MMI's DSO fine-tunes graduates, and dealers who hire them

Publish Date: 
Jan 10, 2013
By Dave Koshollek

THE FIRST COMPLAINT I heard about an MMI graduate was in 1978.

I was working at a Honda dealership in Phoenix, Ariz., when a Motorcycle Mechanics Institute graduate applied for an entry-level mechanic’s position and was given a tire change to test his skills. He tried valiantly but failed miserably.

There will always be some graduates from technical schools who won't make it as professional motorcycle technicians.

The service manager asked for my opinion — he liked the “kid.” I suggested giving him a week to try out, since he was a tall guy and could load bikes without assistance, which saved manpower. Greg (not his real name) learned very quickly and went on to become an excellent technician who made the dealership a lot of money.

Lesson: You can’t judge a book by the first page.

When I took a technical trainer job at MMI in 1981, I vowed to change the system. I wanted MMI grads to be respected and in high demand. As hard as I and hundreds of other well-intentioned instructors tried, we never achieved 100 percent success. I learned there will always be some MMI graduates, and grads from other technical schools for that matter, who won’t make it as professional motorcycle technicians. Some forget too much and make too many mistakes, some will not be a good physical or emotional fit to work eight hours a day standing alongside a motorcycle lift, and some will have behavioral issues.

Since the early 1980s MMI’s education format has been modular: students moving through a unique clinic every three weeks. Students who successfully complete the eight “all-brands” clinics continue on to brand-specific electives like their factory-supported programs, where training continues — again in three-week clinics.

The modular format does an excellent job of delivering a lifetime of knowledge in the period of one to two years. The results have ranged from good to excellent, largely determined by the learner’s mechanical aptitude, work ethic and attitude. But results could be better. Enter MMI’s new Dealer Service Operations (DSO) program that all Harley students have been attending since last summer.

DSO is a six-week program designed to engage students in a real-life environment but in a controlled atmosphere so all are challenged equally. This ensures all students encounter similar experiences and that instructors and potential employers can assess student performance more accurately. DSO is the last six weeks of training, making those experiences the most likely to be fine-tuned and remembered.

DSO consists of 30 five-hour days of testing and experiential training in the entry-level technician, Service Consultant, Chrome Consultant and service parts coordinator areas of responsibility. Consultant and coordinator assignments total six days of training and provide students with an opportunity to feel what it’s like to perform these duties. Technician assignments include 16 different days of unique work combinations. On technical days, students receive a repair order listing the tasks to be performed, which range from routine motorcycle maintenance to electrical diagnostics to component repair. (Continued)