Industrial enterprises are experiencing a growing skills gap, yet the method by which their workers learn hasn’t changed. Education and training programs today deliver all the information an employee “might” need to know and hope they can both retain that information and apply it in the right situation. This burdensome ‘just-in-case’ training model creates challenges for knowledge retention and limits skills development.
PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann argues, ‘we need to shift from just-in-case education and training to just-in-time education and training’, where only the necessary information is delivered in context. Today, we have both the technology and the need for training to shift to ‘just-in-time’ learning methods that are scalable, situational, and immersive to deliver on-demand skills to the 21st century workforce.
The current state of training and the transition to more effective training mechanisms
The manufacturing industry is forecasted to soon have 2.4 million vacant positions, which could impact economic US output by $2.5 trillion over the next decade. The importance of effective training of the workforce to fill this gap cannot be understated.
US training annual expenditures in 2018 reached a staggering $88 billion. The average training time spent per employee was approximately 47 hours and most of these hours (70%) were allocated to ‘blended learning’ methods including instructor-led classrooms and learning management systems. While these methods might be practical for understanding a job’s core principles, they don’t necessarily translate to the development of real-world hands-on skills required for the job’s performance.
This out-of-context system contributes to poor knowledge retention with high error rates and low productivity as the resulting business impact. Only 12% of workers apply skills from training to their jobs and the estimated total loss from ineffective training to a business is $13.5 million per 1,000 employees. Without consistent repetition and reinforcement of work-related concepts, workers will forget 50% of information within one hour, 70% within 24 hours, and 90% over a week.
The most effective training delivery method in industrial environments is on-the-floor pairing/shadowing- where trainees observe and interact with experts performing the actual job. This ‘just-in-time’ training form capitalizes on human nature, transferring knowledge through a multi-sensory mix of auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic learning methods within a contextualized work environment.
However, this hands-on expert training is subject to costly challenges and bottlenecks for scheduling, interrupting operators and trainer availability.
Just-in-time for front-line workers
In the World Manufacturing Forum (WMF) 2019 report, attracting and retaining a quality workforce was cited by 71 percent of manufacturers – the highest current business challenge. As a result of their research, the WMFmade recommendations. Among them were leveraging digital technologies to innovate delivery of education and training and ensuring that relevant skills are being taught. In other words, „just-in-time training“.
The phrase ‘just-in-time’ is well-recognized across the manufacturing industry, whether its just-in-time inventory – receiving goods only as they are needed, or more broad just-in-time manufacturing strategies like the ‘lot size one’, where items are manufactured to order, meeting demand without surplus. The common goal of these models is to gain operational efficiencies by more stringently aligning supply and demand, creating more intuitive, dynamic, and flexible production systems required for the connected supply chain.
An application of this just-in-time model to the worker should also be the organization providing employees with relevant task information in context to their job environment.
This on-demand delivery method reduces the cognitive burden that can come from ‘information overload’ in out-of-context classroom training. Take the classroom for example: the core principles around mathematics are important, but professionally we typically aren’t utilizing geometry or calculus formulas. This same challenge applies to deskless workers in industrial settings, where information overload in classroom training occurs around memorizing product manuals, or work procedures. Knowledge retention statistics expose the ineffectiveness of that approach, which is increasingly unnecessary considering that information is commonly digitized and readily available in content systems and databases. What’s been missing is the means to deliver that digital information in the physical context when its needed.
Augmented reality is how companies will pivot to deliver relevant digital information in-context to front-line workers as part of a digital transformation initiative. The less trainees are excessively succumbed to traditional ‘just-in-case’ training programs and information is instead delivered through ‘just-in-time’ methods to a worker in-situ, the greater the acquired knowledge is retained and seamlessly acted upon in real-world environments. Companies like BAE Systems, AGCO, Global Foundries, and Howden, prove that augmented reality will increasingly be the innovative tool for training and other workforce productivity use cases. These approximately 2.7 billion global deskless workers can benefit now more than ever from information delivery on-demand and in-context to their work environment ‘just-in-time’ rather than ‘just-in-case.’