Digital Work Instructions - training the new manufacturing workforce

Scrap the classrooms and textbooks; for today’s new manufacturing recruits, they may do more harm than good.

Better knowledge distribution and transfer is pivotal to training and retaining your staff, and ultimately future-proofing your frontline. However, traditional training methods may hinder the process and restrict your workforce's confidence, productivity, and overall effectiveness.

This article looks at how traditional training methods fall short when onboarding, upskilling, and retaining your workforce and how interactive digital work instructions  can be deployed to address the most critical training and knowledge management challenges within manufacturing.

From enabling faster, less error-prone execution in processes from assembly to maintenance and repair, to improving morale, performance, and staff retention, interactive digital work instructions can have a dramatic impact across the manufacturing organization, while reinforcing a culture of learning, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration.

Rethink traditional training methods

Traditional training methods in manufacturing organizations typically involve either job-shadowing – where a learner observes a more experienced worker – or classroom scenarios which depend on passive learning and text-heavy manuals and documents.

Job shadowing is the richer experience for the learner, but has two important drawbacks: First, it takes experienced workers away from their principal (and most productive) responsibilities; and, second, it risks the learner being exposed to any non-standard workarounds which may have evolved among the experienced workforce.

The challenges associated with classroom learning, on the other hand, are familiar to most of us. It’s difficult to gauge attention and knowledge retention in a room full of trainees, particularly when there is no ‘hands-on’ element to the training. Moreover, younger generations of workers are less comfortable with textbooks and written learning, particularly where there is a diversity of language skills.

The experience of the new generation of workers is an important consideration. Recruiting, training, and retaining the best quality workforce is a huge challenge. U.S. manufacturing faces 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030, with the available workforce younger, digital-native, and including a substantial non-native speaking cohort. Employees who are not effectively trained make more mistakes, and are therefore more likely to leave the business, scrapping the investment that has been made to hire and educate them.

So an ideal training paradigm for U.S. manufacturing today is one that:

  • Offers the most engaging, product- and process-centric learning experience
  • Minimizes disruption to primary operations
  • Ensures undocumented ‘workarounds’ are kept out of the learning process
  • Meets the needs of a diverse and digital-native workforce
  • Ensures maximum clarity and knowledge retention

Success in manufacturing today depends on your ability to modernize your training methods. This means ensuring they are accessible, deliver clarity, and provide experiential learning without disrupting operations.

Cue interactive digital work instructions.

How interactive digital content helps train and retain staff

Interactive digital work instructions enable manufacturers to promote faster, more effective learning. They change how knowledge is delivered and consumed, giving learners greater autonomy and a non-disruptive virtual interactive experience which is proven to accelerate knowledge transfer and improve retention, leading to faster task completion and fewer errors.

Crucially, interactive digital content  speaks to the content-consumption preferences of the next generation of manufacturing workers

Here's how interactive digital work instructions address the weaknesses of traditional training methods:

1. Interactive digital work instructions speak to modern workforce needs

Manufacturing Workforce

According to Forbes, 75% of the workforce will be millennials by 2025. To attract and, more importantly, retain new hires, training methods must adapt to the needs of the modern workforce.

Those needs? Digitization. Up to 71% consider the degree to which an organization embraces technology and innovation as a critical influencing factor in their choice of an employer. In addition, a study by LinkedIn revealed that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if there were an investment in employee learning and development.

By deploying interactive digital work instructions manufacturers signal their understanding that the younger workforce prioritizes the availability of digital tools within the workplace and demonstrate their commitment to delivering a modern employee experience.

And, where digital work instructions are in use throughout the organization, employees are able to learn processes using the same technological experiences which they will be expected to navigate when they are operational employees.

2. Interactive digital work instructions boost knowledge retention

Although 1:1, on-the-job instruction can be a highly effective way of learning (preferred over classroom instruction and textbooks), it is disruptive and time-consuming. Interactive digital work instructions replicate the hands-on experience without draining essential resources.

Learning from moving images - statistics

Learning is enhanced when information is presented in a combination of visual and audio formats so that it can be processed simultaneously. Compared to paper-based instructions or in-class learning, interactive digital instructions significantly increase the user's ability to engage with a task, leading to quicker comprehension, faster training time, and reduced errors on the shop floor.

Users can access interactive visual content that allows them to learn via precise 3D visualizations, narrated animation, and interactive models. Users can view objects from all angles and control the viewing, which increases success and motivation. This style of learning can reduce cognitive load and allows the user to focus on the relevant aspects of complex tasks, clearing more cognitive capacity for long-term memory.

3. Interactive digital work instructions democratize information

Training methods should allow everyone to understand faster, with greater clarity, and in less time. However, in an ever-increasingly diverse and multinational work

manufacturing content creators collaborating

environment, communicating critical information and creating training content becomes significantly more complex. Traditional training methods add to the complexities and are often restrictive as they allow little flexibility in accommodating non-native English speakers.

In our research, we found that 81% of manufacturing employees aged 25 to 34 felt text-heavy documentation to be challenging due to the diversity of first languages and reading skills within their organization. Only 66% of those within the 45 – 54-year-old age group agreed; showing that workforce attitudes are changing by generation.

Interactive digital work instructions, however, allow training organizations to ensure learning material promotes absolute clarity of understanding. It does this by limiting the use of text and promoting interactive 3D models, animations, and information mapping. In addition, interactive digital training tools allow all employees to become visual communicators and translate complex data and ideas into visual assets for a broad audience and demographic.

Choosing the right interactive digital training solution

Not all digital work instructions are created equal. So, for your organization to benefit from the full transformative power of shifting to interactive digital work instructions as your primary training method, there are some core capabilities you should look for:

interactive digital work instructions on a tablet, animated gif
  • Content creation should be simple and fast. It’s no good moving to a new type of documentation if it takes your content team five times as long to generate learning materials
  • Tech stack integrations are important. Can your interactive content solution integrate with other key platforms such as PLM for 3D model access and MES for content consumption?
  • The ability to easily create animated content from your 3D product models. Animations are proven to be more effective at driving knowledge retention
  • The ability to embed interactive 3D models which allow user-led learning experiences. Interactivity beats static drawings and text every time.

Fortunately, you don't have to spend additional time trying to create interactive digital work instructions that meet the above criteria. Instead, check out our article on How to Create Interactive Digital Work Instructions for everything you need to know about what your interactive digital training solution should include and how to create it.

It doesn't end with better training

The transformative power of interactive digital work instructions doesn’t end with better training. Instead, the effect of interactive digital content cascades across the entire manufacturing ecosystem and flows into manufacturing, maintenance and repair, and our into the wider ecosystem.

At Canvas we believe that you learn best through experience. So experience Canvas Envision yourself and learn more about how you can drive faster and more successful learning, improve employee performance and increase satisfaction and retention in one fell swoop.

collaborative creativity

Envision is about working together.

You can share the documents you’re working on with colleagues and team members wherever they’re located. They can interact, mark-up, feed-back, clarify, and sign off. Perfect for working in distributed teams, for checking product details with your engineering team and for clearing the finished document with sales and business development teams.

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