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Kostal and MTM Develop Qualification Concept for Assembly Work

“The Focus Is on Quantities and Quality”

Deutsche MTM-Vereinigung e. V. and Leopold Kostal GmbH & Co. KG  have been cooperating in the research project entitled “Process and Work-Related Learning in Assembly Work to Provide a  Forward-Looking Employee Qualification Program” – also known as PALM4.Q – for more than one year; the project is being supported by the European Social Fund. One of the project goals is to establish a training center that serves as a learning and development environment for qualification concepts. The first Kostal employees were already able to start using the new training center in September 2017. Concepts for forward-looking assembly processes are to be drawn up during the ongoing course of the project and then communicated to employees in workshops. The results of the research project are finally due to be made available to a wider group of experts.

The Kostal corporate group employs about 17,000 people at 46 business sites in 21 different countries in its automobile, industrial and solar electrical divisions as well as contact systems and testing technology. It faces the challenge at its headquarters in Lüdenscheid in the Märkischer District of not losing its comparatively high proportion of employees with a migration background as well as semi-skilled and unskilled workers on its journey towards Industry 4.0. The work content of assembly tasks is also becoming more and more extensive and complex, learning times are shorter, the working environment is more interdisciplinary and the scope for making decisions is greater. This therefore not only places demands on employees’ motor skills, but also on their sensory and associative capabilities. Concepts are therefore being developed within the PALM4.Q project to maintain or expand the assembly skills among the workforce, make it possible to use employees in a flexible manner in the long term and help develop skills for Industry 4.0. This meant establishing the necessary capabilities and skills for a specific activity, combining them in clusters and mapping them in a skills catalog.

Training next to the production
All the departments that have an interface with assembly work – i. e. production planning, industrial engineering, human resources, production, quality control and the works council – are involved in the project. “The works council specifically welcomed the project, not least because it strengthens Germany as a production base”, says Christina Hesse, Project Manager at Leopold Kostal GmbH & Co. KG. The training center with sections that are similar to the workplaces on the shop floor was set up very close to the production department. This means that employees are training in a protected learning environment, but are still very close to the real world. The training sessions involve, for instance, clipping parts, laying cables or gluing and scanning labels, including quality checks. The structure of the testing section at the training center also strongly mirrors the final checks that are performed in practice.

Sensitize employees
An “error table” is used to sensitize the employees to what is really necessary in assembly work: i. e. noticing errors, learning from them and developing an awareness of quality. “We want to get away from the view that quantities alone are important, but errors are insignificant”, says Christina Hesse, underlining her point. "The focus is on quantities and quality." Another training section concentrates on communicating the Kostal Production System (KPS). This includes the 5S principle, Kaizen and the different types of waste.

Strengthen media literacy
The issue of digitalization also plays a role at the Kostal Training Center, of course. The feedback on the test results at the workplace is communicated by touch screen, for example. The employees also learn to access the content of the training sections via the dashboard in Metis, the Kostal Intranet. The goal is to strengthen the employees’ media skills and further develop them.  

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