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New smart training framework works for Industry 4.0 jobs

Montez King
By Montez King Executive Director, National Institute for Metalworking Skills

FIELD INTELLIGENCE: Smart Processes, Solutions & Strategies

The credential hanging on my wall that swells me with pride is my machinist certificate. That apprenticeship experience was the “ON!” switch for my career path. The brightness of that light helped maintain the vision and the hope even as I faced significant racial bias almost 30 years ago.

The conventional occupational apprenticeship program was adequate for me and for its time. However, for today’s manufacturing landscape, its flaws are apparent.

Technology has advanced so quickly that we now need a publication like Smart Manufacturing to: help us learn how to evolve our small shops and large factories on this digital, data-driven road; read about the successes of others and pitfalls to avoid, and foretell what is coming so we can be ready.

Preparing the workforce for what’s now and what’s next in manufacturing is crucial. This is not news to manufacturers: We’ve agonized over what I call the “complexity gap” in performance—the fact that job responsibilities have widened and expanded quickly. It’s been a challenge to keep up.

Manufacturers are creative, practical people and have devised their own ways to address the complexity gap internally. For example, many have broken down various occupations into roles. By doing that, their on-the-job training can be more modular and focused and require less time to accomplish.

We at NIMS have built upon this trend applying the concepts of modularity and adaptability in training and performance validation, and we have developed a new framework. Its customizable format is aligned with manufacturers on the smart manufacturing journey.

There are three main pillars to it: It’s created with job roles, not occupations. There’s an expression of performance based on the company’s specifications. There are settings for companies to finely tune training for maximum ROI.

The new structure is flexible and analogous to what manufacturers are doing and progressing toward today—Industry 4.0—only in the world of training.

There’s even a digital, data-driven aspect to it that all stakeholders are finding beneficial to gauge results and opportunities for improvement as they benchmark against their peers in a private, secure platform.

To explain the foundational parameters further, the “smart training principles” are seven proven, universal constants (settings) for any company to employ to lay out a valid on-the-job training program that can be finely tuned for their desired intensity of training.

It’s like getting a new smartphone. There is the operational technology and the basic functionality, as well as personalization settings. Once those settings are established, performance with the device improves.

The end result is employees who know how to do something new in a matter of days or weeks. The employer’s ROI happens quickly, and the employee gets a credential.

Another desirable benefit that springs from the smart solutions is its support of employee diversity and true inclusion in the workplace.

Because all of the employees have the same practical experience to be measured, it’s impossible to exclude anyone who may be facing bias. Plus, the performance results data showing how each person compares with others (anonymously) is inarguable.

Further, the trainer is also evaluated. Naturally, the trainer wants the trainee to shine no matter what his or her gender or race. So this also reduces discrimination.

I remain proud to have completed a machinist apprenticeship. I’m equally as gratified to help industry move beyond it.

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