Are you paying attention?

06/04/2010

This blog has been on-line for twelve months now and we have been looking at the stats over that period.

"You pays your money...."

We have two blog presences one on the Blogger platform and this one on the WordPress system. We use the blogger presence for recording press releases as we get them with little editing other then some tidying up. This WordPress blog is used however, for material we write ourselves, or those written by guest authors. Reports on technologies, events, applications, company news and what we think are interesting topics to do with the automation field all find their way here.

Because it is a fairly new venture for us we were not sure what to expect. What sort of reaction we would get. Who, or how many would visit.

The Read-out Instrumentation Signpost is the principal and oldest presence of Read-out, Ireland’s journal of instrumentation, control and automation, on the world wide web. It is visited by between 4000 to 6000 unique visitors during each week. (When we started gathering statistics around ten years ago this figure was around 500!).

So what has happened in the last twelve months on this blog site?

The stats show that almost 4500 visitors visited the blog during the period, the bulk of which occured in the final six months. The first two months showed less that 70 visitors per month but then showed a steady rise up to the current average of 400 per month. Whether that is good or bad is difficult to say and it is also difficult to analyse these figures to decide why certain topics are more popular than others. One thing that is interesting is that visits occur to different pages through the period and not just at the time they go on-line.

There are also those people who are “followers” who visit each time there is a new posting (roughly once or twice a fortnight) and that is reflected in the large percentage (ca 20%) recorded as visiting the “home page.”

Perhaps surprisingly the most visited post visited was a piece about a presentation on Industrial Security which featured at the ISAExpo’09 with about 6%. The report on the actual show itself was way down in the ratings in 16th place. The next most frequented page was the report on a press event hosed by Emerson in the Netherlands in December. This report was narrowly pipped at the post by 4 visits by the Security feature. Other Emerson events also feature in the top ten, the User Group Meeting in October at fifth and Andrew Bond’s article on their CHARM launch also in October at seventh. This probably reflects the open attitude to social networking displayed by Emerson and their customers, when compared with some other automation entities.

A very close number three on our top-ten is the report on the splitting of GE Industrial Platforms and Fanuc (August’09). This was followed by a report on what Walt Boyes has identified as the “coming together” of Invensys in July’09, a report on the re-organisation of this giant in the automation world after a traumatic decade.

At number six is an item on Longwatch’s progress towards the “HMI revolution” with their integrated video into HMI systems (November 2009). We had reported the launch of this one our other blog in September’09.

Our personal favourite!

Number eight is our own particular favourite and was a critique on a book that we came across and which was recommended by Jon DiPietro of Bridge-Soft at ISAExpo’09. The book was called Meatball Sundae by a guy called Seth Godin. This easy to read book made an impression and this posting outlined some of his ideas.

Number nine was a surprise to us as it was the one item that last year attracted the most consistent viewings. Why? Because it talked about AN1H1 or “Swine flu”. It talked about an IR measuring system which could measure body temperature at a distance and thus be used in airports and other ports of entry and identify possible sufferers before they contaminated others. We suspect that this is so high because people googling for AN1H3 or Swine Flu would find this in their search.

Number ten is one that is fast moving up the list. This is John Saysell’sTop Ten Tips for the Industrial Trainer” which was posted in January of this year.

Most referrals not surprisingly came from our own website – read-out.net – but not a few came from Longwatch, MCP Europe and Emerson as well as various twitter and other social-networking referral sites.

Obviously many of our visitor clicked on the various links from the site. These do not we feel have great significence since there are too many variables like how many times they are mentioned in various blogs etc. But top of the list is ControlGlobal’s story of the split-up of GE & Fanuc, followed by Jim Pinto’s pages, Industrial Automation Insider and Jim Cahill’s Emerson Proicess Experts.

Top searches during the period were “GE Fanuc Split”, “AN1H3”, “INVENSYS”, and various Emerson personalities it would be too invidious to mention!

We posted 107 articles and we received 17,337 messages of which 75 were legitimate and 17262 were Spam Messages (protected by Akismet, the stop comment spam used by WordPress – phew!).

A graphical representation of twelve months viewing!


Top Ten Tips for the Industrial Trainer

21/01/2010

These notes are offered in the interest of better training outcomes.

By John Saysell , Senior Trainer, MCP

Trainers Please Note!


MCP’s technical training specialises in practical learning programmes for upskilling technicians and operators. British businesses now require a more flexible, multi-skilled workforce. In the past a mechanical fitter would need an electrician to disconnect a motor from a pump. Now with basic electrical skills, the fitter can recommission the motor and get the plant up and running quicker. MCP focuses on high frequency low risk tasks to make the most impact on the bottom line.

Whether you are a team leader, a manager or a trainer, you have an interest in ensuring that training delivered to employees is effective. So often, employees return from the latest training course and it’s back to “business as usual”. In many cases, the training is either irrelevant to the organisation’s real needs or there is too little connection made between the training and the workplace or even workstation!

In these instances, it does not matter whether the training is superbly and professionally presented. The disparity between the training and the workplace just wastes resources (certainly not Lean!), resulting in mounting frustration and a growing cynicism about the benefits of training. You can turn around the wastage and worsening morale by following these Top Ten Tips on getting maximum impact from your training.

1. Make sure that the initial training needs analysis focuses first on what the learners will be required to do differently back in the workplace, and base the training content and exercises on this end objective. Many training programs concentrate solely on telling learners what they need to know, trying vainly to fill their heads with unimportant and irrelevant theory.

2. Integrate the training with workplace practice by getting managers and supervisors to brief learners before the program starts and to debrief each learner at the conclusion of the program. The debriefing session should include a discussion about how the learner plans to use the learning in their day-to-day work and what resources the learner requires to be able to do this.

3. Ensure that the start of each training session lets learners know the behavioural objectives of the programme. i.e. what the learners are expected to be able to do at the end of the training. Many session objectives that trainers write simply state what the session will cover or what the learner is expected to know. Knowing or being able to describe how someone should safely isolate an electrical supply is not the same as being able to safely isolate an electrical supply.

4. Make the training very practical. Remember, the objective is for learners to behave differently in the workplace. With possibly years spent working the old way, the new way will not come easily. Learners will need generous amounts of time to discuss and practice the new skills and will need lots of encouragement. Many actual training programs concentrate solely on cramming the maximum amount of information into the shortest possible class time, creating programs that are “nine miles long and one inch deep”. The training environment is also a great place to embed the attitudes needed in the workplace. However, this requires time for the learners to raise and thrash out their concerns before the new skills are required. Give your learners the time to make the journey from the old way of thinking to the new.

5. With the pressure to have employees spend less time away from their workplace in training, it is just not possible to turn out fully equipped learners at the end of one hour or one day or one week, except for the most basic of skills. In some cases, work quality and efficiency will drop following training as learners stumble in their first applications of the newly learned skills. Ensure that you build back-in-the-workplace coaching into the training program and give employees the workplace support they need to practice the new skills. A cost-effective means of doing this is to resource and train internal employees as trainers/coaches/assessors. You can also encourage peer networking through, for example, setting up user groups and organising “tool box” talks.

6. Bring the training room into the workplace through developing and installing on-the-job aids. These include checklists, reminder cards, process and diagnostic flow charts, training rigs and software templates.

7. If you are serious about imparting new skills and not just planning a “talking shop”, assess your participants during or at the end of the program. Make sure your assessments are realistic and genuinely test for the skills being taught. Nothing concentrates participant’s minds more than them knowing that there are definite expectations around their level of performance following the training.

8. To avoid the back to “business as usual” syndrome, align the organisation’s reward systems with the expected behaviours. Planning to give positive encouragement is much more effective than planning sanctions if they don’t use the new skills back in the work place.

9. Conduct a post-course evaluation some time after the training to determine the extent to which participants are using the skills. This is typically done three to six months after the training has finished. You can have a vocationally qualified assessor observe the participants or survey participants’ managers on the application of each new skill. Let everyone know that you will be performing this evaluation from the start. This helps to engage team leaders and managers and avoids surprises later on.

10. Lastly, celebrate the success of the programme by getting senior managers to present certificates and awards for the initial training and later on for demonstration of skills back in the workplace. For people who actually use the new skills back on the job, give them a gift voucher, crate of beer, bonus or an employee of the month award. Or you could reward them with interesting and challenging projects or make sure they are next in line for a promotion.

Organisations waste a lot of scarce resources in conducting ineffective training programs. Employee morale also suffers when employees see managers not really serious about instilling the new behaviours. By following the ten pointers above, you will have actively engaged managers in the training process and provided those all-important links between the training and the participant’s workplace. You can then sit back and enjoy the results; happy and effective employees.