PLM Deployment: Process vs. Tool Training

01/11/2014 14:25

The PLM community talks about resistance to change. In deploying PLM in an organization the PLM training is the first event where future PLM users get in touch with a PLM system. To make sure, the training is a success and is not acting like an amplifier for "resistance to change" I propose an outline of a training concept following a defined set of steps. This blog should initiate  a discussion about PLM training concepts and sharing of training experiences between trainers and trainees. 

My first trainee experience

Module Outline

The target group for the outline described here are people, who should use a PLM system in their daily work in future. For custom PLM users or C-level managers you will set up different training. In this article I assume, that the PLM deployment team developed a detailed procedure description of how to run the business process using a PLM system.

1. Training preparation

In preparing the training, the training coordinator sets up training groups regarding roles in the organization based on detailed procedure documentations and the organization chart. The training groups are set up allowing collaborative execution of tasks using a PLM training system. If your procedure documentation e.g. for "Supplier Part Approval" says you need an engineer, a purchaser, and a program manager, then the training coordinator goes into your organization chart and looks for users of these roles setting up a training group of 8 to 10 people.

2. Client setup

Then the responsible takes care that prior to the training all client computers have been checked in terms of PLM system access: the client computer reaches the server, the user has the proper login details, and the access keys are set up properly allowing execution of all tasks prepared for the training. 
On top the network installed in the training room must allow concurrent usage of the PLM server for all participants in the room without network performance losses compared to system usage in the work environment. Once I gave a training in a room located at a corner of the company building where the WLAN signal was not very strong. All participants has their laptop connected using WLAN. The trainees complained about the slow performance of the PLM system. This is not a good start.

3. Introduction into procedure execution need

Starting the training a trainer probably will allow trainees throwing a glance at the tool to fulfil their expectations, because most of the trainees expect to learn tool functionality, not procedure execution. But before starting with the PLM tool training the trainer gives an overview about PLM methodology in terms of:
- All product definition data is available in one system (in terms of user perception).
- The latest revision of product definition information is available in this system.
- If a PLM participant concerning her role gets product definition data from an external organization e.g. customer or supplier, then he has to implement them into the PLM system. The product definition data is implemented in a way allowing easy search/navigation and revisioning.
- All other PLM participants rely on product definition data in the PLM system to deliver their output and make it available to the organization in a way allowing easy search/navigation and revisioning as well.
For control of product definition changes (changes of the PLM system content) all modifications (including new content) are managed using configuration change management principles as defined in the organization, e.g. using Change Notices (for change implementation documentation) and Change Requests (for change approvals).
The trainees have to understand, that having everything in one systems requires rules to make life easy for all participants. Extended collaboration is mandatory and defined in procedures.

4. Procedure presentation

And now the trainee sees how the new procedures look like. The procedures describe who is doing what including PLM tool usage. The trainee has to understand, that the features of the new tool require adaptation of the current procedures to come to an efficient overall business process. The trainer presents examples related to the roles of the trainees, which show the efficiency gain. In going through the new procedures related to the roles of the trainees, the trainee gets aware of certain shifts of tasks, but he should get evidence that overall management takes care to keep work load balanced. This is the ‘crisis’ of the training. Only if the trainee succeeds to create a willingness for changing behaviors, she is open to run the procedures in using the new PLM tool.
The trainer is listening to procedure improvement proposals, documents them and commits to discuss them in the wrap up session at the end of the training.

5. Introduction into basic PLM tool concepts

After knowing which procedures to follow, the trainer presents the PLM tool and explains the basic PLM tool concepts like window design, opening of files, or visualization of 3D data.
Then the trainee learns how to get information out of the PLM tool required to perform her tasks. The trainer presents the items e.g. Part items, Document items. The trainee learns the difference between search and navigation and can find the items. For navigation the links between items are used, e.g. search for a Part item and navigate to the Document item revisions related to a Part item revision. The navigation through the product data structure is limited to items the trainee will use in executing his tasks. This is the first time in the training the trainee is using the PLM tool in executing an exercise.
The trainer shows the creation of items the trainee is responsible for, following the procedure description e.g. applying naming rules. Probably the trainee has to learn how he can link items to each other, e.g. Document item revisions to Part item revisions or to change items. Using search/navigation features the trainee can related her deliverables to the product data structure.
The trainer recommends strongly to generate personal cheat sheets to capture the item creation steps. Setting up cheat sheets support the learning process. Additionally the user can use them as soon as he has to execute the task by himself.
In introducing the revisioning concept the trainee learns to manage changes of his deliverables if the input document become changed.

6. Execute procedures

And now the training group using a PLM test system starts to run the procedures, which they will apply in their daily work. Test cases are prepared to give a realistic view of an initial status of data in a PLM system prior to start the procedure execution. The challenge in this part of the training is the selection of the procedure steps to execute. If the steps cover too many roles not interfacing with roles of the other participants, trainees perceive the training as boring, because they are viewing the execution of procedures they do not understand waiting for their execution portion. But if the trainees only run a few steps, they do not get an understanding of the procedure execution mechanism. There is a risk, that trainees perceive the execution of procedures as very time consuming and they get the impression, that the new procedures are by far not as efficient as the current procedures without using PLM.
If there are any issues, then the trainer documents them and commits to get back to them in the wrap up session at the end of the training.
Based on my experience I recommend to set up parallel procedure execution of test cases and motivate trainees to support each other. In concentrating to the collaborative character of the activity the boring waiting time is reduced and does not remind people to their daily painful experience to become blocked in their work because of missing deliverables, etc. We introduce PLM just to overcome this experience.

6. Wrap up

During wrap up trainees report about their experience with the new procedures. The trainer is listening carefully trying to understand and may ask questions to get a better understanding of the experience. If there are negative reports, the trainer should not try to argue.
Then the training participants go through the list of procedure proposals and issues raised during the training and ranges them by importance. The trainer commits to report important procedure proposals and issues to the PLM deployment team.

Closing Remarks

The outlined training concept has been tested in an organization deploying a PLM system. The results are promising, but the success depends on the availability of defined procedures. If the procedures are not defined detailed enough, then the trainees get lost, because they cannot envision how to executed their tasks using the new procedures together with the PLM tool.