Inside Bosch UK's Training Centre with Eric Streuli

Neil and I were fortunate to be invited to visit Bosch's UK headquarters in Denham late last year. Our host and guide was Eric Streuli, Bosch UK's Training Development Manager, and we spent 2 full days with Eric as he demonstrated Bosch's professional (blue) range of power tools. Eric's enthusiasm for the tools is only matched by his knowledge and we were constantly amazed at the little gems of information he could dispense at will about all of the tools he demonstrated.

We took some time out from making demo videos with Eric, to sit in the pristine surroundings of his training suite and get to know the man in the blue Bosch polo shirt.

"My day-to-day job is to run the training centre here in Denham," explains Eric. The training centre (or Theory Room), which seats twelve, is a brightly lit room with one wall completely covered with the Bosch range of blue and green power tools, plus some of the gardening equipment along with tools from Dremel and Rotozip. It has enough clinical German efficiency to make you forget you're in a leafy Middlesex suburb, with it's wall-to-wall windows and state-of-the-art audio/visual set up with an interactive multi-media white board.

It's in this room that Eric trains the UK Bosch sales force so that they're completely up to date with the latest spec on all of the power tools Bosch sells in the UK via distributors like Toolstop.

"I also take care of the training that's offered to our dealer network across the UK. I'm one of 3 trainers who'll actually visit the dealer's premises and train their staff on our new products and generally supporting them in their product knowledge needs," Eric elaborates.

But how did he come to work at Bosch?

"Way back in 1992 I'd just been made redundant from a German computer company where I managed a hardware preparation workshop. My training background was to do with motorcycle road safety [a fact that will become clearer later in the interview]. So I was also involved with one of the local London boroughs teaching people not to fall off motorcycles, " Eric laughs.

He chanced upon an advert for a technical trainer at Robert Bosch Ltd and 18 years later he's still with Bosch. Any regrets?

"I don't regret the change and the chance of a new direction in my career," is his reply. "I had an interesting mix of skills that came together, although there was quite a steep learning curve to start with at Bosch, entering the world of power tools. I thoroughly enjoy my job working with power tools and there's always something new to get my head round and to communicate to our sales force."

The training centre we're sitting in is brand new, having only been opened a few weeks before. Eric grins at the memory.

"We had the European Head of Training come along for the opening ceremony, we had the obligatory ribbon, although this ribbon was a little different; it was made of wood and we cut it with a reciprocating saw. But apart from that it was a pretty traditional opening."

Bosch have had a training centre at their site in Denham for years. The new centre, though, is larger than they've had before and Eric feels it's look and design is in keeping with the Bosch brand. Along with the Theory Room the centre enjoys the use of three workshops, specific to different power tool disciplines; one for wood, one for metal and stone. "Those are the 'dirty rooms', explains Eric, "where we can make as much noise and mess as we like."

Then there's a third room that reflects the rapid expansion of Bosch and its associated brands into the measuring tools market. "Think of it as our measuring tools laboratory. It's geared to the demonstrating and training in our laser levelling systems, our detections systems and various measuring tools," says Eric, "And then there's my office. Which is quite small. More a cupboard, really," he laughs.

Outside the Theory Room is the clean and bright welcoming area with an efficient tea and coffee maker, a place to sit and chat in among large photos of Bosch's industrial power tools in action which adorn the walls. Eric feels it's important to take regular breaks during training. Probably because there's so much information to take in via the videos and PowerPoint demonstrations he uses.

Training Room

The training rooms are every power tool geek's dream; metres of display cabinets host seemingly dozens of different Bosch power tools of every size, model and power capacity, all in working order; it's simply a case of taking down the tool you want to try out, plugging it in (unless it's one of Bosch's groundbreaking lithium ion models) and 'playing' with it. There are workbenches, saw tables and assorted pieces of wood, metal and stone - all carefully arranged and tidied - waiting to be drilled, sanded, routed, planed, chipped and ground under Eric's watchful eye.

"We're very keen for people to actually handle and use the tools rather than just look at PowerPoint presentations. Learning how a tools works is the best way to appreciate some of the finer points of Bosch products," Eric offers. "We also have lots of bench top tools as this is an area of growth for Bosch. These are all set up and ready to be used in the training rooms."

Obviously all of these tools create lots of dust when they're drilling, sawing, mitering etc. That's why the training rooms have a state-of-the-art dust extraction system. "We want our customers who come here to try out the tools to live to a grand old age like me," says Eric with a wry grin.

And to cope with the noise that's generated, the rooms are sound proofed and the glass walls are triple glazed; lots of light can come up, little sound can escape. "We have offices above the training centre and they don't necessarily want to hear power tools all day, " Eric elaborates. "While I'm responsible for the layout of the rooms, the large glass panels weren't my idea, but they're in keeping with our corporate design. I'm quite happy with them because it means that people can come and visit and wander down the corridor and watch the training sessions that are going on. That's important because of the safety aspect; it isn't really convenient to have people wandering into a training room when you're demonstrating a router or an angle grinder! But the glass panels mean that people can observe the training and get an idea of what we're doing."

Eric exudes an air that's as calm and clinical as the German engineered products he demonstrates. But another side of Eric is hinted at in the tidy parking lot outside the training centre, where sits a gleaming motorbike. In keeping with his former role as a motorcycle safety instructor, it seems Eric is still a bit of a biker in his spare time, commuting to work on two wheels rather than the perhaps expected four.

Our time with Eric at Bosch was coming to an end, but there was one question I wanted to pin Eric down on. With his encyclopaedic knowledge of Bosch power tools, both current and from the past, I was curious if he had an all time favourite.

"That's tricky," he pondered, "the random orbit sander springs to mind. And we still do the GEX150AC, so you've put me on the spot…I'm going to go for that one. It's a very nice tool to use, very low in vibration. It's one of those tools that's a joy to demonstrate at trade shows. You can produce a very fine finish in a short period of time on a piece of wood that people just have to touch and go, 'ooh, feel that'." Eric pauses before continuing, "Although I do have a number of favourites like the new GOP10.8 oscillating saw. Yeah, that's catching up quick on the random orbit sander."

Bosch have just released a raft of new power tools for quarter two of 2010, and we're excited to have gotten our hands on some of them at the Toolstop office. Personally, though, I'm looking forward to travelling back down to the Bosch training centre in Denham to hear what gems Eric Streuli has to say about them.

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