The academy of the future

I’ve just happened upon the latest issue of the magazine (04/2016) and there I’ve read an interesting article about the Krones Academy. Considering that the Academy is my current workplace I’m especially interested in this subject, which is the reason I want to share this article with you. Here, however, there’s space for only a brief summary; there’s more about the subject in the magazine article. 

Citing three theses on the future of learning Dr. Jörg Puma, Director of the Krones Academy, explains why we have no alternative but to fundamentally transform the modalities of communicating knowledge in our sector.

Thesis 1: Continuous skilling will become a key factor in production operations

The amount of complexity in the beverage industry is rising – and with it the demands on those who work in it. This also applies for the lower-level staff. The reasons for this are multi-layered: firstly, the technology being used is becoming progressively more complex; secondly, ever-shorter response times are being demanded of machine operators, since standstills inevitably entail costs. The question remains of where these operationally smart and flexibly deployable people are to be recruited. “The more demanding the tasks in a production operation are, the more difficult it will be to find candidates on the labour market who already possess the requisite qualifications,” cautions Dr. Jörg Puma. “The companies themselves will have to make up the qualification deficits they encounter – with multi-stage training programmes.”

According to Dr. Puma, you can successfully observe in other sectors that and how this is possible: “Just take the automotive or pharmaceutical industry, for example: there, it’s meanwhile taken for granted that not only the machinery, but also the knowledge levels in the production environment are regularly updated to the latest state of the art. Anyone operating with sensitive technologies, who frequently adapts his production operations to suit new products and processes, and wishes to work profitably into the bargain, will no longer be able to do without regular training initiatives!” In the beverage industry, this insight is only beginning to take root. Jörg Puma is already preparing himself and his team mastering the rising levels of demand; not least by establishing and upgrading local training centres and by conceiving new courses to offer. “Because we work closely together with Krones’ service and sales people, we have a very clear picture of what’s currently preoccupying our clients,” says Dr. Puma. As a topical example, Dr. Puma cites the “Top Ten” trouble-shooting training option: “Here, we deal definitively with all problems and questions involving three types of machine that experience has shown cause the most frequent standstills in the production line.”

These “Top Ten” courses will be offered for the first time in 2017, but Dr. Puma is already thinking several years ahead. The journey leads “away from a machine-comprehender to a generalist problem-solver”. So the task now in the next few years is to put in place the preconditions for ensuring that the academy also in the future delivers on its promise: to offer the most effective training in the sector.

Thesis 2: Classical text-based learning will decline in perceived importance.

The internet has changed many things – chief among them our reading habits and the way in which we search for information. But there’s a lot of hesitation observable when it comes to drawing conclusions as far as communicating information in advanced training courses is concerned. The traditional model of “frontal teaching plus manual” continues to dominate the market. “A properly formulated documentation package is an essential constituent of a professional training concept, and as such is also something the participants expect,” acknowledges Dr. Puma, “but we’re under no illusions: after the course, the classical manuals will disappear into the drawers and are never seen again!” And there’s a good reason for this: the internet has got us used to informational luxury, to finding the right answer to well-nigh every technical questions within a few seconds. This is why Dr. Puma and his people are devoting keen attention to the question of how in future they will be supplying users of Krones’ technology with information. “In our training courses, we have long since replaced frontal teaching and document reading by interactive, realistic methods of instruction,” explains Dr. Puma, “what we still need to put in place is the right ways and means for supporting our target group with situational relevance at their workplaces as well.”

As a first important step, the team has set up the Digital Krones Academy: through a locally installed terminal, it makes operating manuals and individually created training documents available directly in the line. The information is prepared in multi-medial form, and can be retrieved over a WLAN even on mobile terminals. The question of how particular operator routines and maintenance jobs are performed correctly can thus be answered directly by using an instructional video. The academy works closely together with Syskron GmbH. Whether it’s virtual reality or speech-controlled assistants: as an expert on digital transformation, the still young Krones subsidiary is focusing the training team’s attention on new technologies and approaches.

Thesis 3: Efficient learning needs freedom to experiment.

A large proportion of the academy’s courses are devoted to machinery training – and most of these are held at the client’s machine. “For a long time, it was seen as the ideal solution to train staff on site in their own plant, not least because no travel costs are incurred and the actual working conditions can be immediately incorporated in the training,” explains Dr. Puma. The success of practical training courses is conditional upon participants’ trying out for themselves the work routines they have learned and being able to practise them. But in high-performance plants this entails numerous difficulties – e.g. because the production schedule is so crowded that there’s not much scope for training; or because in a highly specialised line there’s simply too much at stake to blithely try out different functional modes on it.

In order to escape from this quandary, Krones is investing heavily in upgrading the local training centres: practice lines featuring the very latest Krones machines enable them to simulate the client’s own production conditions. But this is in a protected atmosphere, providing the participants with sufficient freedom to try out a huge range of different operational variants without serious consequences. When they’re back at their own plant, they can put the new insights into practice immediately – without ongoing production having to be interrupted or even endangered. The specific success of these measures can not only be objectively quantified by the trend in the KPIs, but also by another effect: “Staff skilling helps companies to keep their good people on board,” says Dr. Puma. “Our experience has shown that staff who are able to continually upgrade their job skills will stay longer with their present employer.”

In order to support Krones’ clients all over the world the academy is prioritising continuous modernisation and expansion. Only last year, for example, a lavishly equipped training centre was opened in Brazil. Dr. Puma also has ambitious plans for the central academy in Neutraubling: The area of the present training hall will be doubled during the course of next year, to 1,800 square metres. “Preparations for the expansion job are already ongoing,” says Dr. Puma, “if it all goes according to plan, we’ll be finished by drinktec 2017.” At least with the next step – since the academy’s director still has quite a few plans up his sleeve.

And so that you get all the magazine articles delivered hot off the printing press to your home in the future, it’s also worthwhile subscribing to the magazine here: Krones magazine