Why classroom training alone can’t address all the challenges of manufacturing sector

An Industry Week Special Research Report titled ‘The Future of Manufacturing in 2020 and Beyond’ highlighted how changes in management priorities and technology adoption is enabling competitiveness in the manufacturing industry across the globe. This report specified that the manufacturing sector is overwhelmingly positive about their business growth prospects even in the face of rising material prices, market volatility, increasing labour costs, price reduction pressures etc.

The industry, however, has realised that in order to mitigate these challenges it has to identify ways to improve performance across a range of processes and capabilities. Be it strengthening customer relationships, using technology for improvements in processes and production or placing innovation as a strategic priority, to achieve the growth targets, manufacturing companies need to invest in areas that improve productivity and responsiveness.

Scaling the training needs of manufacturing today

A survey from Deloitte shows that while the manufacturing industry might be on an upward trajectory, there is a huge skills gap in this industry. This is due to the coinciding of baby boomer retirement with economic expansion, loss of embedded knowledge due to the retirement of experienced workers, and lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills amongst workers. The survey further shows that out of 67% of those surveyed, 56% anticipated worsening shortage over the next few years.

In order to close the skills gap, manufacturing companies have turned towards aggressive training and development initiatives.

Classroom Training needs an upgrade

With the coming of age of Industrie4.0, leading manufacturing companies such as Arcelor Mittal, Toyota, Permac Industries etc. have realised that focusing on training and development is the only way to build and retain a skilled production workforce.

With this sector, learning and development needs of the employees are usually addressed using classroom training. While this has worked in the past, in the face of rapid changes and widespread technological advancement and adoption, it doesn’t emerge as a viable alternative today for a variety of reasons, such as:

Large and distributed workforce

The manufacturing sector employs a large and distributed workforce with varying skill levels. Since the companies need multi-skilled workers, they need to assess the learning needs of each individual. Understanding new concepts, learning new skills and new principles and applications take time to learn. And time is a premium.

It can be a huge logistical challenge to get the employees from disparate locations to attend a training program or to even identify which employee needs to attend a training and who doesn’t. Classroom training also means downtime which can affect the company bottom line over a period of time.

High costs

The costs associated with classroom training are substantial. Apart from the man-hour requirements of the instructors, there is the cost of bringing in employees from different locations to the training location. Additionally, classroom training demands long and extensive trainer and supervisor involvement to ensure that the employees learn the desired skills. Classroom training for new hires can also be cumbersome and adds to training costs since new employees keep joining in new locations at any given time.

Scalability

It becomes difficult to scale classroom training programs. Since the needs of the manufacturing sector keep changing, they need to ensure that the training programs have the capability to scale as well. For example, in the face of compliance and regulatory changes, coming up with a new classroom training programs is not only resource intensive but expensive as well. Bringing employees up to speed on changing laws, regulations etc. by creating new programs each time does not show economic value. Apart from this, taking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to training defeats its purpose since not all employees have the same training needs.

Lack of skilled trainers

Classroom training also needs skilled and experienced trainers. In this industry, training types vary greatly. Training has to be conducted across jobs, divisions and cross divisions by subject matter experts. It has to be disseminated to address the needs of different types of people from different countries or regions, in different languages while ensuring the learning absorption takes place. Finding skilled trainers to meet all these requirements can be a challenge.

The solution is simple

For several types of training needs which are aimed at creating awareness and knowledge, eLearning emerges as a great solution. It can help manufacturing companies navigate the complexities presented by classroom training. It gives them the flexibility to train a wide workforce in specific skills at their own pace. eLearning helps in improving learner engagement by presenting the content in short, bite-zed nuggets in a device-agnostic manner and makes learning easier to consume and retain. It is also a cost-effective solution since it removes the element of employee downtime. Employees can access learning materials on the go, anywhere, anytime. Technology-aided learning programs can be scaled, updated, and disseminated with minimal time investment as well.

Obviously, only eLearning cannot be a solution for all types of training programs. The programs aimed at building skills and expertise or the programs which require hands-on training do need to rely on classroom training method where there is a closer interaction with the trainer. Adopting a Blended Learning approach, one that organically amalgamates classroom and online training, helps in developing a well-defined learning solution that helps in making learning not only proactive and easy but also continuous.


Manufacturers can dramatically improve their training ROI with this one thing

Category : Blended learning

The rising levels of complexity in the manufacturing sector as a response to rising economic complexity, globalization, technological innovation, constantly evolving business landscape, and ever-increasing consumer demands are seeing the sector becoming more innovative and demand-oriented. To respond to the challenges thrown up by these tectonic shifts, the manufacturing industry has had to pay close attention to their employee training and development needs.  After all, only a skilled and trained workforce can contribute productively towards an organization’s bottom line.

A report from American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) states that “Organizations that place a stronger emphasis on learning were also more likely to point to higher market performance, highlighting the bottom-line benefit. Conversely, reducing learning resources during tough economic times was associated with poor market performance“.

Training emerges as an effective solution to shore up the skills gap in the manufacturing sector. According to a study conducted by Deloitte Consulting LLP, The Manufacturing Institute and Oracle, almost 32% of manufacturing companies face a moderate to heavy skill shortage across all skill sets. And as we see more advanced technology being incorporated in the manufacturing industry, these training needs of an organization be it for compliance, safety, product, good manufacturing practices etc. are only going to increase more.

Training in Manufacturing and Its Challenges

While this sector does recognize the importance of training initiatives, here are a couple of challenges plaguing the industry.

Growing skills gap

Given the skills gap that needs to be bridged and upskilling that needs to be done on a regular basis owing to the constantly shifting economic environment and the sheer number of people that need to be trained, training costs in such organizations can become very expensive. It has often been observed that while manufacturing companies need multi-skilled employees, most of the workforce is trained to complete a single job function alone.

New technology adoption

Technologies like robotics and automation become an industry mainstay but most workers in the manufacturing sector are not technologically proficient. Today, we are witnessing the rise of Industry 4.0 and technologies such as cloud computing and IoT are being adopted in the manufacturing sector at warp speed. However, along with focusing on new technology adoption, manufacturing companies have to be equally focused on training the people who will use these technologies – their workforce.

Classroom dependent training models

Traditionally, the manufacturing sector has been heavily inclined towards classroom teaching. Classroom training not only demands the heavy involvement of trainers and supervisors but also means employees to spend a considerable period of times attending these training programs. This also means downtime which impacts the company bottom line. Along with this are the logistical costs of bringing down employees from dispersed locations to the central training location which consequently adds to the training costs.

The attrition rates in the manufacturing sector are also high given that experienced employees are in high demand. This means new employees keep joining the companies in different locations. The training needs of these new hires have to be addressed on an immediate basis and organizations end up spending more to address the training needs of the new hires on a continuous basis, especially if these trainings are classroom driven.

Growing product portfolios

Manufacturing companies are also under constant pressure to innovate more and release new products or update and upgrade their existing products. This need demands that employees are on top of industry best practices and the changing market dynamics to become enablers of innovation. Those organizations that do not invest in regular trainings stand the risk of falling into the ‘frog in the well’ syndrome – you believe that your world is perfect while the world has moved on to another dimension altogether outside of the well. Regular training programs act as the fuel that helps employees identify how they can improve and innovate to create better products that can improve an organizations product value.

It becomes clear that employee training is a critical enabler of the overall growth of an organization. However, it is also clear that manufacturing companies are feeling the burn associated with classroom training –heavy expenses and employee downtime. While it might seem that training then has to become an either/or option, in reality, thanks to technology training programs have received the much-needed facelift…enter Blended Learning.

The benefits of blended learning in manufacturing

The objectives of training can be broken down into four major parts:

  • Awareness
  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Expertise

Blended learning can be used effectively to impart cost-effective and high-quality training in this sector. Blended learning offers to combine eLearning and classroom training to yield the best training results.

In the manufacturing sector, knowledge and awareness training are two areas that lend themselves well to eLearning. Whether it is employee onboarding, compliance, and regulatory training, product training etc. eLearning ensures that the employee training can be completed efficiently without leading to any employee downtime. These training modules also lend themselves to personalization, can be delivered in a device-agnostic manner, enable anywhere- anytime learning and reduce the overall training costs.

Skill and expertise building training are great models for classroom training as they need more one-on-one interactions. These training programs can also be conducted easily in the classroom format since these do not usually involve a large number of participants.

Amalgamating eLearning with classroom learning is an efficient way to improve the training RoI of manufacturing companies by enabling high-quality and cost-effective employee training programs.  By introducing eLearning, manufacturing companies will not only affect time-saving but will be able to improve the effectiveness of learning programs by making them more accessible, measurable, and personalized. With eLearning, it also becomes easier to monitor the effectiveness of the training programs as well as employee progress and tailor changes to address the growing knowledge needs of the employees proactively.

It is an established fact that the manufacturing industry has to lean in heavily on training their workforce in order to remain competitive. This shift has been made consciously in large manufacturing companies such as Arcelor Mittal and Toyota, for example. The main reason for these manufacturing giants to get serious about their training initiatives was to remain competitive and proactively bridge the yawning skills gap.

Clearly, manufacturing organizations have to look at workforce training as a strategic priority to not only bridge the skills gap but to ensure that their workforce performs to their optimal capacity. Only a well-trained workforce can fuel the organization’s ability to innovate and grow. And the solution for the same lies simply in Blended Learning.