Human element gains value in control, manufacturing equation

Many firms are trying to evaluate and maximize the positive impact of intangible assets—beyond image and branding—which were often ignored in the past. How? By increasing training, naturally, and including newer concepts, such as web-based learning and realignment of employees' learning, performance, and passions with their organization's redefined core purposes.

By Jim Montague, News Editor February 1, 2001

Many firms are trying to evaluate and maximize the positive impact of intangible assets—beyond image and branding—which were often ignored in the past. How? By increasing training, naturally, and including newer concepts, such as web-based learning and realignment of employees’ learning, performance, and passions with their organization’s redefined core purposes. These were among recommendations from a five-person panel and its audience during an International Media Event on Dec. 5, 2000, which preceded Rockwell Automation’s Allen-Bradley Automation Fair in Philadelphia.

Education’s value

Richard Chang, ceo, Richard Chang and Associates Inc. (Irvine, Calif.), says it’s well known that learning programs can cut costs by reducing rework and aiding employee retention, but he adds it’s less well known that these efforts are as highly valued by Wall Street as they are by customers. “Some of the research we did at the American Society for Training and Development found that organizations that invested in learning and performance initiatives actually had stock values three to four times greater than their competitors in the same market,” he says.

Transformed training

Cliff Purrington, learning and development manager, Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, Ia.), says simple employee access to education is vital for a worldwide organization. During its evolution from an old instructor-led program into an e-learning center, Mr. Purrington says his team quickly learned it couldn’t limit training to business hours on weekdays at company headquarters.

Consequently, Rockwell Collins set up 16 learning centers across its major locations. The company developed more than 300 training courses, available anytime on the Internet. Mr. Purrington also reassigned 18 trainers to work with business units and teams to develop training that supports company business goals.

Learn on the line

Cliff Wilson, senior lead engineer, HK Systems Inc. (New Berlin, Wis.), reports HK recently helped Harley Davidson improve its engine assembly operation with a production line monitoring system that directs workers through the normal assembly process. It also collects real-time assembly data, which are later used to pinpoint problems and quality improvement opportunities for the operator, parts, assembly, or overall process.

“This system’s graphical user interface has really helped the operators’ learning process,” says Mr. Wilson. “Assembly operations often go through a lot of new employees, but this system takes them through the assembly process, so they don’t have to learn it with another person instructing them. This helps reduce training costs.”

Beyond training—retaining knowledge

In addition to web-enabled and real-time training, several panelists added that companies should also reexamine their work environments, not just to ensure that performance improvements stick, but also to find previously unidentified problems that may not be influenced by training. To secure “tribal knowledge” from individuals and small groups of longtime employees before retirement, Mr. Purrington says Rockwell Collins outlines many critical tasks on storyboards, films longtime staffers performing them, and in 12 hours produces CD-ROMs with 20-minute presentations on those jobs. So far, Rockwell has produced 22 presentations, and plans to create 50 more.

For more information, visit www.automation.rockwell.com ; visit www.hksystems.com ; visit www.collins.rockwell.com ; or visit www.controleng.com .

Author Information
Jim Montague, news editor, jmontague@cahners.com

Gauging Intangible Assets

Company: Intel Corp.

Tangible assets: $24 billion

Visible equity: $17 billion

Market value: $110 billion

Difference between equity and market value: $93 billion

Intangible assets: Significant, though undefined, portion of $93 billion equity-value difference

Source: Control Engineering with data from Rockwell Automation

New Approaches to Old Problems

Problem: Increasing health insurance costs

Old solution: Form large group to secure volume discounts on healthcare services and prescriptions

New solution: Seek out root causes of need for medication; focus on employee as total person; offer preventive health and wellness programs to help reduce need for reactive healthcare services.

Source: Control Engineering with data from Rockwell Collins