DB Breweries engaged The Learning Wave (TLW) to design and deliver an innovative literacy and numeracy programme that aimed to build 20 employees’ skills and confidence in communicating, presenting, problem-‐solving and the use of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) tools. Within the programme the participants were placed in kaizen teams to work on particular workplace problems. The literacy and numeracy learning provided the underpinning skills and these where then applied through the kaizen team approach to real workplace rather than simulated issues.
“We see literacy and numeracy as being more than just about reading and writing – it’s about having the skills to understand and effectively communicate with your team what is happening in your area or on your machine,” says DB’s National Training and Development Manager, Simon Williams. “We recognise that literacy and numeracy are the foundation required to allow DB to achieve our Brewery of the Future vision. The learners on the programme do their jobs well, but now, and moving forward there will be more and more challenges such as self-‐managing teams, presenting and leading team meetings, increased and changing use of technology and problem solving requirements.”
DB has run literacy and numeracy programmes in the past, but this time wanted to create a programme directly focussed on business outcomes, a programme that would provide the opportunity to immediately apply the learnings to current business problems within the scope of the learners role within the business.
So, having identified the issue, the next step was connecting with a training provider who understood the business needs and was prepared to work in a collaborative way to design and deliver a programme around the approach DB was expecting. DB selected TLW who then went through a full process to identify the needs at the individual and business level and use this information to plan the approach and develop and design the learning programme.
TLW’s Learning Designer, Shyamini Szeko, commented on the importance of this phase. “For TLW the process was very much about getting to understand the business and the Kaizen: Unified Problem Solving approach. We needed to unpick it, simplify it and build the course around it. The language around kaizen and problem solving is challenging for those who don’t have a post school education. We applied our usual process that sees a lot of investment upfront. We spend a lot of time in the analysis phase. It is important to take the time to do this. It includes research, talking to workers and management, site visits, testing learners and having lots of conversations with Simon and the tutor. This gets us to a Learning Solutions report that is signed off by the company. It is an approach that gets agreement and also gives us an idea of how to brand and position the training within the company.”
This is the process that DB expects as the organisation believes that for programmes like this to work, they have to be entirely tailored to the business and that literacy and numeracy sits within the DB content – with the content as the driver. “If you just do literacy and numeracy it singles them out as not that smart, there is a stigma. This programme was about building the skills to attack and solve problems with the literacy and numeracy element providing the basis for this. Our plan was to eventually run the programme for all our packaging operators. They guys who didn’t do the programme initially felt they had missed out. We plan to run the programme again this year, and apply our learnings from last year to improve it,” says Simon.
Literacy and numeracy were embedded into the programme and taught in a very deliberate way so the operators could get to grips with the problem solving tool. “The tool was a stretch for them,” said TLW Facilitator, Dylan Patchett. “They’d used it to solve simple problems, but they needed to understand problems in detail and each stage of the process requires different skills. Critical thinking around numbers made them realise they really had to understand the problem to solve it.”
The learning programme was delivered in four-‐hour blocks over ten weeks. Workers were paid overtime, attending class either side of their shifts. This worked well from both the business and learners’ perspectives. “Four hours outside of work is the right way to go, so the lines are always manned. But it’s hard work with kids and outside commitments. The things that keep me going are the knowledge and getting paid to learn. It’s win-‐win – you can’t go wrong with that,” says Packaging Technician, Kalina A’a, one of the participants. The business also committed time outside the classroom for the teams together on their projects.
Using the kaizen problem-‐solving approach meant the learners, in their teams, were confronted with
having to solve real workplace problems. They developed ownership of problems and their
solutions. Along with this they developed problem solving, data gathering and communication skills. Simon commented, “We didn’t just want it to be classroom based. We wanted it to be on the floor with activities. The skills they learn in the classroom – for example presenting graphs and charts -‐ we want them to be able to use on the floor when they run their Champion Team meetings.”
One of the problems investigated by a team of learners was how to reduce the cleaning process from six to four hours. To do this they needed to look at the tasks completed in the six hours and look at the procedures. Literacy and numeracy is included in the data gathering phase where the learners looked at how a task is carried out and how long it takes, and then consider whether it can be reduced in some way without reducing quality. The initial reaction was that it ‘couldn’t be done’. But using the knowledge from the classroom and applying it on the shop floor the cleaning process was reduced to four hours.
So beyond thorough analysis and planning, workplace relevant learning and time for application in the workplace – what else does it take for a successful programme? Packaging Manager, Paulo Sua believes it’s about getting support and buy-‐in from senior management, being able to apply the learning on the shop floor and realising that there is something in it for the business and the individual. “We have a vision of what the shop floor will look like in five years. We want to take the operators and turn them into technicians. We share our ideas with the guys.”
DB measures the success of the programme in a number of ways. Firstly at the return on investment level through the increase in productivity that has happened as a result in the overall reduction in down time on various machines that occurred through the application of the problem-‐solving skills. The TPM manager, Ken Pala’aia talks about noticing a change in the skill levels of the workers. “I noticed a shift in peer to peer communication. There are more discussions about how they can do things better. The programme has given us a great platform to further develop our shop floor’s knowledge of problem solving tools. As a business we know where we want to go and we are taking our workers with us.”
The workers also realise the difference it has made to their overall confidence levels, their ability to communicate in the workplace. “I’ve got more confidence, speaking out more with workmates, small groups, on the production line. I talk at team meetings – too much!” says Packaging Technician, Ray Matulino. Sam Fonua, also a Packaging Technician, spoke about the difference the course has made to him generally. It has given him the confidence to realise that he can go on to be a supervisor in the future. In his current job, kaizen has become a tool for him to use to challenge the engineers who may not recognise that the operators have the problem solving skills.
The workers also think it’s made a difference to their way of working. “Kaizen helped us to identify the root cause of things that can occur on a daily basis. It’s one of the tools. We used to show the engineer and they would fix it. It used to be written in documents, but now we capture the problem,” says Packaging Technician, Rima Akama. Ray and Rima also talked about understanding the process better, having and more in-‐depth knowledge about how to use the tool. “I understand the process,” says Ray. “The fault, data gathering, studying data, going back to the drawing board. I saw what other teams were doing, looked at their data. As an outsider looking in you see it from another point to view.”
And the impact on literacy and numeracy? Reading, numeracy and writing all improved with the biggest improvement coming with writing. David O’Connor, TLW’s Business Development manager puts this down to the amount of writing the workers had to do to document their problem solving approach and in putting their presentations together.
The completion of the 10 week programme wasn’t the end for DB. The company sees the programme in the same way as, for example, a person having driving lessons – you learn to drive, but in lots of ways, it’s only once you have passed your test that you really ‘learn to drive’ through
practice and gaining more experience. The learners from the programme continue to use the kaizen tool and apply it to other problems. DB also intends to run a second wave of the programme in 2016 with the people who were not included in the pilot group. Along with this, the learners from the original program will be included in the kaizen teams for the 2016 programme to support and guide the learners.