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Retraining your best people, upskilling new hires through free virtual education

June 27, 2024
Transferring knowledge from retiring experts to remaining or new employees is a critical challenge, so manufacturers usually must do it digitally and, preferably, inexpensively.

With the accelerating retirement of established manufacturing experts, plants need robust processes to onboard new hires and maintain the necessary knowledge that enables plant agility. As seasoned professionals exit the workforce, their departure can create substantial gaps in expertise and operational continuity.

Traditionally, management spends weeks onboarding new employees with a convoluted mix of paid off-site training seminars, PDF manuals, and internally created resources. Transferring knowledge from retiring experts to remaining or new employees is a critical challenge.

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Effective knowledge transfer requires systematic planning and execution. Mentorship programs, job shadowing, and cross-training are some methods used to facilitate this transfer. However, these approaches can be time-consuming and may not always be prioritized in fast-paced manufacturing environments.

Moreover, the success of these programs depends heavily on the willingness and ability of the retiring experts to communicate their knowledge effectively as well as the capacity of the recipients to absorb and apply this information. Cultural and generational differences can also pose barriers. For example, older workers might be less inclined to use digital tools favored by younger employees for knowledge sharing.

Training a new generation of employees

The challenge of hiring new employees is compounded by the need to reach the departing experts' competency levels quickly. The manufacturing sector often faces a skills gap, with a shortage of candidates possessing the necessary technical skills and industry-specific knowledge. This is exacerbated by the rapid advancement of technology, which necessitates continuous learning and adaptation.

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Modern manufacturing increasingly relies on digital tools and automation, so integrating these technologies into training programs can also facilitate quicker adaptation. Extensive cost goes into the travel and fees for conventional paid vendor training seminars, and maintaining internal resources for training adds another layer of cost in keeping materials up to date.

Recruiting new talent in manufacturing also involves attracting a younger workforce to an industry adapted to digital communication and learning. They are used to quickly learning through virtual resources that previous generations may not have favored but tightly incorporated with hands-on learning.

Raised with the internet at their fingertips, highly searchable, comprehensive online documentation and tutorials lend themselves to rapidly onboarding the new digital-savvy workforce that has acclimated to watching video tutorials as they work through tasks.

To create these types of resources, it typically meant that companies must invest in developing comprehensive training and development programs for new hires. Creating comprehensive digital training usually includes leveraging expensive consultants to create e-learning platforms, simulations and hands-on training to accelerate learning.

New standard for vendor-supplied training

When a vendor provides comprehensive digital resources and tutorials for free, it provides substantial cost-saving benefits for a company compared to traditional training seminars that entail travel and course expenses. One of the most significant savings comes from eliminating the need for travel and accommodation.

Traditional training seminars often require employees to travel, sometimes internationally, incurring costs for flights, hotels and meals. By accessing training online, companies can avoid these expenses entirely.

See also: Connecting and protecting manufacturing workers in an era of technical skills shortages

Vendors that offer free digital resources and tutorials save companies the cost of registration fees and travel associated with in-person seminars. These fees can be substantial, especially when multiple employees need to be trained. Free digital resources provide equivalent educational value without the hefty price tag.

Digital training allows employees to learn at their own pace and on their schedule, reducing the need for extended absences from work and allowing hands-on learning to be actively combined with digital resources. This flexibility ensures that employees can continue to be productive while they upskill, minimizing downtime and maintaining workflow continuity. Free digital resources and tutorials vendors provide can lead to substantial cost savings for companies.

Digital resources can be accessed by any number of employees simultaneously, providing scalability that in-person seminars cannot match. This means that entire teams or departments can be trained without incremental costs. Additionally, digital materials can be accessed from anywhere, making it easier for remote employees to receive the same level of training.

See also: How AI can transform a burdensome and complex manufacturing environment

Vendor-supplied digital resources should be updated more frequently and quickly than traditional training materials. Vendors can ensure that their tutorials reflect the latest industry standards and practices, providing companies with the most current information without needing employees to attend new seminars periodically.

Online tutorials often offer a range of modules that can be tailored to the industry's specific needs. This customization allows for more relevant and targeted learning experiences, enhancing the overall effectiveness of the training. This approach improves the efficiency and effectiveness of employee training programs.

Proactive recruitment strategies and comprehensive training programs are essential to prepare the next generation of manufacturing professionals. Companies must leverage robust knowledge management systems that capture explicit and tacit information and digital knowledge bases. By taking these steps, manufacturers can mitigate the impact of expert retirements and ensure operational continuity and sustained competitiveness.

Selecting vendor solutions that offer comprehensive virtual training and online knowledgebase resources ensures plants have well-maintained onboarding processes to retain staff when upgrading or empowering new hires to follow a curated path for all-encompassing training, rather than a haphazard mix of manuals and expensive off-site sessions.

About the Author

Kyle Harrison

Kyle Harrison is Unified Academy Project Lead and HMI Product Manager with Siemens Digital Industries. He helps manufacturers educate new employees through no-cost virtual training. He is also focused on HMIs for monitoring and operator control. Prior to Siemens, he worked with B&R Industrial Automation and Intertek.