MTM – Work design productive and safe

Kostal: Strengthening Employees’ Digital Skills

“We’re Now Learning for Tomorrow’s Production”

The challenges of the future are many and varied – not just with a view to digitalizing industrial production. The work content in manual assembly operations with partially automated areas is becoming more and more extensive and complex too, learning times are becoming shorter, the working environment is becoming more interdisciplinary and the scope for making decisions is greater. The partners involved in the PALM4.Q project on process-oriented and work-related learning in assembly operations – Leopold Kostal GmbH & Co. KG in Lüdenscheid und Deutsche MTM-Vereinigung e. V. – are working on a system to identify what kind of digital skills are required for various groups of employees.

The practical experience that is being gathered at Kostal’s new training center is playing an important role in this process. The training center with sections that are similar to the workplaces on the shop floor has been built very close to the real production site. The training topics include things like using delicate components, screwing procedures as well as extensive quality control work and classifying errors. The structure of the testing section at the training center is also strongly inspired by the real final control operations. Quite naturally, the issue of digitalization plays a role too. All the training courses are held without the need for any paper, for example. That is to say, even the data in the checking area is logged and managed digitally. In addition to handling a PC, the employees learn how they can make effective use of the corporation’s Intranet, known as Kostal Metis.

New approach to qualifying employees
Christina Hesse (Leopold Kostal GmbH & Co. KG), Manuela Ostermeier, Prof. Dr. Thomas Mühlbradt and Prof. Dr. Peter Kuhlang (all from the MTM Institute or Deutsche MTM-Vereinigung e. V.) have presented the new approach to qualifying employees to a broad specialist readership in the Zeitschrift für wirtschaftlichen Fabrikbetrieb magazine (ZWF or Magazine for Economic Factory Operations). An article on the Intranet at Kostal entitled “We’re now learning for tomorrow’s production – what exactly is being taught at the Kostal Training Center?” drew employees’ attention to the project at Kostal itself.

A place where mistakes can be made…
Christina Hesse describes the special thing about the Training Center (TC) in these terms. “The TC is a place where people are allowed to make mistakes so that they can learn from them. This principle is based on our KOSTAL values. Mr. Kostal described the value entitled “We do what is necessary” like this: ‘It is necessary to prevent mistakes and minimize their consequences. This includes having to and being allowed to talk openly about mistakes so that people can learn from them. A willingness to make decisions and a sense of responsibility can only flourish if we guarantee an open atmosphere when dealing with mistakes or incorrect decisions. Anybody, who makes a mistake, must have the opportunity to be able to correct it and receive the support required for this.’” The corporation’s owner, Andreas Kostal, has also been able to get some idea of what is going on at the Training Center and the kind of support that is available for employees.

Responsibility for product quality
At one section in the Training Center, the participants learn what the consequences are if one mistake is made with a single part, depending on whether the mistake has been discovered within the corporation or by the automobile manufacturer or even by a customer in their vehicle. “This enables us to develop an awareness of the costs of errors, the responsibility for product quality and therefore the satisfaction of our customers. We want to do all that we can with our employees so that the corporation can save costs and therefore improve its competitiveness,” says Christina Hesse, describing the rationale. 

Plans have already been drawn up for the next steps in developing employees’ digital skills. As robots will increasingly be used in production at Kostal in the future, employees can reduce their fear of contact with these machines at the Training Center and try out what it means to work with a robot as their colleague.

Photo at the top (from left):

Dimitrios Polysakis, Uwe Beckmerhagen, Christina Hesse, Stefan Garneyer, Daniel Bahr, corporation owner Andreas Kostal, Miria Gorny, Gerrit Riedel, Dr. Susanne Cordes and Thomas Zöller.

Photo at the bottom:

Corporation owner Andreas Kostal (left) seen here discussing matters with Gerrit Riedel, as he gains an impression of what is available at the new Training Center.