Archive | Training

101

4:23 pm
May 16, 2016
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Maximize Millennial Workers

Millennials checklist on clipboard for survey of generation with age born between 1980 and 2000, social and connected, and cause driven

For many, the millennial generation presents a significant workplace management challenge and is often labeled lazy and entitled. Unlike previous generations, this group approaches things in a very different way. Like it or not, they are the future. In fact, that future is now. Millennials currently make up more than 35% of the workforce and that number will be just short of 50% by 2020. In other words, if you’re not one, you have to learn to work with them.

At the Uponor Connections 2016 users conference, held this past March in Las Vegas, keynote speaker Ryan Avery (a millennial himself) in his talk, “Motivating Millennials,” shed some light on what makes that generation tick. Uponor North America, headquartered in Apple Valley, MN, is a manufacturer of PEX piping systems.

Avery started his talk by making it clear to the baby boomers in the audience that they are the reason millennials are the way they are. Boomers had to work hard to move up the ladder and didn’t want their kids to have to do the same and now get to work with the result of that approach. What follows are more insights from Avery that, if you’re a baby boomer or part of some other generation, will help you understand and benefit from what can prove to be a talented group of workers.

—Gary L. Parr, Editorial Director

Ryan Avery assigned shapes to the two generations.

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The triangle represents baby boomers and their hierarchical approach to life and work. Millennials are the circle because they have a community approach and like to be coached. They don’t appreciate bosses and like to be part of a team. The shape for GenX people is a square.

While boomers grew up in and work in an aggressive/demanding culture, millennials do better if things are explained. They like to know why things are done or need to be done.

When millennials are presented with a task, they like to start with the result/goal and then be allowed to figure out how to get there. Established procedures aren’t always of interest to them. If they see a better way, they want the freedom to take that path. That path doesn’t always fit in the conventional 9-to-5 workday.

When communicating with millennials, stop multitasking — put your phone down and your computer screen aside. This applies to anyone, but managers should take care to talk to millennials like they matter. Four of five employees do not feel valued at work. That one valued person will give 90% more of himself/herself than the other four. Keep in mind that employees spend more time with managers than their loved ones. Pay attention to the person opposite you.

Millennials stay at their jobs an average of two years, meaning that they aren’t interested in the conventional end-of-the-year reward/bonus approach. They are much more receptive to little rewards throughout the year, such as meals or gift cards. Avery suggested that paying their monthly Netflix fee would be an excellent reward.

Millennials like a cause, which translates to the fact that they are more willing to participate if there is a social responsibility involved. Instead of a bonus, give them money to donate to their favorite cause or provide days off so they can volunteer to help others.

Instead of smoke breaks, provide social-media breaks.

They like to collaborate and don’t like to compete.

They are not big fans of the word “but.” Instead of  “Good idea, but . . .” try “I like your idea and another way to accomplish it is…” MT

174

9:01 pm
February 8, 2016
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Encourage Your Hidden Coaches

A major competitive advantage for a company is its employees’ ability to learn, grow, and change so they can discover, improve, innovate, and meet the challenges of an evolving marketplace. According to Tara Holwegner of Life Cycle Engineering (LCE.com), Charleston, SC, another challenge many process organizations face involves harnessing the intellectual capital of experienced employees and using it to benefit new employees and enterprise initiatives.

Holwegner should know. She’s a learning and performance-improvement subject matter expert (SME) for Life Cycle Institute. The intellectual capital to which she refers typically isn’t delivered in a classroom.

According to the “70-20-10 Framework” from the 70:20:10 Forum (702010forum.com), Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia, about 10% of learning comes from a formal learning environment (online or classroom); 70% from experiential opportunities, e.g., day-to-day learning, challenging projects/tasks, stretch goals; and 20% from social learning (mentoring, coaching). That indicates that, while formal instruction is critical to developing talent in an organization, it’s a rather small part of how people learn and grow.

Holwegner advises maintenance and reliability professionals to take a closer look at people’s roles and see how they might function as coaches, knowledge agents, and advocates for professional growth and change. Ask yourself, “Who are the hidden coaches in my organization?” and “How can we harness that extra 20% of learning to produce results, influence what we teach, and make the most of the critical 10%?”

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Skilled workers as hidden coaches

“A skilled worker,” according to Holwegner, “can be an excellent hidden coach or ambassador of knowledge.” Although he or she may not have the title of expert or coach, this type of worker can be considered an expert in a field and frequently be asked to share knowledge to enhance competency in a certain area.

Holwegner points to several examples of hidden coaches you might find in your company:

  • tenured work planners
  • experienced operators
  • skilled maintenance technicians or journeymen
  • millwrights
  • veteran craftspersons
  • software system “power users”
  • financial or contract analysts
  • top-selling salespeople
  • six-sigma green or black belts.

She characterizes hidden coaches as “knowledge powerhouses” who can share their intellectual capital during employee on-boarding, change and improvement initiatives, everyday problem-solving activities, and work planning. “Their individual consult,” she continued, “can drive solution design, identify process re-engineering needs, steer work-procedure documentation, and influence training requirements.” But there’s more.

“Another benefit from having a hidden coach on your team,” Holwegner noted, “could be their informal leadership. As a respected or influential person within the organization, their credibility can be a positive or negative risk to your initiative.”

Harnessing the power

To make use of hidden coaches’ tacit knowledge, Holwegner encourages project leads to first ensure the work practices of such individuals align with standards, then invite these employees to contribute and participate, as well as record their best practices for enterprise use.   

In Holwegner’s view, every organization has hidden coaches with the capacity to mentor and motivate employees to practice behaviors that produce results. “With 90% of learning coming from on-the-job challenges and social learning through coaching,” she explained, “these hidden gems can be incorporated into both strategic and daily initiatives to manage your company’s intellectual capital and strengthen workforce skills.” MT

Tara Denton Holwegner is a PMP, Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) and Prosci Certified Change Management Professional. In her role as a learning and performance improvement SME for Life Cycle Engineering, Charleston, SC, she co-developed the organization’s 3A Learning process that incorporates the concepts of active learning and change management. For more information, email tholwegner@LCE.com, or visit LCE.com.

352

6:42 pm
February 8, 2016
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Final Thought: Certification — Which One?

Cklaus01Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee (UTK), Reliability & Maintainability Center

What certification should I earn?” That’s a question frequently asked by reliability and maintenance personnel. That’s understandable: They have plenty of choices.

Consider the CMRP (Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional) and CMRT (Certified Maintenance & Reliability Technician), both from SMRP (Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals, Atlanta). The CMRP, by the way, is the only exam accredited by ANSI (American National Standards Institute, Washington), which follows ISO standards for accreditation and standards. Other certifications include the CRL (Certified Reliability Leader) from Reliabilityweb, CRE (Certified Reliability Engineer) from the American Society of Quality, CAMA (Certified Asset Management Assessor), CFM (Certified Facility Manager) from IFMA (International Facility Management Association, Houston), and the RMIC (Reliability and Maintainability Implementation Certification) from the Univ. of Tennessee-Reliability and Maintainability Center, Knoxville. The RMIC, among other things, requires a candidate to demonstrate a targeted capability by implementing an actual work-related project that makes a measureable, positive improvement on key performance indicators. An undergraduate minor and graduate university degree RME program is also offered.

To quote an unknown author, “In theory, the difference between theory and practice is small. In practice, the difference between theory and practice is large.” I agree, especially when mapping a professional-development path.

Some use the terms certification and certificate interchangeably. Certification refers to confirming competency in knowledge/skill. A certificate is the non-diploma document issued after completing training. (Some consulting groups offer certificate/certification programs, i.e., Marshall Institute at North Carolina State Univ., Raleigh, and Life Cycle Engineering [LCE] at the Univ. of Kansas, Lawrence.)

My answer to those who ask what reliability certification they should earn involves other questions. After first responding that I won’t recommend an exam to take, I inquire about what they want to do with their new, or soon-to-be, acquired, knowledge, skills, and certification, and, their long-term goals. Ultimately, they answer their own question.

All of the previously referenced reliability-certification program exams vary based on differences in technical requirements, closed/open book formats, and content. I encourage interested individuals to do enough investigation to get the certification that best supports their current and future plans. While preparation for any of these exams will add to a person’s knowledge base, most of them also require candidates to have some level of experience. Keep in mind, though, that being able to do something on a test does not demonstrate that you can implement best practices in a dynamic work environment.

Reliability is such a broad field that it’s impossible to be an expert in all areas. Think of how and why the medical field is as specialized as it is. For example, medicine is divided into areas such as pathology (diagnostic- and technique-based), cardiothoracic surgery (therapeutic and surgery on one organ), and general practice (diagnostic, therapeutic, and multidisciplinary). The practices of reliability and maintainability (R&M) are similar. Instead of “curing” people, we keep machinery, equipment, facilities, and related processes running.

If someone says he or she is a reliability or maintenance engineer or technician, the question is, “What area of R&M?” It could be conducting vibration analysis, implementing a lubrication program, calculating reliability growth, or rolling out an entire Total Productive Maintenance process requiring significant cultural change.

While some companies have endorsed a specific certification, most haven’t limited employees to a single choice. Typically, organizations provide guidelines with steps for increasing knowledge and capabilities in R&M—with certification usually recommended about midway through the process for personnel who desire it. A smaller group of companies, however, has made certification a requirement.

The good news is that what you need is available and the implementation of R&M best practices is the cornerstone that will enable industrial competitive advantage. MT

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee (UTK), and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him directly at kblache@utk.edu.

739

7:01 pm
December 17, 2015
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Training Program Grows In-House Experts

With one eye on a bright manufacturing future and the other on industry’s skilled-workforce crisis, an American automotive giant turned to a customized, ongoing training program for electricians in its plants around the world. Results have been more than noteworthy.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Long before the bulldozers arrived at its Michigan plant, one of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers mapped out a master plan to begin scrapping the aging control systems and automated machines used to build its vehicles in facilities worldwide. The sequential launch of new manufacturing technologies marked the first major retooling in more than a decade for many of the company’s plants. The overarching goal, however, was far more strategic: create a common automation platform—with the most advanced vehicle technologies available—that would streamline the manufacture of the company’s 21st-century cars and trucks.

A sophisticated, fully integrated, controls-system architecture would lay the foundation for the manufacturer’s leaner factories of the future. However, the automaker’s vision would require far more than replacing its legacy equipment with state-of-the-art automation technologies. It would require equipping plant-floor electricians with the knowledge and new skills necessary to operate and troubleshoot the completely transformed control system.

The training model

Employee training has been a cornerstone of the company’s culture since its founding. Still, workforce development had historically been handled within individual plants. When the company brought in third-party trainers, they typically were from equipment manufacturers and focused solely on teaching personnel how to operate new, stand-alone technologies. Such training was often inefficient in that it didn’t include information about how the new components integrated with other elements in the production system. Because of the magnitude of the control-system overhaul, the company needed a totally new curriculum for its electricians. The training also had to be designed to systematically roll out to various plants over several years.

The company’s workforce team established three additional key tenets for the new electrician-training program:

  • It must be customized to the automaker’s new global controls architecture.
  • It had to be sustainable, meaning electricians across plants could use the curriculum for the foreseeable future, with only minor modifications when necessary.
  • The classes had to be conducted in-house to maximize participation and make the most of employee time.

The group decided the best way to meet those goals was a unique “train-the-trainer” model, in which selected electricians would become subject-matter experts on the new equipment and, in turn, be capable of training the crews with whom they regularly worked. In short, each facility sought to develop highly skilled individuals who would teach their co-workers how to operate, maintain, and troubleshoot the new system. It was a tall order. The automaker’s workforce team realized they needed outside expertise to develop and deliver this type of highly specialized controls training.

Curriculum and process

In mid-2009, the automaker invited Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee, to bid on the electrician-training program. The two companies already had a long history of partnership. Rockwell Automation had previously provided workforce solutions at the automaker’s various plants and was supplying much of the company’s new production technology. The automaker, though, wanted a comprehensive program that would also include training on the company’s next-generation production components from other vendors. It also commissioned a custom simulation workstation that would precisely replicate the entire suite of new controls and other integrated hardware and software that electricians would operate in the retooled plants.

In November 2009, the two companies assembled a multifaceted team composed of their top training experts. The group included the skilled-trades technical-training team at one of the automaker’s Michigan facilities—the launch site for the new production technologies.

For the next six months, the team worked at the plant to develop the control architecture systems-integration course to educate electricians about all of the new company-specific hardware and software components in its integrated system. In its role as project managers, Rockwell Automation employees worked with third-party vendors to incorporate content about its technologies into the curriculum. Rockwell Automation representatives  also hired instructors with specialized competence in specific aspects of vehicle production, such as the plant’s paint process.

“We weren’t experts in all of the technology, but we are experts in how to manage large workforce solutions,” said Glenn Goldney, manager, Global Workforce Solutions at Rockwell Automation. “Our job was to make sure the electricians could seamlessly take the skills they learned in the classroom and apply them on the plant floor.”

As the course content neared completion, the automaker selected a handful of the Michigan plant’s most experienced and skilled electricians to form the inaugural train-the-trainer class. Their first lessons were truly hands-on: The electricians worked with the Rockwell Automation team to build four custom simulators. These 360-deg. workstations—each about the size of a refrigerator and equipped with wheels for easy transport—contained all of the next-generation hardware components on racks, just as electricians would later see them on the plant floor.

New instructors take control

The training team also developed customized lab exercises to correspond directly with the hardware and software configuration of the control simulators.

Once the simulators were set up, the skilled electricians became full-time students. Led by a Rockwell Automation instructor, they studied the curriculum for more than three weeks. Then, each trainer-in-training took turns co-teaching the 120-hr. course alongside a Rockwell Automation instructor for 12 weeks. Their students were small groups of fellow electricians. Eventually, the instructor trainees taught the course solo, and were evaluated and certified by a Rockwell Automation instructor.

In total, the trainers-in-training spent 30 weeks immersed in the educational process. Focusing on how to operate the new controls-system architecture, the core courses included training on industrial-Ethernet networking, which formed the backbone of the new system. Information on “softer” teaching skills was  also provided, including tips on topics ranging from public speaking to composing PowerPoint presentations. The result: The Michigan plant produced four qualified in-house expert instructors and 36 trained electricians.

By that time, the old automation equipment had been bulldozed at the Michigan plant to make way for the new technology—and the 36 newly trained electricians were ready to take control of it. Meanwhile, the original four in-house trainers were teaching the new courses to their peers at the Michigan plant.

According to Glenn Goldney, as Rockwell Automation’s training role in Michigan neared completion, the automaker’s management team issued an assignment for the next site. Others followed. “The same process was replicated at the Kentucky facility and in six additional plants,” he recalled. “In conjunction with each plant’s leadership, we identify the electricians who will participate, build another set of workstations, and then kick off the train-the-trainer program.”

Continuing payback

So far, more than 1,500 electricians have gone through the automaker’s new training regimen at sites across North America, including assembly and stamping plants in three other cities. Electricians from as far away as India have traveled to the United States to become instructors.

While 90% of the original curriculum is still in use, electrician training has evolved to include software and hardware updates in the automaker’s technology suite. The three-week core course also has been expanded and tailored to suit differing workforce needs and production demands.

Today, more than 30 expert trainers are serving as invaluable resources at the auto giant’s plants in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. “That’s more skilled trainers than probably any other company in the world,” Goldney noted. “And more are on the way.” MT

For more information on various manufacturing trends and strategies, including those associated with new technologies and workforce development, visit:

990

8:57 pm
August 6, 2015
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Uptime: Boost STEM, Develop Skilled Workers

bobmugnewBy Bob Williamson, Contributing Editor

The resurgence of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) courses of study in the national education community is not new. STEM education dates to the 1950s, but gained national attention with the 1983 report from President Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education, “A Nation at Risk.” But I’m convinced that the renewed enthusiasm for STEM is due to the gaps in education, training, and career preparation our schools and local/state governments have allowed for the past two generations. As a result, “Go to college and get a degree!” became the plan for everyone.

Career awareness and education for global competitiveness for the college-bound students and those who would benefit from a community-college technical education, have been largely ignored. This has hurt our industry, our infrastructure, and our economy. (See The Forgotten Half, by Samuel Halperin, 1988.)

STEM courses of study, starting at elementary levels and continuing through post-secondary educational levels, need a boost—a boost that would open doors to increasing opportunities for large numbers of students who would otherwise fall through the cracks. Specifically, this boost would align the STEM content with business and industry careers and emphasize applied learning.

An applied-STEM learning approach would fuel the curiosity that enables a student’s real-world troubleshooting/problem-solving ability and be of tremendous benefit to business and industry.

An applied-STEM learning approach would fuel the curiosity that enables a student’s real-world troubleshooting/problem-solving ability and be of tremendous benefit to business and industry.

More workers, more skills gaps

The Millennial generation, which involves more than 80 million people born between 1982 and 2000, has exceeded the Baby Boomer generation of 76 million in the U.S. In 2015, this 15- to 33-year-old labor group now represents the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many Millennial students, who did not pursue a college degree, left high school with a diploma, but few marketable skills. Many of the non-college-prep classes that prepared their parents and grandparents for entry into life-long careers in various trades had long since been removed from the curriculum. These include the “shop” classes of the 1960s and 1970s. The table saws, arc welders, cutting torches, and other equipment once found in these classrooms have gone the way of certain playground rides, all in the interest of safety and insurance-cost reduction. Moves such as this suggest that competent supervision, safety-hazard consciousness, and a professional standard of leadership have also moved along. As we know, these traits are requirements in business and industry.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. Department of Education deleted “Technology Education/Industrial Arts” from its official Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) in 2010. Not a big deal? The CIP is foundational to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the primary source for data on colleges, universities, and technical and vocational post-secondary institutions in the U.S.

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Good jobs go begging

Today, business and industry are experiencing a growing skills deficit among job hunters and new hires. While members of this group may be college educated, they often lack practical hands-on job skills. These skills (and knowledge) are rapidly walking out the door with the aging Baby Boomers. This is especially true among retiring mechanic, repair, and engineering technicians.

The increasingly sophisticated equipment, machinery, and facilities found in most of our existing businesses and industries require people who are excited about working with their hands and minds, solving problems, and developing innovative solutions. There are more of these exciting and rewarding opportunities now than there likely will be in the so-called advanced-manufacturing plants of the future.

Practice makes perfect

STEM can be an academic pursuit of science, technology, engineering, and math, or it can be a meaningful skill-building experience. I choose the latter because about half of all students (and adults) learn by doing something outside of, but related to, academic content. It’s called applied learning.

Aligning STEM studies with career awareness and career-specific education will make the learning process more meaningful. Students in this setting would master STEM’s practical applications and be quick learners on the job. This applied-STEM learning approach would also fuel the curiosity that enables a student’s real-world troubleshooting/problem-solving ability and be of tremendous benefit to business and industry.

Think about it this way: The principles of music, art, medicine, and sports can be an enlightening academic pursuit. But that is not enough for a meaningful and rewarding career in these disciplines. What makes a person become a musician, artist, doctor, athlete—or maintenance technician—is when academic excellence meets performance.

What also separates academic knowledge from competent performance is repeated practice, conditioning, trial and error, and skills-building. In sports conditioning, this process is called reps. Serious career-oriented STEM students must be able to make mistakes, learn from their errors, and hone their abilities. Qualified teachers, coaches, mentors, and masters provide the framework for this applied learning.

STEM for maintenance

Most of the aging and retiring Baby Boomers working in the huge occupational fields related to installation, maintenance, and repair are products of high-school shop classes that were also known as Technology Education/Industrial Arts programs. A precipitous decline of these educational programs started in the 1980s. These should be brought back to middle schools and high schools. These classes would excite the curiosity of students, expose them to how things are made, and teach them to work with their hands and minds to actually make things under the mentoring of skilled instructors. Some of these students are then likely to either pursue careers in technology and industry or continue their post-secondary technical education, or related college degrees (the path I chose).

Is it possible to align our STEM programs with maintenance-technician career opportunities that cut across many different business and industry sectors? Is it possible to get students excited about jobs with base wages ranging from $30,000 to more than $70,000, and where employment growth is projected to be above average through 2022? Is it possible to educate students for entry-level jobs that most often require high-school career preparation along with one to two years of post-secondary technical education?

I believe there is a clear and present mandate to answer “yes” to all of the above. So let’s get on with it. Start by working with your local schools and technical/community colleges. Next month I’ll explore how we can do just that. MT

Bob Williamson, CMRP, CPMM and member of the Institute of Asset Management, is in his fourth decade of focusing on the “people side” of world-class maintenance and reliability in plants and facilities across North America. Contact him at RobertMW2@cs.com.

854

8:45 pm
August 6, 2015
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For on the Floor: NFPA 70E 2015 — Making Its Way Into Plants

Founded in 1896, the nonprofit National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), Quincy, MA, is devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards. Its work includes creation and delivery of more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach, and advocacy.

Founded in 1896, the nonprofit National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), Quincy, MA, is devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards. Its work includes creation and delivery of more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach, and advocacy.

By Rick Carter, Executive Editor

The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace—NFPA 70E—should be required reading for anyone who works on energized equipment. Revised every three years, the Standard’s latest version—the 2015 edition (which supersedes all others)—is available for purchase or free download at nfpa.org.

The several changes NFPA approves after each review period are designed to further clarify terminology and procedural descriptions to make them as simple as possible to understand, implement, and follow. Among those who regularly work on electrical equipment, the changes are ideally met with anticipation, carefully reviewed, and worked into company programs. Does this always happen? According to benchmarks such as OSHA’s annual Top 10 list of most-violated regulations in the workplace—which routinely includes several for electrical safety—the answer to this is a firm no. But when asked about the recognition and implementation of NFPA 70E and the 2015 changes in their own operations, our Maintenance Technology Reader Panelists’ were more encouraging. Here’s what they had to say:

Q: How familiar are you with the NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace and other NFPA electrical standards, and how they are implemented at your operation?

“We are very familiar at our facility because we deal with all types of electrical equipment with voltages up to 345 KV.”

… Maintenance Supervisor, Midwest

“I’m pretty well up on the 2012 edition. I do not have the newest edition, but I borrowed one to see the changes.”

… Maintenance Coordinator, Mid-Atlantic

“I am very familiar with these standards. I once was an inspector for [a large pipe-manufacturing company] and would visit plants to see if they were in compliance with OSHA 1910 Subpart S-Electrical. I’m also very familiar with NFPA 79 [the Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery].”

… Consultant, South

“I am very familiar with the NFPA standards and how they are implemented across our plants.”

… Production Support Manager, Midwest

“Very familiar. Our facility follows them as closely as possible.”

… Sr. Facilities Engineer, South

“I’m as familiar as I need to be, considering I do little electrical work. I know enough to get a qualified electrician or electrical engineer involved when building or modifying an electrical system.”

… Maintenance Engineer, West

The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace—NFPA 70E—should be required reading for anyone who works on energized equipment.

The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace—NFPA 70E—should be required reading for anyone who works on energized equipment.

Q: How familiar are you with the recent changes to 70E, a portion of which places more emphasis on electrical-equipment maintenance? Have these changes been, or will they soon be, integrated into your electrical-safety program?

“We are knowledgeable and current with the changes.”

… Maintenance Supervisor, Midwest

“The 2015 changes seem to mostly make statements clearer and change the concept from ‘hazard’ to ‘risk.’ We have implemented most of the changes from the 2012 edition. I work for a large company, so it takes time for course corrections.”

… Maintenance Coordinator, Mid-Atlantic

“I try to follow [the changes], but am overwhelmed with too many projects to do it properly.”

… Consultant, South

“I am just getting up to speed on the 2015 changes. Unfortunately, I do not see that they will be implemented due to cost savings. The safety professional who worked with the NFPA 70E Standard was laid off and no one will be taking up those duties.”

… Production Support Manager, Midwest

“I’m just beginning to study the changes. They have not been implemented yet, but will be.”

… Sr. Facilities Engineer, South

“Not familiar at all.”

… Maintenance Engineer, West

Q: How valuable are the NFPA electrical-safety standards to your operation? What improvements would you suggest, if any?

“They are very valuable.”

… Maintenance Supervisor, Midwest

“Very valuable. Through our knowledge of these codes we have influenced changes in our electrical safe-work practices and increased our personnel’s respect and appreciation for the hazards … pardon me … ‘risks’ in our chosen trade.”

… Maintenance Coordinator, Mid-Atlantic

“In most instances, the standards are 100% effective in providing safety to individuals. But as an electrical practitioner, I see times that the standards seem to put you in a more dangerous position of possibly creating an arc flash. I would hope they’ll address those areas in the future.”

… Production Support Manager, Midwest

“They are extremely valuable. We make every attempt to meet all requirements. No suggestions come to mind.”

… Sr. Facilities Engineer, South

Q: How often is electrical-safety training conducted at your operation? Is this adequate?

“Formal training is done semi-annually, while informal tailgate and job-safety review is done daily.”

… Maintenance Supervisor, Midwest

“Electrical safety is integrated into our mechanical crew training once a year, and our electricians and instrument and controls personnel have it integrated into all of their training.”

… Maintenance Coordinator, Mid-Atlantic

“In the past, we would have electrical training once a year as a refresher, and we would have extra training when the changes to NFPA 70E would come out. I do not believe this is happening now.”

… Production Support Manager, Midwest

“We conduct our electrical training annually, which is not adequate. I would like more frequent training.”

… Sr. Facilities Engineer, South

“It depends on a person’s job requirements. The more closely a person works with live circuits, the more training that person will receive.”

… Maintenance Engineer, West

Q: What is your plant’s safety record with regard to reportable issues that stem from electricity-related problems?

“We have had no OSHA-reportable injuries or minor injuries at our facility for the 30+ years I have been here. We did terminate one electrical technician during this time for electrical safety violations.”

… Maintenance Supervisor, Midwest

“Considering the size of our operation and the many facets of our various jobs, I believe our record is impressive. Some of our other plants have had incidents, but they have come to us to review our techniques and learn from us, and the entire company is safer for it.”

… Maintenance Coordinator, Mid-Atlantic

“In my work, I find multiple electrical violations in equipment and facilities. Much of the equipment coming in from China violates U.S. electrical standards in many cases. This creates problems as the equipment ages, and people will suffer and die. I do not know what the answer is. Electrical inspection seems to be a thing of the past in many companies today.”

… Consultant, South

“We had an arc flash incident in one of our plants before we implemented the NFPA 70E standards, but have not seen anything in the way of electrical issues recently.”

… Production Support Manager, Midwest

“I can’t quote a statistic, but our record is quite good. I cannot recall an electrical-related accident in the 10+ years I’ve been here.”

… Maintenance Engineer, West MT

About the MT Reader Panel

The Maintenance Technology Reader Panel includes approximately 100 working industrial-maintenance practitioners and consultants who have volunteered to answer monthly questions prepared by our editorial staff. Panelist identities are not revealed, and their responses are not necessarily projectable. The panel welcomes new members. Have your comments and observations included in this column by joining the MT Reader Panel. To be considered, email your name and contact information to rcarter@maintenancetechnology.com with “Reader Panel” in the subject line. All panelists are automatically included in an annual cash-prize drawing after one year of active participation.

614

5:36 pm
August 6, 2015
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Workforce Development: Trial-and-Error Learning

Allowing students to work with metering devices in simulation environments is an effective way to present applied math concepts. Photo courtesy of Fluke Corp.

Allowing students to work with metering devices in simulation environments is an effective way to present applied math concepts. Photo courtesy of Fluke Corp.

By Todd W. Stafford, Executive Director, Electrical Training Alliance

Past installments of this column have explored the game-changing nature of apprenticeship, coupled with the use of technology and the impact it has on effective learning. This month, we examine the effects of digital technologies/environments on apprenticeship-training models.

For truly effective programs, creators of apprenticeship training courses must be aware of the learning capabilities and desires of today’s students. Knowing how they are taught to think and implement tasks, and what their learning objectives are before they reach the level of apprenticeship, is critical to developing programs that fit their learning process. In the real world, it’s readily apparent that the thought processes and desires of past apprentices no longer mesh with those of today and tomorrow. Insisting that we remain within the same old hat of providing nothing but instructor-led training is not a sustainable model. Think about the following approaches:

An instructor teaches by presenting a single, correct method associated with whatever task or learning objective is to be achieved. This is the way we have always done it—showing students the one way to do something right the first time, every time.

On the other hand, new apprentices are probably more digitally aware and adept than their instructors. Chances are they’ve been exposed to countless hours of online gaming activities that have required them to make choices—some of them bad. Press reset and start over. The players of these games have learned by making wrong decisions. With this type of trial-and-error experience, however, they ultimately will be able to determine what the right choices should have been and, most important, why.

Both approaches reach the same result: the correct pathway. But how many times do we insist that an apprentice learn “our way” rather than teach in a way that he/she understands better? Using types of technology that today’s students have already embraced can help bridge the gap between instructors of yesterday and apprentices of today. Take, for example, how math and problem solving has been introduced to apprentices in the past and how it should be introduced for future generations. 

Traditionally, math has been presented to apprentices through a set of sequential steps that solve a problem. Application of this math to an alternating-current (AC) inductive, capacitive, and resistive (LCR) circuit, as typically found in electrical environments, would require an apprentice to understand specific formulae and solve for unknown variable(s) to reach correct solutions, and do so through memory alone.

If we were to place the same apprentice within a simulation environment—wherein he/she has a meter and a circuit with components to measure—after a period of time the student could define the same variables, solve for any unknowns, and explain to instructors why and how the results were obtained. All of this could be achieved without ever having to go through and learn a sequential set of steps to solve the problem.

Allowing apprentices to learn by making choices, albeit wrong ones, will equip them with valuable trial-and-error skills for making the right decisions. Then, with the help of an instructor, when a student works with what might have previously seemed to be a complex, irrelevant math formula, he/she will be more capable of grasping the intent and application.

There’s no doubt this method of allowing students to explore, make choices, and generally hit reset benefits apprentice learning. Adapting our educational programs to fit this model is crucial in the effective training of our next generation of craft workers. MT

tstafford@electricaltrainingalliance.org

eletricaltraininglogoThe non-profit Electrical Training Alliance (Bowie, MD), draws upon diverse partnerships within the electrical industry, all committed and devoted to training the next generation of electrical workers. It consists of 300 joint apprenticeship and training centers in the U.S. and Canada, more than 100 electrical-industry manufacturers and training partners, and a large network of public and private educational institutions. For more information, visit the Alliance’s website at electricaltrainingalliance.org.

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