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Getting Started With E-Learning for Manufacturers

Damian Hehire-learning

Getting Started With E-Learning for Manufacturers

E-learning can benefit manufacturing companies in a range of different ways. In a previous blog, we looked at the training challenges in the manufacturing sector that e-learning can help overcome. How do you get started with e-learning, however?

Before going into the specific steps, let’s first look at the big issue facing manufacturers – skills availability.

The Future of Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector continuously improves and evolves, constantly seeking new ways to enhance productivity, efficiency, and profitability. With Industry 4.0 technologies, however, the rate of change has dramatically increased.

Plus, the changes currently taking place in manufacturing companies don’t just involve the factory floor. Instead, they have an impact on the entire company.

A crucial part of these changes is automation. Automation on production and packaging lines is well-established, but that automation is now being extending even further. Automation solutions are also being implemented in other parts of manufacturing organisations, too, such as equipment maintenance, batch changeovers, and supply chain management.

The increasing levels of automation in manufacturing companies are not just about automating simple repetitive tasks, either. New technologies and systems are also capable of automating complex processes. AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning are at the forefront of these changes.

Shift Towards Knowledge

In the past, manufacturing companies required workers to perform repetitive tasks. These tasks could be on the production line or in other parts of the business, from machine maintenance to procurement to quality control and product traceability.

Today, however, many (if not all) of these tasks can be automated, at least partially. Plus, the move towards more widespread automation continues at pace.

As a result of this increased level of automation, manufacturing companies no longer need workers to perform the repetitive tasks that were so important to the business before. Today, those tasks can be performed by robots and algorithms.

Does this mean manufacturing companies no longer need workers? Absolutely not. What it means is they need a different type of worker. A term increasingly being used in the manufacturing sector is the “knowledge worker”.

Knowledge workers have the skills needed to develop, implement, and/or manage the automation and data-driven solutions that are now critical to the profitability and performance of production lines.

The Problem with Manufacturing Sector Knowledge Workers

There is one major challenge with manufacturing sector knowledge workers – there isn’t enough of them. Manufacturers will continue to recruit new workers with the skills they need, but there is a skills shortage not just in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but around the world.

Therefore, the solution is to upskill existing workers. It is this process of upskilling where e-learning offers substantial opportunities for manufacturers.

Getting Started With E-Learning – Top Tips

Get Buy-In from the Top

It is essential you have senior management buy-in for your e-learning and wider training strategy. The senior leadership team also need to be fully committed to the strategy of upskilling existing production line workers. With their buy-in, you will have a smoother path when implementing e-learning courses and modules.

Assess Your Company’s E-Learning Readiness

In many situations, it’s not possible to simply create an e-learning course and then hope for the best. Instead, you may have to do some preparation work to ensure the training is a success. A good first step in this process is to assess the e-learning readiness of your organisation.

Some questions you can ask include:

  • What is the team’s attitude towards training?
  • Are the people on your team comfortable with using technology?
  • Do they have the devices they need to complete an e-learning course?
  • Will they have time to complete the course, taking into consideration your production schedule?
  • Do you have access to subject matter experts?
  • Do you have a budget for the creation of the e-learning content?

Start Small

A phased approach to implementing or ramping up e-learning is preferable to trying to do everything at once. So, start small by identifying areas that can quickly and easily be developed as an e-learning module. You will learn a lot during the process, including how to work with professional e-learning development companies, as well as the barriers that exist within your team.

Set Expectations

Those completing your e-learning courses should know exactly why the upskilling effort is important not only for the business, but also for them. You should also set clear expectations, i.e., what do you want the learner to achieve and what skills do you want them to become proficient in.

Assess Your Initial E-Learning Courses

Your assessment of the first e-learning courses that you create should include analysing the statistics on things like completion rates. It’s also important to talk to people involved in the process, including those who went through the training, their supervisors, and managers.

Identify the Key Skills Gaps that Currently Exist

You should now be ready to widen out your deployment of e-learning modules to increase the pace of your upskilling efforts. Crucial to this stage of the process is to identify the skills that are most in need. These are the skills you should focus on first.

Decide on the Best Training Delivery Method

E-learning may not be the best choice for all the training needs you identify. A blended approach might be more effective, for example, or on the job training. So, a crucial part of the process is to decide on the best method for delivering the training.

In terms of e-learning, should it be the primary method of delivery, should it support other training efforts, or is there no role for e-learning at all?

Going Forward with Your Plan

By this stage, you will be able to move forward with developing the e-learning courses and other training content required to upskill your team. There are two final points to remember.

The first is that you won’t always have to develop a course from scratch, as an off-the-shelf course might have all you need. Secondly, make sure you continually analyse and assess results and return on investment. Doing this will give you the information that you need to improve.