Brooks-PRI Automation Inc., which delivers total automation for semiconductor manufacturing, has long understood that the traditional approach to training employees isn’t nearly enough to maintain a strategic competitive advantage in today’s business environment. Since April 2001, Brooks-PRI has been using Generation21’s TKM (Total Knowledge Management) system to enable employees to quickly access job-critical information when they need it most. Learning objects have helped Brooks-PRI save more than $1.15 million in a single year by providing instant knowledge for employees.
“Our estimate of saving just more than $1 million is extremely conservative,” said Peter Parsons, director of product knowledge and learning systems at Brooks-PRI. “Given the efficiencies and ease of knowledge transfer that we have achieved, actual savings are likely significantly higher.”
Parsons’ projections are based on 600 users, out of a company total of about 3,000 employees, with an average salary of $60,000 a year saving three mintues a day in downtime (15 minutes a week) due to quick access to job-critical information. In most cases, the time saved is actually greater.
With the help of TKM’s Universal Knowledge Objects, “chunks” of right-sized information, Brooks-PRI employees significantly reduce downtime resulting from interrupting work processes to find data, documented instructions and other job-related knowledge. TKM, which stores learning objects in an enterprise-wide relational database accessible to employees via PCs and remote devices such as PDAs, enables employees to find information in five minutes versus 45 minutes, said Parsons, and this adds up.
Learning objects help Brooks-PRI break its organizational knowledge and training materials down into smaller sizes. Employees are able to search the database of learning objects at the very moment of need. TKM automatically updates references to a learning object through one intervention, keeping information up-to-date so employees can do their jobs right the first time, and on schedule.
In addition to significant monetary gains, Parsons said that the use of learning objects has helped the company improve its ability to work toward consistency of business practices. The ability to recycle the same content for various uses provides consistency across an organizations training processes. By building training from re-usable knowledge objects, the system keeps training content consistent across all training modes.
“Before developing a knowledge management system, people were all over the place trying to find information or materials they needed to complete their jobs on time,” said Parsons. “Without a system in place, we were not able to work efficiently, and now we are.”
Key to Brooks-PRI’s overall training and knowledge management success is the consistency of information delivered to the employees and customers. The information for the on-demand performance support and formal training events comes from one development effort, so knowledge is kept consistent across all delivery formats. And the learning objects are easy to update, edit or delete, so employees can be confident that the answers they are getting contain the most up-to-date information available company-wide. The result is employees who are more informed about Brooks-PRI’s products, services, procedures and policies, and who are, ultimately, more productive.
“The advantages of learning object technology are clear—it enables us to leverage training content to the greatest extent possible by delivering it right to learners at the point when they are most prepared to receive it,” said Parsons.