Manufacturing companies are facing a tremendous challenge in attracting and retaining talent. In the most recent National Association of Manufacturers’ outlook survey, more than 60% of respondents cited it as a primary concern. As a result, according to the Manufacturing Institute’s 2020 training survey, nearly 70% of manufacturers are developing and expanding internal training programs for their workforce. Furthermore, Intertek Alchemy recently commissioned a workplace safety training survey, which revealed that 66% of companies believe they still have employees who are not following their workplace safety protocols on the floor.

While “learning by doing” is great for providing real-world experience, more and more companies are finding that the “shadow” or “buddy” system isn’t producing the desired results. These approaches are particularly popular in manufacturing, but often, employees pass on shortcuts and processes (intentionally or unintentionally) that aren’t sanctioned by the company.

With the manufacturing, industrial and food processing environment in mind, organizations that can shift to experiential learning using modern mobile apps are effectively improving their workplace training. Here’s how:

1. Creating Job-specific Training on the Production Floor

Mobile training apps are useful when working in facilities with spotty or no Wi-Fi connections and work across all modern devices. They also put the collective knowledge, skill and expertise of every employee in the palm of their hand and ensure that the organization can provide consistent and accurate on-the job (OJT) training for every type of machinery or equipment within its facility.

With apps, operations leaders can:

    • Record videos and photos of their star employees performing job-specific tasks correctly.
    • Add text instructions outlining the steps of a process, turning it into a training course.
    • Turn existing standard operating procedure (SOP) documents into interactive courses with embedded videos and quizzes to ensure comprehension.

2. Deliver Standardized Training on the Production Floor

Mobile training apps enable organizations to deliver accurate, consistent, task-specific training anywhere in the facility — even without Wi-Fi. Delivering training where learners will do the work makes it easier for them to understand detailed job instructions. It also gives supervisors and trainers the opportunity to observe them doing the task correctly to confirm correct application.

Mobile apps provide a lock-tight system on how the organization is creating, vetting and approving OJT training, preventing unsanctioned instruction or shortcuts from spreading. In addition, the “anywhere, anytime” function of mobile courses helps companies easily cross-train employees to build a deep bench of skilled workers.

3. Qualify Workers to Perform Specific Tasks

It’s no secret that the manufacturing industry is experiencing a skills gap crisis. As older workers retire and take their institutional knowledge with them, they leave a void that’s difficult to fill. To make things worse, the manufacturing industry has a high turnover rate, which can make it nearly impossible to track who is currently qualified to operate a specific type of machinery.

By using a mobile app, organizations can establish the criteria that qualifies an employee for a specific job, machine or line, such as:

    • Job-specific courses created within the app.
    • Third-party courseware.
    • Other training materials or SOPs.
    • An observation checklist.
    • Supervisor sign-off.

For example, an organization could create a training plan with requirements that make an employee qualified to operate a palletizer (a machine that stacks cases of products onto a pallet). Those requirements could include:

    • A palletizer safety overview.
    • A training course on how to properly operate the palletizer.
    • A validation checklist for the supervisor.
    • Supervisor sign-off to confirm that the employee is qualified to operate the palletizer.

After an employee meets the established criteria, the mobile app documents and records that he or she is qualified to use a palletizer. The organization could also decide whether or not a qualification expires and create automatic notification of upcoming expirations.

4. Finds Qualified Workers for any Job in Seconds

Mobile apps help quickly fill gaps on the production line to avoid costly downtime. These user-friendly apps provide an instant view of all employees in the facility who are qualified to perform a specific task. All within the mobile app, supervisors can:

    • Filter based on line, shift and department to find a qualified worker for any task.
    • See how many qualified workers there are for any job, proactively finding areas that need more employees.
    • Track employee progress in learning new tasks and earning job qualifications.

Modern mobile technologies can help create more engaging training, accelerate new employee onboarding and reduce time spent looking for qualified workers. Most importantly, all these improvements can drastically improve retention and safety in the workplace. Using mobile technology is as important as ever to stay connected and equip employees with the training materials they need to do their jobs successfully.