Northern Tool and Equipment

Northern Tool and Equipment Increases Course Completions by 34% with On-Demand Learning

client snapshot

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Don Kotula, started the business in his garage in 1980, selling log splitters and other hydraulic parts. In 1981, he established the first retail store, customer contact center, and warehouse. In the years following, the privately owned NTE opened three distribution centers, another manufacturing facility and customer contact center, and 88 retail stores across 18 states. More growth is inevitable for NTE in the future with plans to open six new retail stores each year.

NTE is a multi-channel supplier for quality products to contractors, automotive shops, industrial companies, grounds maintenance professionals, farms, and homeowners. Annual company revenue is approximately $1 billion dollars.

key points

  • NTE had outgrown its legacy Learning Management System (LMS) and needed a new solution that could deliver more than just compliance training
  • Moving to the eSSential LMS cloud-based platform allowed NTE to expand their learning & development initiatives as the company grows
  • eSSential’s reporting features have given NTE the ability to track training key performance indicators they’ve never had access to before
  • The average number of courses completed by an employee in a month has increased by 34%

The challenge

Northern Tool + Equipment needed a solution to help them move beyond the limitations of their homegrown learning management system and reach their training and development goals. With their current system, the only way to register an employee for a course was for the manager to send an email request to the LMS administrative team. In some cases, the course may not be assigned until the following day causing delays in course completions.


While NTE employees were aware they needed to register for required compliance training, most were unaware of the other valuable eLearning opportunities offered by NTE. This lack of awareness was caused by the course catalog’s low visibility within the system. Even if employees found the course catalog, it was a long document that was tedious to search through.


When it came time to update or add new courses to the system, the files needed to be pushed out to over 100 different computers. This process was due to each location being required to have a dedicated computer for training where all the course files were loaded. If those computers were off or not functioning correctly, the new files were not loaded, causing problems for employees trying to complete the courses assigned to them.


While eLearning could at least be assigned via the homegrown LMS, training sessions (live or virtual) were not supported. All of NTE’s virtual and in-person training events had to be advertised and tracked outside of the system. With no central location to store event details, NTE struggled with ways to communicate upcoming sessions to their employees. Employees were also limited in how they could sign up for events, as registrations could only be received via email or phone. As can be expected, the inefficiencies of tracking email and phone calls caused frustration for administrators as well.


As NTE continues to grow its business and expand, the sense of urgency to move some training responsibilities to the managers of each business area increased more and more. It was clear that training would be more effective if managers had the power to track completions, assign courses, and take control of their employee’s development. The homegrown system could not handle the size and usage of the growing company. NTE needed a vendor that could facilitate on-demand learning opportunities rather than just deliver compliance training and help them expand their employee training platform as well.

the elogic solution


By implementing the eSSential LMS, NTE has eliminated the need for a dedicated training computer. Because the eSSential LMS is cloud-based, employees can access training from any store computer with internet access also allowing more than one employee to take courses at a time. The ability to set different levels of permissions for different populations in the eSSential LMS has allowed NTE to pass over administrative tasks while still maintaining control over the system in many areas.


Prior to implementing the eSSential LMS, NTE was hesitant to add additional courses because the challenges and bottlenecks associated with registration would likely prevent employees from signing up. With the eSSential LMS, employees have the ability to take a course immediately by registering for it from the course catalog and then launching it. Managers also have the permissions to assign courses, eliminating the need to get an administrator involved and wait for the request to be processed.

Learning opportunities are more visible to employees with the eSSential LMS. Employees now have easy access to a customized course catalog that shows them the courses that are available to them based on their position and department within the company. They can also easily access the event calendar, view details about a course, and register.

the results


In just the four months since implementing the eSSential LMS platform, NTE has seen an increase in course completions and usage by both employees and managers. The average number of courses completed by an employee in a month has increased by 34%. As NTE continues to add more courses they expect this number to increase even more. NTE envisions the eSSential LMS becoming a truly on-demand learning platform that employees go to on a regular basis to seek out information that will increase their skills and improve their job performance.


The ad-hoc reports in the eSSential LMS have given NTE the ability to track information they didn’t have access to before such as course completion rates by position, number of times employees have logged in to the site during a month, and missed courses. Because of this reporting capability, NTE will be better able to track the completion of their compliance courses for future audits.


One of Northern Tool + Equipment’s core values is to empower the individual. The eSSential LMS has allowed NTE to empower employees to take control of their development and managers to take an active role in their employees’ development by giving them permissions and controls. The eSSential LMS has given NTE the power to deliver multiple types of development opportunities to their dispersed audience. The flexibility and configurability of the system has allowed NTE to create a customized experience that gives employees access to the developmental tools they need, when they need them.

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