As the director of customer training for Flowserve Corp., Juliette Rowe has helped create a strong culture by investing in learning vehicles for customers. “Several years ago, when we were going through a lot of consolidation, we determined that customers being satisfied with our products and being able to reduce their failures around our products obviously was going to increase satisfaction,” Rowe said.
Selling pumps, valves and seals to petroleum, pharmaceutical and other companies that process liquids and foods or need to pump something from one point to another requires a focused employee training program. “For example, my field division determined that in order for their salespeople to be more effective, they need to be able to talk intelligently about their product, other divisions’ products and then have not only product knowledge, but industry and sales training knowledge,” Rowe said. “I’m kind of considered the factory. I deliver training, arrange for training around the world and leverage or buy any training contracts.
“For example, I work with the seal division to say, ‘This is your sales training plan for 2005. Here are all the things that we need to get done.’ There’s three pieces to that kind of training initiative,” Rowe added. “One is training them on specific learning-type courses, which is what my customers would go through. So around the world, we’re putting all the sales reps through our customer training courses. The majority of them are three to five days. For example, each sales rep in 2004 for that particular division had to go through about 140 or 150 hours of training. It came down from the president of that division. It’s mandated. It’s followed up. It’s reported at our presidents’ council meeting. It’s really a part of the culture.”
A piece of that training is Flowserve’s learning center, with labs built to represent the factory floor. “So you learn in a classroom, move behind the classroom and go to something that’s called a static lab, meaning that nothing is running but you can take apart a pump, look inside it, and you probably won’t hurt anyone in that room,” Rowe said. “Then you move back to our power labs, which are full-scale. There’s fluid moving through them. We show you what you can do to actually break a pump to shut down your factory, everything you shouldn’t do and everything you should do, in a real-live application that you couldn’t possibly learn on your floor at the factory, because you’d take ’em down!”
Between 5,000 and 10,000 customers come through Flowserve’s Dallas learning center each year from places as distant as South Africa and Europe. The product- and industry-specific learning poses a great time challenge for instructors. “If Pfizer is my customer and they’re moving pharmaceutical products through, if they screw up a batch of something, that’s a huge cost to them,” Rowe said. “They really need to learn in a real environment, and what we’ve been struggling with is how do we provide them with the training they need in a cost-effective and time-effective format that doesn’t involve them taking operators out of the factory for who knows how many days.”
Cost-effective learning also is an issue because creating learning solutions for manufacturing processes can be very expensive. In response, Flowserve has developed some e-learning courses, but the majority of learning is done in the classroom with real-time labs and content tailored for specific job functions. “I’m a believer in e-learning coming over from IT, but when you actually take a course and you’re talking about when a seal dries out, what that does to a pump, how it shuts it down and puts it to a grinding halt, it’s something to see versus reading about it,” Rowe said. “Content is engineered with the audience in mind, and when you want to be smarter about time, you really focus the courses on specific audiences’ needs.”
To ensure knowledge retention and measure the impact of learning solutions, Flowserve does pre-assessments for every course and assessments after every module. Additionally, every internal employee who completes training is required to take a certification test. “I think the biggest success is following up with the customers afterward to understand what difference was made in the business,” Rowe explained. “For example, Marathon (Oil Corp.) was having a big problem with downtime at their factory, and one of the things we did was train all of their operators in one of our operator courses. We were able to track specifically over time—they call it mean time—that failures in their equipment (occurred) typically every month or every two months. We’ve effectively moved their mean time between failures down to five or six months as a result of training all their operators.”
Next, Flowserve will undertake some career and learning road-mapping to help get a firm handle on internal talent. “We’re the victim of a lot of consolidation over the last five to 10 years. You had different HR standards and different pay grades, which don’t work anymore. Our learning and development group is mapping all the job roles in the company and determining what the path is from one job to the next, what kinds of skills those people need, where there are gaps and what kind of training those folks need,” Rowe said. “In my group, what’s next will be fulfilling those training needs and gaps internally, which we only have a cursory knowledge of today. Then I think it’s continuing to evolve what role e-learning can play to help us address the needs of a very complicated product set for both our sales people and our customers. I refuse to believe that it can’t help me, but right now when I look at the cost of developing an effective e-learning course, it’s prohibitive.”
–Kellye Whitney, email@example.com
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