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Corey Brown


How 3M Continues to Innovate During Covid-19

New training challenges require new solutions

Published: Monday, November 2, 2020 - 12:02

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, 3M has been integral in maintaining domestic and international supplies of essential personal protective equipment (PPE). These production and supply-chain challenges required innovation to train new employees faster and leverage a culture of continuous improvement.

Dozuki spoke with Michael Muilenburg, manager of operational technology at 3M, to talk about how 3M is using technology to adapt to these challenges and the greater topic of the shifting workforce.

To view the full conversation on demand, click here.

Job-shadowing won’t work any longer

Job-shadowing requires the availability of your most knowledgeable workers, who often have priorities other than training. As more of your experienced employees retire, there aren’t enough experts to go around.

3M recognized that it’s no longer feasible to rely on job-shadowing as the primary training method. Digital tools allow you to scale your training program beyond 1-on-1 shadowing. Capture knowledge directly from your company’s experts to provide new hires with a running start when learning new skills or processes.

“Experts are already busy doing their jobs, they can’t spend the time they need to properly train new hires,” says Muilenburg.

The workforce is shifting, but learning methods aren’t

Although it’s true that manufacturing is faced with growing retirements, constant internal job changes, and training a new generation of workers, the core tenets of learning and workforce development remain the same. People need essential information to be presented clearly, with visuals, and on a regular basis.

The best strategy for adapting to the shifting workforce is to find a digital tool that communicates clearly and regularly reinforces knowledge.

“The core elements of learning haven’t really changed. What we’ve found is everyone wants to learn from the expert, everyone wants visuals, and everyone needs repetition and practice.”

New workers expect digital tools

The incoming workforce expects companies to be using modern technology. Placing new recruits in a conference room with paper binders is antiquated and can lead to high turnover.

Investing in innovative tools to improve employee training can make all the difference for recruiting and retaining talent. New recruits feel excited to learn and confident in their ability to perform and improve procedures.

“We’ve eliminated the conference room simulations. We want you to go see the equipment, we want you to have an instructor with digital work instructions that are detailed and visual. This really makes a difference. People feel confident from day one.”

Make improvement part of the daily culture

With any system for continuous improvement, the culture of your workforce must be aligned with the right goals. 3M uses daily management huddles to demonstrate that improvement is a daily activity. Managers reinforce and discuss changes to standards with operators—improvement is always top of mind.

Using digital forms and commenting features in the Dozuki platform, 3M has been able to collect valuable feedback all the way from experienced workers to new hires on their first day.

“One of the beauties of our system, using Dozuki, is that even a brand new person can come to the workplace, get trained on a process. On day one, they have the ability to comment and provide suggestions for improvement. That’s a behavior we want to coach. We want every employee to be in the improvement game.”

First published on the Dozuki blog.


About The Author

Corey Brown’s picture

Corey Brown

Corey Brown is the lead researcher and editor for manufacturing resources on Dozuki.com. With a background in engineering and technical communication, Corey specializes in quality management, standard work, and lean manufacturing.