Customized eLearning from ABB High Voltage Saves Time

Software updates are a challenge for companies with distributed development locations because they must train their users simultaneously. ABB High Voltage Products reduces the required training time by 25%.

ABB High Voltage Products

The configurable PTC University eLearning libraries makes these time savings possible. Custom-made content ensures highly effective training and satisfied users. Nothing makes users lose focus faster than training that doesn’t account for their daily tasks or the standard operations of the company. Experience shows this lowers their capacity to absorb the content they should be learning, which reduces the effectiveness of the training and causes the need for costly retraining. This has been the experience of Frank Kraner, who, as the Process Manager for Global PDM at ABB High Voltage Products, makes sure the PDM environment of the Business Unit runs smoothly. The users’ training plays an important role in the effectiveness of PDM operations.

ABB High Voltage Products is a global business division of the ABB Group which manufactures high voltage products for a reliable, efficient and sustainable supply of electricity. Its product portfolio includes everything from mass-produced surge arresters for cross-country power lines to gas-insulated switchgear stations for controlling the load distribution on power junctions; they are usually configured as a single piece to fit the customers’ specifications. The customers of ABB High Voltage Products include both the power companies themselves and the system suppliers that provide them with complete solutions, including control and monitoring technology.

Seven locations in one shot

The high voltage products are developed at seven technology centers distributed around the world that work together closely. Individual parts or modules are reused at several locations and resources are also distributed flexibly among the locations to optimize project durations and costs. There are collaborative development projects where the employees from several locations work jointly on new products for certain markets. “The cooperation can only work if we use the same tools and methods everywhere,” says Kraner. “Therefore, we must always conduct software updates at all locations and train the users in a timely manner.” Additionally, an essential requirement is the ability to respond flexibly to the special training needs of individual locations, because they aren’t always homogenous in terms of the number of users and their knowledge bases.

A few months ago, ABB High Voltage Products replaced an older version of the parametric CAD/CAM system from PTC with a newer generation of software, PTC Creo 2.0, and switched to the current version of PTC Windchill PDMLink at the same time. The budget for the migration was limited because no major changes to the processes were required, Kraner says, but a total of 500 developers and engineers at seven technology centers and 500 other PDM users in development, project management, purchasing, quality assurance, production planning, and technical documentation had to be trained in the use of the new tools in just a few weeks.

To reduce the training time, the Business Unit decided to use eLearning with configurable training content through the PTC University Precision LMS platform. The training program can be configured to the needs of specific user groups and extra content can be added to it. However, the biggest advantage of the online platform is that the training materials are available to the users anytime, anywhere, and theoretically in any language. ABB High Voltage Products decided to offer the program in English only, as Kraner explained: “We want to create a uniform understanding of the language in all locations so the ABB-specific content doesn’t have to be translated into dozens of languages.”

PTC didn’t provide any ready-made training content, but supported the project team from ABB High Voltage Products actively in designing custom-made training for the customer. This applies to both the choice of content and the educational structure of the training, which gives the users a uniform look and feel. In addition to the learning content for the new versions of the PTC applications, content was also provided on the use of SAP and other programs to supply training in the overall process. PTC University Precision LMS was thus the central platform for the entire eLearning presentation, which is also used for instructor-led training. This enables a very short planning and ramp-up time for trainings. Also, the training can be updated without having to constantly print out new training materials.

Training with learn-it-yourself processes

The eLearning libraries were used both for retraining the so-called heavy users who work with CAD and PDM systems and for the users who only used PDM. For the PDM training, the users were given the learning content only, which they were encouraged to study on their own, and it could be supplemented with individual retraining if necessary. Last but not least, thanks to the new, essentially intuitive user interface of the PDM system, the program was conducted entirely without any instructor-led training, where the locations were able to decide what type of training they preferred and also organize the training themselves. “The feedback shows us that our training concept worked,” says Kraner.

For the CAD training, ABB High Voltage Products factored in the different cultural conventions and languages at the individual locations, as Kraner explained: “While the training in the USA was conducted completely through the self-learning processes, we combined the eLearning approach with traditional training in Europe, for example. A trainer explained the new applications to the users in their native language with the help of the eLearning library. We wanted to make sure there was a uniform, companywide knowledge base using the same content from the Precision LMS tutorials.”

User-specific learning content

ABB High Voltage Products configured the learning content of the standard training to fit the needs of the different user groups beforehand. Certain steps were removed from the training process– for example, the lessons on steel construction, which were only relevant to a handful of users – so the users wouldn’t be confronted with a lot of unnecessary material. At the same time, the content was specifically adapted to ABB or supplemented with ABB-specific materials. “This was the eLearning approach’s biggest strength. I can offer the user a training environment specifically tailored to his needs,” Kraner says.

Thanks to the customized learning content, the company was able to significantly reduce training expenditures: “We needed 25% less time on average for training for our developers and engineers during our update to PTC Creo 2.0 because we only made the content that was necessary for their everyday work available to them. We saved about 500 man-hours at the locations in the German-speaking region alone,” Kraner says. “These results have encouraged us to use the PTC University training program for future training projects as well.”

Although ABB High Voltage has not empirically verified the success of the training, Kraner believes the users learned more in a shorter time than in previous training. Their feedback about the eLearning program was very positive, in any case. And if they forget something, they can access the same materials used in the training at any time. The PTC Learning Connector in PTC Creo makes context-based content from online help sources, the eLearning library and other sources available to them right in their work environment.

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