Published in Small Business
A shift to virtual training helped Grand Rapids-based TrainMOR weather the  pandemic shutdowns last year. A shift to virtual training helped Grand Rapids-based TrainMOR weather the pandemic shutdowns last year. COURTESY PHOTO

Virtual shift rescues industrial training company from pandemic shutdowns

BY Friday, February 26, 2021 05:30pm

GRAND RAPIDS— Safety training company TrainMOR saw business come to a screeching halt last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions to the general industrial clients that it serves.

As a company that specializes in providing onsite training for forklift operators and on mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), the new socially distanced way of life was a killer for business.

“We had to go into almost a pause situation, which we obviously weren’t ready for just like everyone else,” said Russ Niedzwiecki, a corporate safety trainer for Grand Rapids-based TrainMOR. “Our following month in April was close to complete silence.”

The company had to postpone 12 scheduled dates as its live training, which he called the company’s “meat and potatoes” at the time, “just went away at least for the time being.”

However, TrainMOR, which is owned by Grand Rapids-based lift truck sales and service company Morrison Industrial Equipment Co., was the beneficiary of fortunate timing. Once the pandemic descended on West Michigan, the company had developed a training format that was exclusively online.

This is an area of business that has not only kept TrainMOR afloat during the silence of the most restrictive phases of the pandemic, but has opened up a variety of new opportunities for the company.

“If we didn’t do (online training), I don’t know where we would be right now,” Niedzwiecki said. “We really had a safety net built around because we had these online resources available.”

TrainMOR now provides online forklift and MEWP training courses for current or future operators. TrainMOR also offers “Train-The-Trainer” versions of these courses, which is designed to empower a company’s in-house safety trainer to administer the course to streamline the on-boarding process. While the company continues to provide live classroom courses, the online courses have propelled TrainMOR to new heights.

“We created our own combo meal, because we live in a combo meal world,” Niedzwiecki said.

Armed with the online courses, TrainMOR is poised to expand into states beyond its home base of Michigan and Northern Indiana. The company is also now placing an equal emphasis on servicing construction clients as its general industry clients.

Another bout of fortunate timing for TrainMOR came in June 2020 when the American National Standards Institute finally released its new manufacturing and training standards that had long been in the works. The new standards change how aerial lifts specifically are made, operated and maintained.

Operaters of scissor and boom lifts — which were reclassified as MEWPs — must now be trained in the new standards. TrainMOR worked to get out in front of this new need in the market, providing training courses to satisfy the criteria. 

Through working with various state chapters of the American Rental Association, a trade group for equipment owners, TrainMOR will make training available in Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and Minnesota, while engaging in discussions with ARA chapters from other states.

TrainMOR also recently added a part-time employee and looks to add an additional full-time staff member to accommodate the influx of clients and resulting administrative work.

Niedzwiecki, who is a former magician, said TrainMOR places an emphasis on creating engaging videos. He even finds an opportunity to slip in a sleight of hand trick for added flair.

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