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A Whole New World for Virtual Learning

Articles - Sep 21

A Whole New World for Virtual Learning

Jennifer Stiansen
Director of Marketing
JLG Industries

The email caught her attention.
Curious, Wendi Smith clicked on the link — and stepped into an immersive virtual world of access equipment.

Without leaving her desk, Smith, an assistant service manager for Sunbelt Rentals in Ceres, California, navigated onto a stadium job site packed with 3D MEWPs (mobile elevating work platforms) and telehandlers. From there, she could learn about equipment applications, drill down into specs, watch walk-around videos, chat with a product expert, and order parts for her location’s rental fleet.

This wasn’t another Zoom call, webinar, or virtual trade show. 

This was different.

Welcome to the future of virtual learning for the rental equipment industry.

At a glance access your world

This is JLG’s “Access Your World” virtual experience, a dynamic, evolving environment designed to meet rental customers and equipment users where they are with information, education, and training. It’s free for participants, who can return whenever and from whatever device they want.

Though digital technology has become essential for rental operations to function during the pandemic, it has also become a bit tiresome when video calls and events try to merely replicate in-person events. Smith says the JLG virtual experience stands out.

“I loved it — it was hands-on, it was interactive,” she says. “It took you right to the job site, and it shows how the equipment operates.”

Smith has returned to the “Access Your World” virtual experience on multiple occasions, discovering something new each time. JLG recently launched its second job site scenario, where users can move into the interior of the stadium to see how access equipment assists with finishing work. 

It’s really just the beginning when it comes to virtual learning experiences, says Jennifer Stiansen, director of marketing for JLG. She envisions a world where access equipment education and training marries the complexity of the real world with the convenience of digital.

“At JLG, we really see the sky as the starting line when it comes to virtual,” Stiansen says. “The possibilities are endless.”

Breaking Through the Digital Noise
The quest to develop more digital tools for customers began prior to the pandemic as mobile usage has increased, Stiansen says. But when COVID-19 hit, digital technology became an absolute necessity in order for rental companies to manage day-to-day operations.

“We’ve seen the industry accelerate five years nearly overnight as it relates to the adoption of virtual,” she says. “It became increasingly apparent that not only would we need to cater to this new medium, but we would also somehow need to break through the noise to get the attention of our audience.”

With much of the workforce shifting to remote locations, traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workdays are also fading into the past. Today’s rental equipment staff require flexible learning opportunities.

“We wanted to develop a tool that allowed users, regardless of time zone, the ability to experience JLG where and when they wanted,” Stiansen says. “This gives them the control to explore the areas that provide the greatest interest and benefit to their businesses on-demand.”

It also needed to be an engaging, life-like experience. Using detailed 3D access equipment models, JLG is recreating a series of realistic scenarios, starting with the construction of a sports stadium. 
“The virtual environment is really an educational environment,” Stiansen says. “It allows visitors to experience JLG® products in a variety of job sites to better understand specific applications and uses of the equipment. 

In the first part of the stadium site, “Access Your World” virtual experience participants can explore the access equipment used in the exterior steel erection, such as the new JLG high-capacity 2733 telehandler. From there, participants can navigate into the interior of the stadium to see which MEWPs are ideal for truss and finish work, as well as check out a variety of apps and tools that help improve job site productivity.

David Boelke, an equipment sales consultant for Titan Machinery in Fargo, North Dakota, says this is not like other virtual exhibits and webinars he’s participated in.

“I like the video game feel of the JLG ‘Access Your World’ virtual experience,” he says.

It puts him in control, says Boelke, who is new to his role. He says he likes that he can select different parts of specific models to learn more.

“It’s given me a better understanding of the equipment available to rent and sell,” Boelke says.

Interacting with the equipment this way can help rental staff more effectively meet the needs of their end-user customers. 

“It really helps, especially when you're talking to customers or placing orders to have that visual in your head of what exactly you need through the experience on the site,” says Sunbelt Rentals’ Smith.

Training for the Next Generation
While the “Access Your World” virtual experience was designed primarily as an educational tool for both rental companies and access equipment users, its ability to connect with a multi-generational workforce for training resonates with Ryan Creighton, district sales manager for Herc Rentals in the northern New Jersey area.

“Many of our newer employees are not familiar with this equipment and how it can be used in real-life applications,” Creighton says. “It puts the application and gear associated with the work in better context.”

Creighton says the pandemic has exposed the need for the rental equipment industry to create more opportunities to engage in a nontraditional format.

“I’m a millennial, so I’m very much aware of how the digital business transformation is happening,” he says. “But during the pandemic, we were all forced to connect and communicate from afar. I’m interested to see the growth from here.”

Stiansen agrees.

“Customers are looking to interact with us differently today than they were 18 months ago,” she says. “As we execute within the virtual world, we are learning, adapting, and optimizing. User behavior and experiences will be the guide for our next moves.”

For example, Stiansen says the “Access Your World” virtual experience has seen significant engagement with JLG’s aftermarket and value-added suite of services. These include:

  • 3D equipment schematics for service
  • The BIM library for architects and design engineers
  • JLG University virtual training
  • The Augmented Reality (AR) App
  • Online parts ordering through Online Express

Some of the most popular products that “Access Your World” virtual experience participants have checked out are the new JLG 1075 telehandler and AE1932 DaVinci™ scissor lift, she says.

“As we evolve these spaces, you will see more operator-like experiences and more technician-like experiences to bring a degree of realism to what people are seeing when they engage with us digitally,” Stiansen says.

Later this year, JLG will introduce at least two more job sites into the virtual experience, with a multi-level commercial office building and an urban retail space. These sites will demonstrate how to use low-level access solutions, compact telehandlers and compact lifts for landscaping, maintenance, HVAC, electrical and data center applications.

There are also plans to develop industrial environments in the future, Stiansen says.

Even as in-person events begin to resume in the second half of 2021, the rental equipment industry should definitely not expect virtual to disappear.

“We are only skimming the surface of what is possible today,” Stiansen says. “We anticipate an increase and evolution of these types of experiences in both the near term and long term.”

That’s because virtual learning and training is not intended to serve as a replacement for in-person events, she says; it’s an enhancement.

 As Sunbelt Rentals’ Smith has found, virtual builds a better bridge to connect with customers.

“You may think it takes the personal aspects away, but it really doesn't,” Smith says. “I can see utilizing it for my clients to say, ‘Tell me a little bit about your job. Have you ever thought about this piece of equipment?’ And then actually showing them. It's very innovative.”
Participants who check out the virtual experience will receive a free JLG hat by completing a brief survey. To visit JLG’s Access Your World to access the site today, click here

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