7 tips to successful knowledge transfer in manufacturing

Project Go-Live was a success. The MES system is up and running, on schedule and on budget.

End users are starting to see the projected results, the key information that will move them further along the road to world-class manufacturing. Not to mention, deliver a healthy ROI on their investment.

Time to move on?

Not a chance.

Now it’s time for knowledge transfer

It’s never easy to transfer knowledge, and it takes time and energy. Worse yet, the time to do it is at the end of the project, when everyone is ready to move on. For all these reasons, knowledge transfer often gets neglected in IT projects. But taking the time to ensure your operators know the system will save time, frustration, and money for years to come.

Every time our client decides to use internal resources to manage the new system, Factora takes responsibility for knowledge transfer. And knowledge transfer is not about us leaving a bulky manual or two behind as we exit stage left.

It’s about ensuring our client’s internal resources can manage the system without us. Ensure they’ve learned not just facts, but have practiced in real time. So that they own the solution we’ve built together.

Procedural knowledge [how to do a task] develops in different ways from declarative [informational, factual] knowledge. Over time procedural knowledge is shaped by the learner. When fully developed, procedural knowledge can be performed at a level of automaticity or controlled processing (Fitts & Posner, 1967; LaBerge & Samuels, 1974). Automaticity means that the learner can execute the process without consciously thinking about the parts of the process. Art and Science of Teaching

Seven tips for successful knowledge transfer

These 7 tips are based on how people actually learn. If you were teaching robots, the job would be different – you’d simply download the information to the robot’s control system. But humans aren’t robots. To make new knowledge stick, it’s critical to understand and take advantage of the way humans take in and process new information.

Tip 1: Have clear objectives

Have clear objectives (targeting specific goals) and lay them out at the beginning of your coaching. The people being immersed in the new learning need to find stability as fast as possible in order to feel comfortable. Clear objectives provide the parameters they need to gain that stability.

Tip 2: Start with context

Similar to the above, context helps a learner prepare to learn. Ironically, context is often left out of manuals, leaving the learner not quite sure where they’re starting from. And, even worse, not knowing how or where to categorize and file the new information.

People need to create a place in their brain to store the new information; context allows them to do that. As well, context provides the why, and having a why motivates people to learn.

Tip 3: Short and intense

Short, intense sessions work well for absorption of new ideas and learning. Particularly at the beginning of a session, learner’s minds are fresh and open, ready to take in and grapple with new ideas. Take advantage of that fresh!

After a short intense session, you can either take a break from learning, or have learners do something that is less intense. A review, a quiz, a pair exercise. Alternate intense sessions with more relaxed sessions for optimal learner take-up.

Tip 4: Start small

Start small and build. Once you’ve gone through that first small lesson, review and practice. Aim to keep building on what participants have already learned.

If you try to force too much information in at the outset, you can end up with your learners absorbing nothing. Start with an easy lesson, practice that, now build on it for the second lesson, practice that. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Step by step, build up to the point where you are reviewing and practicing large amounts of new learning.

The most effective teachers presented only small amounts of material at a time. After this short presenting, these teachers then guided student practice. Art and Science of Teaching

Tip 5: Allow time for self-generated documentation

Often, coaches and learners aim to maximize time spent with the coach because that time is scarce and precious. This is logical thinking. But incorrect.

People need to build in new pieces of learning as they go. One way to do that is to have people generate their own notes and review them during and after every session. As noted above, procedural knowledge is shaped by the learner. And this reshaping involves adding, changing, and deleting steps. Having people generate and review their own notes reinforces this process.

Tip 6: Re-create situations

Recreate situations that happen in normal operations so that your learners have a chance to practice typical maintenance work, and also learn how to make modifications to the solution.

Tip 7: Alternate pair work with solo work

In pair work, the Factora coach and the Client key resource work together to apply the most recent component of the new learning, and to experiment with the various options.

In solo work, the Client key resource tries to apply the new knowledge and work with the solution/application to address issues that would arise on the job.

In summary

You must have experienced the pain that arises from an implementation where knowledge transfer was neglected. It’s not pretty. So build knowledge transfer into your plans, budget, and scheduling, for every implantation.

And style the training to humans – not robots – for best learner uptake, and a payoff you’ll be enjoying for years to come.