Any project plan begins with an analysis. Who is your customer? Are
you focusing on one department and one production line, or is the
project something that could apply to other departments and
divisions? Make sure you have a clear idea of your scope and who
will fund the project, as well as who must provide input into your
final project plan. Early on, identify your points of contact and
establish your customer's communication requirements for updates.
Of course, don't be surprised if the scope expands once you get
started. If you provide something your customer likes, others may
want it too.
In manufacturing we have a variety of departments, systems, and
processes driven by the people we are employed to help develop and
improve. Make sure you have a clear idea of the process flow and a
list of all of the support functions within the organization. It is
our job to understand the relationship between departments and
integrate our products and services into those systems and
processes. Although you may be developing a training solution for
the production line, for instance, list all of all of the
departments that support production. Failure to do so can limit
your ability to create value for your organization.
Let's work through an example so you can see what I mean.
You have been contacted by a department leader to help him prepare
his employees for a new piece of equipment. It creates the same
product as the old piece of machinery but it is more automated, has
a computer, and runs much faster.
Safety and environmental
Touch base with your safety and environmental representatives
involved with this department to make sure you build in all of the
appropriate precautions into any training deliverables. Find out
their concerns about the old piece of machinery, as well as with
the new machinery coming in. Engage them to review your
deliverables to make sure you have covered all the appropriate
Quality control and regulatory compliance
Are there changes to existing regulatory requirements for either
the product or the new equipment? What, if anything, will the
operators need to do differently to maintain a finished product
that meets product standards? In many food and non-food product
lines alike, your quality assurance person could be the subject
matter expert who can provide information on product standards and
how the new process might affect them.
Subject matter experts
The operators on the existing line will probably have a list of
questions about the new piece of equipment. Facilities often send
your SMEs to another facility to learn about the new equipment or
send an already-trained SME to your facility. In either case,
engage them throughout all stages of your project from design and
development through implementation.
Maintenance and engineering
One of the next people to talk to is the project manager or
engineer. Ask what is different about this new piece of equipment
from an operator's perspective. Isolate what additional knowledge
or skills an operator needs. Does the equipment have new fail safes
or safety features, automated controls, or a touch screen computer
console? Are the transfer processes entering or exiting this piece
of equipment going to affect the upstream or downstream processes?
Will there be any changes to the materials fed into the machine, or
will any special tools be required? Also touch base with the
maintenance leader over this product line. Are there any new
mechanical or electrical components or programmable logic
controller upgrades that existing maintenance staff must learn?
Find out what resources are available from the equipment
manufacturer. Do they have an operator's guide or training manuals
available? Was manufacturer training negotiated as part of the
Keep manufacturer training in mind any time you are included in
discussions about new equipment purchases, and ask that the vendor
include training and support materials in the purchase price. In
fact, I recommend maintaining an ongoing relationship with your
purchasing representative. He can help you make sure you get what
you need from the vendor up front, and help you see where you can
leverage other purchasing power throughout your organization in
other departments and divisions. Large organizations have an
incredible opportunity to combine their bargaining power when they
Keep your purchasing department on your list of resources for your
project needs as well. They can help you find the right vendors
with company discounts for supplies and materials. Should you
determine you need outside resources for the training, they can
help you prepare an RFP that specifies exactly what you want from a
vendor. This is a much more efficient way to get exactly what you
want, and your purchasing department can add in the standard
language your company requires to protect its interests around
confidentiality and proprietary information.
Sales and customer service
In this particular scenario you might not need any input from sales
or customer service unless there is product data about returns or
claims from the existing product line. Depending upon your
organization, you may also get customer complaint information from
your quality assurance representative. The department leader may be
able to help you understand the relevant sales information, such as
the proposed increased production and product demand if there are
no sales representatives at your facility.
Let's say you decide to hire a contractor to help create custom
training materials of the new equipment consisting of photographs
and drawings. Before the first photo is taken, you need agreements
in place to protect any proprietary information concerning the new
production line and how your company operates. This may be standard
language your purchasing department has in place, but be sure to
ask what legal resources you have available to you. The last thing
you want is for a contractor to take the materials they develop
specific for your facility and sell them to another company.
Documentation and management of change processes
Although the projects we manage are focused on human performance,
we also have the potential to act as change agents. Our
deliverables are intended to improve the performance of people, but
if we have done our job right, their improved performance will
ultimately improve our company's bottom line through reduced
downtime, improved cycle times, reduced waste, reduced overtime,
and improved finished product quality. Make sure you know how your
organization manages change or if there is a management of change
(MOC) process or procedure you must follow.
What documents are currently in place? Is there a need to change
any policies, procedures, or work instructions for this line? If
changes are necessary, what is the process for making them? You
might not be responsible for writing those documents, but they will
be an important part of your training resources. Find out if
current documents are paper based or electronic and if you will be
able to make copies for training. If so, what document control
procedure exists to prevent uncontrolled copies? Find out who
maintains any files or documents you need.
In addition to document control, MOC means following a systematic
approach to making change to minimize risk. However, if you have
touched base with all of the functional areas listed above, you
will undoubtedly have made contact with all of the individuals who
facilitate your company's MOC processes.