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Post published on 19/08/2021

Interview with Harald Wolf - new ways for trainings

How do you organize a machine training? Do you explain to the machine operators how to operate the machine?
The objective of a basic training course is to enable the machine operator to operate the machine safely after the training and to instruct him when and how the machine has to be cleaned. However, we also offer advanced training courses with the focus on how to best proceed with quality and production problems in order to solve the problems, for example by changing the machine settings appropriately.

Do you also give training courses for the control system?
Yes, we do. Since I originally came from electrical engineering from my apprenticeship and my career, I can carry out the basic customer training courses on setting up the control system and troubleshooting myself. In the case of further requirements from the automation area, or the explicit customer request for software training, the colleagues from the electrical engineering department will take care of this.

Are the trainings organized in-house or at the customer’s premises?
In some cases, trainings are organized as part of the machine acceptance test in the factory, but the majority of the trainings are held on-site at the customer’s premises.


What has changed for you as a trainer due to the pandemic?
In fact, with the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, it was practically no longer possible to carry out regular customer trainings on site. During the last few months it just changed again. For me as a trainer, this meant — as in other areas of work — to use more and more digital assets. I personally had the advantage, that already in 2019 I started to explore what digital learning platforms can do for machine training.

In the meantime, we have set up the IMA Dairy & Food Online Academy based on the open source learning platform ILIAS, which will complement our range of face-to-face and online training courses in the future.

All in all, I can say that the days of  giving trainings exclusively face-to-face are a thing of the past and therefore our range of training courses is increasingly being supplemented by online offers.

Do you need a certain qualification as an online trainer or can anyone do it?
This is an important point. In an online training, you don’t have the machine in front of you, and on the other hand, it is more difficult to assess the reactions of the participants. That means you have to think carefully about what you want to convey in which way and how you can involve the participants interactively. This is a completely different training than on-site.

In fact, I used the time without face-to-face trainings to complete a further training as an online trainer. I have more than 20 years of experience as a trainer, but I was able to learn a lot during my training that I would not have been able to do with “learning by doing”.

Do you use a specific tool for online training or does it run over the usual tools for online meetings?
Most of the tools are now suitable for professional online trainings. There are a lot of tools and additional applications included which you don’t even use in usual online meetings, but are very important in online trainings, e.g. to involve the participants actively in the training.

How long have you been offering the online trainings and how many trainings have you already done?
Before the first specific customer training, I held a few internal sessions in order to gain confidence and routine. Since completing my advanced training in March this year, I have been able to give a total of three customer trainings as part of new machine trainings and just recently an online training for a customer in the USA after an upgrade of their control system on an older machine.

How much time do you calculate for an online training?
Individual sessions should not take longer than 2 hours. As a rule, the participants cannot keep their concentration longer. If it’s an extensive topic, I split it up into several individual sessions. The advantage that you can give the participants little homework between the sessions so that they can deal with the material in addition.

How is an online training with customers structured?
First of all, I have to make sure that all participants are attending the training physically, i.e. that the camera and microphone work and that they can use the online tool. The content of the training is divided into small chapters with as many interactions as possible. A main topic is the correct and clear visualization. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of online trainings compared to the offline version? 
The disadvantage of online trainings in the machine sector is, of course, that you cannot show or try anything directly on the machine. The haptic is completely missing and you can only show a small part of the machine visually, so the overall context is maybe missing. You have to compensate it with other tools in online trainings, but this cannot be achieved completely. Therefore online trainings can only be a supplement in the future, but they can be very valuable in the complete training package.

The advantage of online trainings is that you are independent of location and it is easier to integrate them into everyday work by dividing them into several sessions. Depending on the distance our customers can save a lot of expenses for travel costs. 

In my opinion, online training is almost equivalent to face-to-face training if the participants already have experience with the machine and special topics are involved. Here I can also simply ask experts to join the training for specific questions. In the case of new machines, the combination of online training for preparation and face-to-face training as practical training for the customer offers the greatest benefit.

How is the feedback from the participants?
So far, the feedback from the participants has been consistently positive, most of them told me that it is still an unfamiliar way of training. Finally, you have to take into account that my typical course participants are more likely to be the machine operators.