Reduce Shadowing Time by 40percent
Mar 22, 2019 Gordana Stok

Global Food Manufacturer Reduces Shadowing Time by 40% Using Poka

A recent Food Engineering webcast reveals how N.V. Nutricia, a division of Danone, adopted a more effective approach for training and performance support

Silence … A Manufacturer’s Worst Nightmare

Imagine walking onto your factory floor to give a tour of a production line and hearing nothing. Just total and complete silence.

The questions likely racing through your mind are, “How long has the line been down? Is maintenance aware of the problem and troubleshooting it? What is the efficiency rate of that line today?” and more.

But what if the reason for this silence is lack of knowledge by the operator to fix a problem with a machine, even though he had been trained on what to do and work instructions were available to guide him?

That’s exactly what happened when Jorn Vroegh gave a tour of a production line at N.V. Nutricia, a manufacturer of medical nutrition products and division of Danone. When he asked the operator why production had stopped, the operator replied, “I don’t know how to fix the problem”.

Now, as learning and development coordinator at the company’s Netherlands plant, Vroegh knew there had to be a more effective way to support workers in their daily jobs.

This article explains how the organization shifted its focus from training to performance support, which led to a 40% reduction in shadowing time and 75% reduction in the time to set up skills. It is a summary of a webcast featuring N.V. Nutricia and hosted by Food Engineering Magazine.

The Problem with Traditional Manufacturing Training

N.V. Nutricia has over 600 dietary product SKUs that it produces and delivers to customers across 55 countries to address a range of diseases and health issues. So, quality and service is critical to both the company and its customers.

When Vroegh investigated how many instructions operators have to learn during their 3-month shadowing period in order to master a production line, he discovered that there were more than 200 lengthy and detailed written procedures. He quickly realized that it was unrealistic to expect operators to remember all 200 procedures, especially for tasks that are not performed on a daily or frequent basis.

To further exacerbate the problem, Vroegh learned that the instruction that operators received during their shadowing period was inconsistent. Five different trainers, for example, meant five different ways to perform a task.

Further, while operators had the option to consult written work instructions for their line, they were “hidden away” in a document management system, making them difficult to find if operators had a question or problem, or simply wanted a refresher. So, they rarely consulted them, which meant they had no choice but to remember all 200 written procedures!

Vroegh cites the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve to punctuate the problem with this approach. People forget 80% of what they learn one month after their training if they do not actively practice what they learn.

Another problem with supporting operators with written work instructions, is that they can be easily misinterpreted or interpreted in different ways. A picture, or even better yet - video, is worth a thousand words, as the expression goes.

Creating a Performance Support Operations

Thankfully, N.V. Nutricia already had a strong learning culture at the company, explains Vroegh in his presentation. So, management didn’t require much convincing to give Vroegh the green light to look for a solution that would help them better support, performance in operations.

He quickly discovered that a Danone plant in Quebec, Canada was already using a solution to address the very same issues and goals. The plant was using Poka, a web and mobile app designed specifically for manufacturers to facilitate training, continuous learning, and trouble- shooting on the factory floor, among other things.

What Vroegh liked about Poka’s approach to manufacturing training is that operators learn autonomously at their own pace directly at their workstation using an iPad. Operators simply point a Poka QR code at their workstation or equipment to access the latest training videos and work instructions related to their workstation and equipment.

The video guides are broken into micro-lessons of approximately 2 to 3 minutes each to demonstrate exactly how to perform a task in the correct way. Operators can view the videos as many times as needed and when done, they take a test. Upon successfully completing the test, they perform the task in front of a more experienced operator who then endorses them as having demonstrated proficiency.
factory training
The team was sold! They began a pilot in July 2017 and within a year, they fully rolled out Poka to 71 operators. Their first priority was to train operators on tasks that they don’t perform on a daily basis. A total of 135 video micro-lessons were created. These videos have now become the standard and consistent way of training operators.

“Operators take the lead in their own learning. They learn when they need to, the right way, and without constantly taking other operators away from their work,” explains Vroegh. By enabling new operators to learn autonomously at their own pace, and reducing the burden on more experienced operators, the N.V. Nutricia reduced shadowing time and related manpower costs by 40%.

Further, the manufacturer uses Poka to manage employee skills development. HR and management now set up skills and assign training topics to employees 75% faster compared to a traditional learning management system (LMS). They then track operators’ progress in real-time, including which lessons they have completed, how they scored on each test, and which skills they have been endorsed for and can perform at their workstation.

factory skills tracking

Improving Communications and Problem Resolution

Besides improving training and on-going learning and skills development, N.V. Nutricia also uses Poka to enhance communications and problem resolution and support collective knowledge building among operators.

A live factory feed enables operators to view up-to-date information about their workstation and equipment, including any issues that another operator or shift has experienced and what they did to resolve a problem. The news update can be in the form of a written message, or a photo or video that the operator took using the workstation’s dedicated iPad.

Likewise, if an operator is having difficulty finding a solution to a problem they are experiencing, he can use the factory feed to post a call for help, and have a dialogue with engineering, maintenance and other operators in real-time, all without anyone having to leave their work space.
communication Over 2006 news updates were posted by operators in the first year of using Poka without any push from management, according to Vroegh. Operators of all ages, including the one that everyone warmly refers to as “Grandpa”, have eagerly adopted the solution.

“Everyone was on-board from start,” said Vroegh. “Operators are the most excited by the system, because it really is their system. They use it every day. While management benefits by being able to see (what’s happening on the floor), it‘s really for the people on the floor.”

Taking manufacturing training to the next level

In his webcast presentation, Vroegh shared advice on how to successfully implement Poka and other thoughts on how to take manufacturing training to the next level. Click here to listen to entire webcast recording.

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