A skilled workforce is one of the most valuable assets for manufacturers, as front-line workers carry the knowledge necessary to perform tasks across a wide spectrum of daily responsibilities. Operations teams, responsible for onboarding new employees and cross-training, often are tasked with transferring knowledge from one facility to another when plants relocate production.
Knowledge transfer starts with the documentation of work instructions but relies on effective capture and delivery for the transfer to be successful. Experts in adult learning suggest that adults learn best when they understand the “why” behind a given task and can learn in a more experiential setting. More and more, workplace instruction is moving toward augmented reality (AR) to help adults learn.
Transferring knowledge across operating units and geographies has several challenges. Capturing worker knowledge and sharing it across the enterprise is an essential part of maintaining a productive workforce. When leases expire or business factors govern, plants commonly relocate across cities, states, even countries—requiring more than just a “lift and shift” of products and machinery. The intellectual property (IP) of worker knowledge fuels the lifeblood of operations. The transfer needs to be comprehensive, but this effort can be painstaking. It requires documentation of all workflows in a consistent fashion, even when processes aren’t fully defined or standardized.
Rockwell Automation faced these exact challenges when planning to move operations from a plant in Switzerland and transfer all production to a new location in Katowice, Poland. The team in Poland needed to be trained on all elements of plant operations—from how to manufacture products to setting up, breaking down, and servicing machines, and all processes in between. To ensure a seamless transition and maintain production levels, they needed to quickly capture known work instructions for the Polish team, so they had the product training and knowledge transfer before the plant began operations.
VIDEO LIBRARY BUILT IN A DAY
Rockwell Automation’s team in Switzerland began recording work instructions through the Vuforia Expert Capture software, used in tandem with two styles of headwear, Microsoft HoloLens and Real- Wear HMT1. They were able to capture, publish, and manage work instructions in a secure, software-as-a-service (SaaS) environment.
The team agreed on a standard template to record screen shots and video in the destination’s local language so the new team in Poland could learn each step required for production—and maintain quality, prevent errors, and resolve issues throughout. Subject matter experts (SMEs) broke down each task into step-by-step instructions through pictures, video, and audio. They also weeded out any variation in work instructions to ensure standardized guidance and quality control.
Once they aligned on an approach, engineers and SMEs gravitated to the new headwear, quickly amassing a library of content in a common storage repository. In just a few hours, SMEs had learned how to fine-tune video capture by zooming in and out for optimal distance. Through simple voice activation, they were able to quickly record, edit, and publish content, detailing every step of the process for each production task—including location markers highlighting physical steps between production lines, and vital safety warnings along the way.
In just one day, the Operations team in Switzerland had built a library of 80 videos detailing every key plant responsibility through step-by-step voiceover instruction, with video and images for their colleagues in Katowice. The simple, intuitive technology and headwear was an instant hit with the engineers, creating a buzz on the factory floor.
MULTI-FUNCTIONAL KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER
Not only did the Swiss team produce the training, they also ensured their peers in Poland could follow their instructions accurately and ensure quality, prevent errors, and avoid rework. They captured their plant’s collective knowledge and delivered it right on schedule, before the new site had even turned on the lights.
The Expert Capture tools gave the Swiss Rockwell Automation team the peace of mind they needed to quickly and easily perform a massive knowledge transfer. Through guided work instruction and video, their teammates in Poland could feel confident getting up to speed with production and well supported by their colleagues in Switzerland.
For now, Rockwell Automation is using the technology within the four walls of Manufacturing, but SMEs envision other use cases and functions that could benefit, as well, with Sales and Marketing likely work-groups that could put it to use, too. The goal is to have at least one unit in each of their plants, with plans to invest in more.