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Chesterton Cuts Training Time in Half with VKS

July 7, 2021

Chesterton Cuts Training Time in Half with VKS

Experienced workers are a major asset to any organization. They have the experience to solve complex problems and the vision to push forward under any circumstance. Training new employees to this level of proficiency takes countless hours… or does it?

Chesterton is proving that with innovative tools like VKS, sharing advanced expertise and knowledge with the next generation of workers is easier and faster than ever.

Chesterton is a world-class provider of sealing solutions that enable manufacturers to pump liquid and air reliably and efficiently. From a wide variety of mechanical seals to pump packing materials and more, Chesterton is a leader in design and quality.

With being the first company to offer commercially viable split seals for plant-wide use, Chesterton has a long-standing history of cutting-edge technology and innovation.

It was this drive towards innovation that led them to seek out the best methods to train their new employees and advance the skills of their already well-established workers. Let’s explore how Chesterton leveraged VKS Enterprise to create an innovative training program and effectively share knowledge across their workforce.

Sharing Tribal Knowledge with the Next Generation

Chesterton has a long history of providing an exceptional working environment for their workforce. For this reason, it is unsurprising to find employees that have been working with the company for 20, 30, or even 40 years. These employees have been the backbone of the operation, holding onto years of tribal knowledge.

But increasingly, within the manufacturing industry and elsewhere, the mindset of contemporary workers is not to stay with a company for such prolonged periods. In 2020, the average U.S. job tenure of people in manufacturing was only 5.1 years. This poses a major problem when most of a company's assembly knowledge is stored in the heads of their experienced employees.

What happens when all this experience leaves for retirement or other opportunities? How do we share their success and experience with the next generation? Three years ago, Chesterton faced this very challenge.

“Chesterton was at a point where their employees with tribal knowledge were retiring. Some of these smart people have been working with us for decades. It’s dangerous for a company to have only a couple of people that can perform a particular process. We are making it so that a process that only a few people know is now a process that anyone can do.”

George Englis

George Englis,

Manager of Operational Training

By incorporating our work instruction software into their operations, Chesterton has been able to share the experience and know-how of their employees with the next generation of workers.

Now, experienced and inexperienced workers alike have the same access to the company’s tribal knowledge. This creates incredible resilience for the workforce and enables Chesterton to significantly reduce the time it takes to train new employees.

Cutting Training Time in Half

With multiple processes involving 60+ assembly steps, the job of a Chesterton operator is complex and requires a massive amount of competence. Getting every new operator up to speed on each seal assembly takes time and effort, especially if the operators are expected to hold all this information in their heads.

George Englis, Chesterton’s Manager of Operational Training, explained to us that their new operators are people with little to no experience in assembling mechanical seals. Often, the expectation is to bring these people up to speed on every process and procedure in a matter of weeks. For this to be possible, George and his team needed a smart solution.

By leveraging the power of work instruction software, Chesterton implemented an advanced training program that combines interactive e-learning in the classroom and real-time learning on the job. This advanced training solution is cutting their onboarding/training time in half and getting their new workers out on the shop floor sooner than ever before.

“VKS is being used in our core business which is mechanical seal assembly. Seal assembly is a relatively complex process and some of our seals require around 65 steps. Each step needs to be done in a particular way and in a particular sequence. With VKS, we’ve been able to cut our training time in half. We went from a two-month training program to a one-month program. This has been a huge asset for our training and will continue to be a huge asset as we move forward.”

George Englis, Manager of Operational Training

Chesterton employee in training

Finding it beneficial to orient new trainees in the classroom setting, Chesterton uses VKS to create an interactive e-learning curriculum. The classroom is set up with touch screen monitors that run their various guidebooks. Every screen, including the one used by the instructor, is connected to a projector and the class shares the interactive training experience together. They go through the simplest procedures, progressively moving up to more complex guidebooks.

Once trainees have demonstrated a certain level of competency in properly assembling mechanical seals, they progress to real-time learning at a bench on the shop floor. Here, they begin assembling seals by following the same guidebooks they saw in the classroom. They see the same pictures and the same instructions.

VKS guides the employees with the right information at the right time so that little supervision is needed. Best of all, the employee is creating reliable value before training is fully finished.

This blended approach has enabled Chesterton to significantly cut down on the time it takes for their employees to get out on the shop floor and work independently. By providing them with powerful process instructions, every employee has access to key knowledge.

Surpassing Quality Goals

Chesterton manufactures mechanical seals and other products for a wide range of industries, such as chemical processing, pulp and paper, food & beverage, and more. With a wide range of needs and expectations, it can be difficult to keep track of the required specifications and tribal knowledge connected to each customer.

VKS is helping Chesterton share their tribal knowledge through well-documented and standardized instructions. Every worker follows the same directions and completes tasks the same way. This helps them meet the expectations and requirements of their customers and push quality control beyond their goals.

“Recently, we had a goal of achieving a 20% reduction in customer complaints. We beat that and achieved a reduction of 37%! And VKS has played a role in achieving that goal. It is a key piece in how we train people and how we ensure they perform the right actions at the right time.”

George Englis, Manager of Operational Training

VKS also enables Chesterton to gain increased visibility across their shop floor. With insight into how specific products were built and who built them, Chesterton can pinpoint problems and address them specifically. This helps George Englis and his team to better evaluate root causes and enact quality measures that positively impact the production line.

Emphasizing Quality with Strong Visuals

When presenting information and complex sequences of actions, pictures and videos are strong sources of context and understanding. Our work instruction software is helping Chesterton workers know their product in a deeply visual way.

One example of this is that Chesterton uses a combination of pictures outlining the characteristics of both properly and improperly assembled seals. This enables workers to quickly recognize if the product is assembled correctly.

“We use photos to demonstrate the action. Showing good and bad picture examples are very important for us because if a mechanical seal is assembled incorrectly, it will be visually apparent to the operator.”

George Englis, Manager of Operational Training

George Englis also remarked to us that they use arrows, magnifications, text, numbered steps, and other VKS tools to further annotate and support their procedures and directions.

Chesterton employee in training

Continuous Improvement Made Easy

Before using VKS, Chesterton’s process instructions were written on paper. This made it difficult to track where their documents were, who was using them, and update their processes efficiently. It was even more difficult to ensure that new improvements were being followed.

But now, our work instruction software is making it easier for Chesterton’s process engineers to regularly enact continuous improvement. By using the visual interface of our work instruction software, process engineers can update their guidebooks from anywhere. This ensures that everyone has the latest process instructions and visual guides.

“One of the great abilities of VKS is the ability to revise guidebooks quickly and easily. I always think about it like saving for retirement. You need to make a little bit of an investment in developing your processes as you go. You’re only going to benefit. VKS makes it easier for process engineers to go out onto the shop floor with their phones or tablets and document the visuals and the process.”

George Englis, Manager of Operational Training

Chesterton’s process engineers can initiate changes and revisions very quickly. They can go to the shop floor, take a picture of the required step or procedure, and then update it on their mobile device or their computer. This enables process engineers to improve company procedures when it is most convenient and pertinent to them and their operation.

Two languages, One Software

For companies with a presence in multiple counties, establishing ways to overcome language barriers and globally share knowledge is paramount to ensuring smooth international operations. With VKS digital work instructions, companies can share their processes and procedures in more than 25 languages. This empowers companies like Chesterton to further connect their workforce and standardize their processes on a global scale.

Currently, two Chesterton sites are using VKS: one in Groveland, Massachusetts, and one in Ismaning, Germany. VKS’s translation tool has been a major help in sharing their processes on a global scale.

“We are able to utilize VKS to share assembly knowledge with our German team. And amazingly, this is done virtually. We use the same exact guidebooks and the VKS tool translates them into German. So when my colleague Joseph logs on, he sees the exact same guidebook that my U.S. team uses, but in his language. What’s great about this is that we’ve been able to standardize our processes globally. And that is a huge win for us.”

George Englis, Manager of Operational Training

The ability to share knowledge regardless of language is helping companies like Chesterton close the gap between their disparate facilities and connect on a global level.

Dedication to their Workforce and their Customers

In the fast-paced environment that is the manufacturing industry, finding ways to accurately and efficiently share knowledge is essential for modern workforce development. By incorporating innovative tools like VKS, Chesterton has been able to significantly reduce their training times and share key manufacturing knowledge with a new generation of workers.

Chesterton continues to provide quality seals and advance the ability of their workforce with vision, intelligence, and passion. VKS is there to support them every step of the way.

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