Keep maintenance staff informed with break room training

Plant personnel receive training on plant assets during their free time.

By Martin Tauber and Jim Lowe, Barber Foods

With approximately 40% of the aging workforce set to retire in the next few years, it’s imperative that corporations do everything they can to educate their younger maintenance technicians with the knowledge of the senior technicians, so when the older senior techs retire, there will not be a void of lost knowledge commonly known as “corporate amnesia.”

“Break through training” is a concept that’s been implemented at Barber Foods and can be implemented anywhere to keep maintenance staff informed and trained, while saving the company money through fewer breakdowns and better productivity.

This training method arose from Barber’s need to keep maintenance associates well-informed and up to date on the many and varied pieces of equipment on the production floor. Barber has more than 682 pieces of production equipment, not counting facilities, and 300 different types and pieces of equipment in use including hydraulics, electrical, robotics, conveyors, formers, compressors and breaders.

Prior to the creation of “Break Through Training,” Barber would create videos of important training that was presented by manufacturer reps and vendors as part of the maintenance training library, which was kept in an office and loaned out upon request. This way, the training was consistent, and approximately 50 training DVDs were amassed in the library, but few members of the maintenance staff were using the training.

Figure 1. With each video constantly playing, maintenance associates are exposed to the entire training video during breaks and lunch times.
Figure 1. With each video constantly playing, maintenance associates are exposed to the entire training video during breaks and lunch times.

Because the only time during work hours when a maintenance associate isn’t occupied with PMs and CMs is during breaks and lunch time, the videos were programmed to play in a loop in the break room. Most of the training videos are between 30 minutes and an hour. Breaks are 10 minutes, and lunches are 30 minutes. With each video constantly playing, the maintenance associate is exposed to the entire training video during breaks and lunch times (Figure 1). It may take a full week to have viewed the entire video, and most of the time the portions will be the same segment they’ve viewed before, but by simply viewing it repeatedly the techniques and steps contained in the video will be retained in the memory of the maintenance associate. In the beginning, not all of the maintenance associates accepted watching the training videos during their lunches and breaks. Some would turn the volume down. As more videos were made that included the technicians themselves, acceptance grew and now the concept is being accepted, and, in some cases, requests are being made for certain videos to be shown.

When presented to senior management for approval, the program was met with mixed emotions. It was a new concept in training, but the need to train maintenance associates was important. This concept would have a minimal cost to start, and the end result would far outweigh the startup costs associated with the purchase of the needed equipment.

The concept was approved by the director of technical services, Scott Schmitz. The IT department was consulted to see what it had in the way of a CPU and screen for use, but the available equipment was antiquated and incapable of meeting the need to play multiple videos and PowerPoint slides.

A local electronics supplier ended up constructing a CPU with a large hard drive and a fast processor, with no monitor, keyboard or mouse, to the program’s requirements. Size and space limitations were a factors in deciding on a monitor, so a 28-in. flat screen with built-in CD/DVD player was obtained.

The flat screen was placed on the wall in the lunch room, while the CPU was placed in the adjoining room, running the wires through a hole in the wall. A wireless mouse and keyboard made it easier to access the CPU and load the videos. The setup was made to be a stand-alone unit, not connected to the plant’s LAN.

A new video camera with a 60 GB internal hard drive that provided us 14 hours of recording time was purchased. An editing program and collapsible tripod also were obtained.

All existing training videos were loaded on the computer with strict attention to naming conventions, and the flat screen’s resolution was adjusted to display the training videos.

Weekly video selections are relegated to a single topic or theme and play one after another in a continuous loop. The keyboard and mouse are removed to enhance system security and prevent unauthorized videos from being played.

Barber does all of its in-house training for lock-out, tag-out (LOTO) and powered industrial truck (PIT) with authorized trainers. Most of the time, attempting to locate an available classroom with the necessary video player and monitor can be daunting. The built-in CD/DVD player offers a private classroom for maintenance training that is always available, which has made the certification process much more streamlined. The safety department has a similar monitor setup in the main cafeteria for the entire production staff. Personal safety is a top concern at Barber Foods.


Martin Tauber is maintenance trainer and Jim Lowe is TPM manager at Barber Foods in Portland, Maine. They will present Break-Through Training on Oct. 19 at the SMRP Annual Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina. Visit www.smrp.org/conference to register. Email the presenters at martin_tauber@barberfoods.com and jim_lowe@barberfoods.com.

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