Driven by changes in workforce demographics, mobile technologies are starting to play a bigger role in many manufacturers' training programs.

Workforce: Two Clicks Away

July 11, 2013
"When you look at the education level of the workforce in the factory today, where at least 50% of the workers have some college education, there's a growing expectation that people are going to get their training content mobilely," says Georgene Berman, product manager for Rockwell Automation.

It's no secret that the business world is undergoing a tectonic shift in the ways information is transmitted, especially with regard to social media and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Manufacturers have started to identify this shift as one of the key factors fueling the skilled-worker shortage they face, and are therefore looking for ways to counter it. Some, for example, have started to explore training their employees via wireless and mobile technologies. In so doing, they're seeking to gain a leg up on other companies when it comes to attracting and retaining tomorrow's workforce.

See Also: Manufacturing Workforce Management Best Practices

Georgene Berman ǀ Product Manager, Rockwell Automation

Taking note of this trend, Rockwell Automation has introduced a series of new-media training tools for manufacturers, including two iBooks and a mobile application aimed at aiding plant-floor troubleshooting. The iBooks came out late last year. At press time, the mobile app's release was imminent; according to Rockwell Product Manager Georgene Berman, it was scheduled to become available on iTunes in late June.

Berman says that while she doesn't think mobile and wireless technologies will ever totally supplant instructor-led training, she does think these new media will eventually play a central role in most manufacturers' training mix.

"There are more mobile devices in use today than there are computers," Berman says. "And when you look at the education level of the workforce in the factory today, where at least 50% of the workers have some college education, there's a growing expectation that people are going to get their training content mobilely."

Haste Makes ... Happy Customers

The increasing speed and ease with which information can be obtained compels manufacturers to deliver the right solution for their customers the first time—and quickly.

"If I'm a factory floor worker and I'm in a down situation, or I'm being asked to do some type of maintenance on the equipment, and I need to reference some type of content—well, as you know, we're becoming a culture of 'Give it to me right away,' " Berman says. "They want that information to be available immediately, two clicks away."

This is especially true of post-Boomers, Berman notes. Young adults have grown accustomed to getting the information they need instantly, which is why Rockwell decided to start developing training products to take advantage of the new media.

"The next generation that's coming through the factory, as we try harder and harder to attract them—you know, they don't want to get their information out of a book," she says. "They're used to everything being instantaneous, and they're used to getting information delivered to them mobilely. They don't want to go to a technical documentation library and pull out a book to try to reference what's going on on the factory floor."

Ultimately it comes down to the need for speed and convenience. Workers want their information now, and they want it delivered to a device they can carry in their pocket.

Learn how Georgia's Quick Start program is providing manufacturers with targeted training that enables faster start-up of operations at

"The sense of urgency—of being able to respond right away with the very best solution—that's what we're trying to address," Berman says. "That's what we're doing with this troubleshooting guide. With our experience and knowledge of our equipment, we want to able to make the best solution available a couple clicks away. That's what companies want, and we're responding to it."

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