teaching methods and emerging technologies in the trades to help them teach journeymen and apprentices at their UA locals.

Early last year the UA approached Bell & Gossett about forming a partnership to expand B&G’s industry-leading training to the UA audience. Since 1954, more than 61,000 engineers, contractors and installers in the plumbing and hydronic heating and cooling industries have been trained at B&G’s Little Red Schoolhouse in the proper design, installation and maintenance of hydronic and steam systems.

“Sharing our expertise in hydronic heating systems with UA’s members is a natural extension of our LRSH classes and our Online Little Red Schoolhouse curriculum,” said Larry Konopacz, senior manager, training and education, Xylem. “This training partnership equips trade professionals in the HVAC field with the technical expertise to service and repair pumps in an HVAC system.”

The partnership is well timed as the demand for HVAC service technicians is growing, with 55,900 new jobs expected by 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. UA-trained HVAC service technicians install, maintain and repair all sizes of heating and cooling systems for residential, commercial, institutional and industrial applications. As increasingly complex technologies are integrated into HVAC system design, contractors and technicians must be well educated on service and maintenance.

“We look three to five years ahead to identify trends and adapt our curriculum accordingly,” said Rich Benkowski, UA training specialist and one of the coordinators of the partnership.

“New pump designs capitalize on the latest technologies to improve energy efficiency, so the more we can help educate not only those who are designing HVAC systems but those who are servicing them, the better those systems will perform,” said Mark Handzel, VP Product Regulatory Affairs and director HVAC Commercial Buildings at Xylem Inc.

Handzel and Konopacz worked with Benkowski in adapting the Little Red Schoolhouse curriculum, while UA training specialist John Hopkins visited the Little Red Schoolhouse in Morton Grove, Illinois, to prepare for the UA class.

“There is nothing better for us in a train-the-trainer scenario than to have our expert in front of the class with another expert from the field,” Benkowski said. “Having our manufacturing partners like B&G provide training to our members helps them become more confident, which means a better experience for building owners.”

During the two ITP sessions, a total of 30 craftsmen from HVAC, plumbing and other fields learned about pump selection and performance, followed by interactive exercises on actual B&G pumps — Series 1510 End Suction Base Mounted Pumps and a Series 80 Inline Pump — to learn repair techniques. In addition to the class training, participants can download the materials when they return home and begin their own training sessions.

“The hands-on portion of the classes were the most fun for everybody,” Kutin said. “That’s when they really start learning. Many of the instructors already had experience with B&G products so they were able to teach others, too, as we started pulling apart the pumps.”

Kutin said the mechanical seals section was particularly popular, generating a lot of questions as participants embraced the challenge of finding the cause of the seal failure. “It is sometimes a mystery to people, but if they can see how it really operates within the pump, it becomes less intimidating,” Kutin said.

“This group is not afraid to be active in the classroom,” Benkowski agreed. “These are people who have a lot of experience in their field and have been invited to teach and have been doing so for at least five years.”

Based on the success of the inaugural class, it was part of this year’s ITP curriculum, and included even more hands-on opportunities. In addition, UA and B&G are expanding their connections beyond the classroom. “We are also setting up an HVAC mobile classroom with a station dedicated to pump fundamentals, which will include a B&G pump,” Benkowski said.

Both B&G and the UA are pleased with the outcomes thus far. “This is a true partnership,” Benkowski said. “Other vendors sell us things, but to participate at such a high level and as a team — that’s a partner.”