Making the Grade: Manufacturer training encourages greater workplace safety and efficiency

By Susan DeGrane | Feb 15, 2024
graduation hat on a work site
Efforts to improve infrastructure, reduce energy use and move to renewable energy sources are pushing manufacturers of electrical products to innovate as never before.




Efforts to improve infrastructure, reduce energy use and move to renewable energy sources are pushing manufacturers of electrical products to innovate as never before. Noting the shortage of labor, some are also helping electrical contractors improve workplace efficiency and safety through training.

In addition to online training, owner’s manuals and peers, contractors often turn to manufacturers to learn how to use a new tool or software application. Among those leading the way in this are Southwire Co., Carrollton, Ga., a global manufacturer of wire and cable used in the transmission and distribution of electricity, and Hilti, Plano, Texas, a global manufacturer of tools, fasteners and software for managing construction projects.

Here are summaries of the companies’ efforts to promote safety and efficiency and to broaden the knowledge base of the electrical contracting industry, as told by key company representatives.

Hilti’s digital learning platform complements in-person instruction

Johan Cronje, product manager, Hilti North America

Hilti, a global manufacturer of tools, fasteners and construction management software, with North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, promotes forward-thinking strategies to help improve workplace productivity and safety, and to control costs.

One example is Hilti’s Equipment as a Service business model, which enables the company to provide its customers with equipment on a subscription basis. This ensures customers have the right tools on hand, with the latest technology—all without having to pay upfront purchase costs.

Because Hilti is committed to augmenting its tools, technology and software with value-added services, training is a key initiative—and safety is one of its top priorities. Offering training helps to ensure that construction workers have the skills and knowledge to work safely and to use Hilti tools and equipment more productively.

Hilti Academy

Hilti Academy, a digital learning platform designed for contractors, complements the face-to-face training Hilti offers. Courses relate specifically to general construction health and safety, proper operation of Hilti tools and installer competency for installing Hilti products.

Hilti Academy’s goal is to equip contractors with knowledge and training on topics such as lithium-ion batteries and dust awareness, but topics dive deeper into more specialized subjects such as advanced layout operator training.

Hilti’s American Concrete Institute equivalent Adhesive Anchor Installer Certification is a popular choice for construction professionals to learn proper installation of adhesive anchors. Certain certification training classes include in-person validation of skills.

Hilti Academy hosts on-demand training and certifications, allowing users and their teams to take the courses they need when they need them. Delivered in several languages, courses are interactive, audiovisual training modules. As an enterprise-level learning management system, the Hilti Academy platform tracks user progress, enabling users to build skills as their schedules allow.

With completion of assignments and quizzes, users can earn certificates or installer/operator training cards. Certification expiration dates are also tracked, so users and managers can receive notifications for renewing certifications into the future. Hilti Academy also offers supervisors the ability to add users, enroll them into courses, track progress and access records of completed certificates.

Hilti Academy continually develops new course topics. The operator course for the PLT layout system portfolio covers advanced layout, which includes an overview of building information modeling (BIM) and covers transferring BIM/CAD points to the field for layout.

Focus on the electrical industry

Overall, Hilti offers a diverse portfolio of tools and services for the construction industry, but also focuses on the electrical industry. For the average electrical contractor, Hilti recommends:

  • Layout tools like Hilti’s Total Stations, with rotating and ranging lasers that allow users to lay out tray, conduit and cable runs
  • Cutting tools, which include saws or coring tools
  • Firestopping products, which contain and prevent fire spread
  • Anchoring or fastening products, which allow cable trays to be attached to structures or cables to be suspended from structures
  • The Electrical Workflows course, simplified for 2024 and the first of Hilti’s courses to have a dedicated training page
  • Several health and safety training courses covering topics ranging from silica dust awareness to general operator safety for numerous construction tool categories

Most Hilti Academy courses are available at no cost, but the company offers a variety of advanced level topics that may be purchased from Hilti’s website, with some warranting certifications. In addition, Hilti also provides resource guides on construction safety topics, how-to videos, construction safety training and recorded webinars.

Hilti offers a certification course for operators of the Hilti DX 5-MX powder-actuated fastening tool.

“At Hilti, we’re fully committed to training members of the electrical and construction industry to find ways to improve their work efficiency and flow—and we will continue to develop additional training topics and products in the future,” Cronje said. 

Click here to learn more about Hilti Academy

Southwire broadens efforts to assist the electrical industry and infrastructure renewal

Jason Faircloth, vice president of salescontractor solutions, Southwire Solutions University

Southwire’s methods dramatically reduce material handling and increase safety, which prevents unanticipated claims and can open contractors to greater opportunities. Physically taxing activities are made easier, which means people who never considered working in the electrical industry can do so now.

“All our efforts support better use of a more diverse, intelligent and robust workforce for moving into the future,” Faircloth said.

Product design

As the complexity of technology has evolved, Southwire has sought to stay ahead of industry needs through innovation and product design. The company continually communicates with customers to ensure its products increase safety, make better use of manpower and save time and cost. Consequently, the company has expanded product lines and created additional value in packaging and installation.

Several products represent significant leaps forward in the industry, including “no-lube” SIMpull jacketed wire and MCAP, or metal clad all-purpose. Productivity gains are noticeable with Southwire’s pulling equipment, bending equipment, accessories and tools. A gear box delivers optimal power in pulling. A magnetized control switch on a bender prevents dropping and damage. A wireless trigger system allows control from the feed end.

The company has shifted costly, labor-
intensive job site tasks into the manufacturing process with colored feeder cables cut to length or factory paralleled onto the same reel, with preinstalled, crimped-on pulling heads.

With the acquisition of an equipment company, Southwire entered the hand tools market, which furthered efforts to make installations easier. It now has dozens of product lines that facilitate installation, along with a growing array of services.


Southwire Solutions University in Carrollton, Ga., was established to enable customers to gain efficiency and proficiency using its products. The 25,000-square-foot, climate-­controlled training facility features high ceilings and job site mockups to provide hands-on installation experiences. Conduit runs support wire pull simulations, allowing for comparison of tension and force required to install SIM jacketed wire using QWIKrope with other industry-­standard products and equipment.

Electrical industry professionals participate in a class at Southwire Solutions University.

SSU’s 3,000-square-foot classroom space allows for teaching two groups at once. A small retail area displays Southwire items. A food service area provides meals to groups, and a timeline mural shows company history.

The company added another instruction space at the Sante Fe Springs, Calif., office.

A typical visit to either location lasts two to three days, with a tour introducing company culture and showing how products are made. The next day or two are filled with 6–8 hours of classroom and experiential training.

In 2023, 1,500 industry professionals took advantage of its educational services.

The company encourages attendance for those fulfilling management functions within commercial/industrial electrical contracting companies—superintendents, general foremen, project managers, COOs, stakeholders in procurement, estimators and CFOs.

It also reaches out to key supporting teams, such as electrical distribution partners through local Southwire agents and teams.

Southwire is focusing wire and cable products, related tools, components and assembled solutions on rapidly expanding business sectors, including EVs, factory automation, low-voltage and digital power and data centers. The company has hosted numerous groups wanting specialized applications related to EV installations, automation wiring and transit.

SSU serves the electrical industry and, in 2023, it hosted partners from the Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association.

Southwire’s mobile team of 18 Contractor Solutions professionals and Contractor Equipment specialists in the United States and Canada operate with the same knowledge and skills as the SSU instructors. Focusing on safety and productivity, they assist contractor customers in preplanning, cable pull calculations, temporary lighting layouts and more. They can be involved during installation and provide follow-up after project completion.

Southwire’s approach

Southwire starts with preconstruction, moving on to power delivery/feeder installation, then branch circuit wiring and low-voltage. 

“That’s where we would normally stop, but with our advancements in VFD cables and Machine Flex products, we discuss proper termination of those items, as well,” Faircloth said.

SSU has worked closely with Lee Mechanical, an electrical contractor in Franklin, Wis. 

“We’re immersed in Southwire Solutions and in the trenches daily, transitioning our company’s philosophy and culture into utilizing these methods in everyday practice,” said Frank Ruffolo, principal and executive vice president for Lee Mechanical.

“We’ve collaborated with Southwire over the years to streamline our installations practices, prevent injuries and make better use of labor in a very competitive environment,” said Chris Dorr, the contractor’s electrical superintendent.

“The more we innovate, the greater span of training we will offer,” Faircloth said, adding that, “Our instructors are available to ‘train the trainer’ for apprentice programs throughout the country, but we do not see ourselves as an alternative to apprentice programs. As always, our message will be, ‘we are here to support.’”

Click here to learn more about Southwire Solutions University / iiierlok_xolms / southwire / hilti

About The Author

DeGrane is a Chicago-based freelance writer. She has covered electrical contracting, renewable energy, senior living and other industries with articles published in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times and trade publications. Reach her at [email protected].





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