Born With a Wrench in His Hand

For a kid with a mechanical bent, growing up around a salvage yard was like having his own private playground. Engines to rip apart, machines to explore, parts to hunt for, and every tool at hand for the job – what’s not to love?

So it was for Grant Davis, an AED Foundation-Certified Technician and service foreman for General Equipment & Supplies Inc. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
His dad’s salvage yard in Maple Lake, Minnesota, just east of St. Cloud, offered endless opportunities to turn a wrench from as far back as Davis can remember. He watched at his father’s side as he worked with engines, parts and more, learning everything he could from the youngest age, trying his hand at whatever was available.
“My dad went to school for auto body and mechanics, and I learned everything from him,” Davis said, “fixing, tearing down, scrapping – really, everything a dealership does. So I already had the background knowledge and knew that was the direction I wanted to take in the long run. I’m pretty blessed.”

That’s why, when it came time to look past high school graduation, Davis knew exactly where he was going: neighboring North Dakota, to the acclaimed North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton. There, he had his sights set on a career in the diesel field.

Three months in, Davis found his true calling. The Komatsu program was brand-new at the school, born of an innovative partnership between Komatsu, the college, and two dealerships. The program combines state-of-the-art, on-campus training with internships at a sponsoring Komatsu dealership – in Davis’ case, General Equipment & Supplies Inc., based in Fargo, North Dakota.

Davis got his training in one of the largest diesel technician facilities in the country, where they offered classroom instruction and hands-on laboratory instruction, as well as the internship with General Equipment, which gave Davis invaluable experience servicing Komatsu equipment. The rigorous program runs two full years, summer included.

General Equipment liked what they saw in Davis, hiring him for their Fargo site as a shop technician after he graduated from the college in 2016.

As a shop technician, Davis worked on machines customers brought in: “I’d troubleshoot, do general maintenance, things like that,” he said. But it was not long before he became a field technician, adding the open road to a pretty great job. As a field technician, he’d travel to the customer’s machine, where he’d troubleshoot, replace parts, whatever needed to be done. “As a field tech, you’re a mechanic, just in a truck,” he said.

Of course, when you imagine this perfect scenario – a job you love and the lure of the road. “You did have to deal with weather, and up in North Dakota it’s not always friendly,” Davis said. “But out in the field, the freedom was nice. You had more time to think, and you felt like you were on your own out there.”

In December 2017, it was back indoors for Davis. That’s when he was promoted to service foreman at General Equipment’s Sioux Falls branch, where he now has seven technicians in the shop.

A typical day is never typical for him, he said. He might set up work orders, talk to customers, take care of the shop… “Every day is something different,” he said. He enjoys it all, even the challenges, which Davis said he faces on occasion trying to troubleshoot for a customer over the phone.

When it came time to take The AED Foundation Technician Assessment, he approached it with ease.
Davis doesn’t recall any particular section of the assessment as daunting, but “hydraulics are always a struggle, with new stuff coming out,” he said.

All of Davis’ technicians are certified. He said it was a useful device to determine what technicians knew and didn’t know. “Looking at the test, if there’s something you didn’t know, you need to relearn it. You get to see what they retained and what they really know.”

Davis highly recommends that technicians take The AED Foundation Technician Assessment. “Take the test and be certified,” he said. “It’s a good attention-getter if you’re looking for a job. With older guys who are worried about the newer stuff, it makes them feel good when they pass. They know that they’ve retained what they’ve learned.”

Not everyone has grown up with a wrench in hand, so some preparation might make the assessment easier, Davis said. “I didn’t do a lot to prepare. I’ve been a mechanic my whole life – growing up in a salvage yard, my only big transition was from cars to equipment.

“If you think you’re going to struggle, brush up and do your homework. There are a lot of good videos out there, lots of training tools,” he said. “Just brush up before you take it.”

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