"There is a need for training in every company," says Vanschoenwinkel. This is because the processes in plastics production are becoming increasingly complex, for example due to the processing of recyclates. "Although much of the equipment is now automated, it is not enough to simply flip the on/off switch," explains Vanschoenwinkel. Well-trained staff have a significant influence on productivity: qualified plant operators avoid errors, recognize quality fluctuations and can change over products more quickly.
Competition for skilled employees is also increasing the need for training among many processors: fluctuation in the industry is high, and there are more and more lateral entrants worldwide. "A qualification offer can also be a factor for skilled professionals to choose and stay with an employer in the long term," explains Vanschoenwinkel.
The AR:DEL Academy offers a variety of basic and expert training courses to meet the requirements of production. These range from basic training for machine operators and process training for foremen and production managers to training for sales and management.
In 2019, the Reifenhäuser Academy was started up. Previously, each business unit had decided for itself how to train customers' machine operators. The foundation of AR:DEL was to ensure training courses with a consistent quality at a high level. The idea came from Prof. Dr. Monika Küpper. She originally worked in Human Resources Development at Reifenhäuser and in parallel had been teaching at a university for several years. She fought for five years for her goal of an independent training department with modern, interactive teaching methods. The industry had not known anything like this until then.
Pascal Vanschoenwinkel and the other three AR:DEL trainers are now carrying on the initiator's idea. "We are a young, motivated team and are developing many new ideas," says Vanschoenwinkel. These include, for example, new digital learning methods.
Digital learning in particular started at the perfect time: The first online training courses were held even before the Corona pandemic, says Vanschoenwinkel. After that, "the whole thing went through the roof," of course. Whether online or on-site, the training sessions are always interactive. Videos and quizzes liven up the training day. After all, a standard training course lasts a week with eight hours a day. Fun is not allowed to be neglected. Just as little as practicing on the machines in the Reifenhäuser technical center. A technician is also present at each training session to answer special questions about the line. "We now have a good mix of theory and lots of practice. Customers also tell us that we have more than modern teaching methods here," the trainer is pleased to say. "In the process, we make the high German training standards available worldwide."
Reifenhäuser Learning-Management-System (LMS)
Making knowledge available everywhere and at any time - that is the idea behind the Reifenhäuser Learning Management System. This way, training participants can learn when it fits into their daily routine or quickly receive descriptive instructions on a specific problem. Interactive videos, explanatory films, 360-degree tours of the plants, e-learnings or quizzes for self-testing are available on a web-based platform. The materials can be accessed on a laptop as well as on a PC and smartphone.
The problem with all training - after a few months the knowledge fades. Many questions also only come up in practice. Because there is a high employee turnover in the industry, it is also all the more important to keep the knowledge within the company. This is where sustainability comes into play: Knowledge should continue to be available, around the clock and in several languages. For this reason, AR:DEL has set up a dedicated learning platform, the Reifenhäuser Learning Management System. There are clear video tutorials, e-learnings or short knowledge tests on every topic. In addition, participants can take a virtual tour to familiarize themselves with the plants.
"Customers can reach us at any time for questions and feedback- that's what we want," Vanschoenwinkel emphasizes. "We work together with them as a team." It is precisely this input that is important in order to further develop the concepts.
The AR:DEL Academy is integrated at the main location in Troisdorf. This has the advantage that the trainers can always coordinate closely with the business units. The core team consists of four people. Together with a technician, they train either in the Troisdorf technical center or directly at the customer's site - in Germany or around the world.
The courses on offer are still geared primarily to the company's own customers. But with its modern training concept, AR:DEL wants to open up to the entire industry in the future. By the time of the K trade fair, the most important trade fair for the plastics industry, in the fall, there could already be the first offers for open courses. When it comes to the training concept, AR:DEL also wants to remain innovative. "In the next step, we want to integrate knowledge into the everyday work of plant operators," says Vanschoenwinkel.
AR:DEL is an important part of Reifenhäuser's future strategy, in which digitalization and sustainability are important pillars. On the way to Industry 4.0, Reifenhäuser wants to support customers with the AR:DEL Academy. "Our plants are getting better and better, more and more automated. They are networked, receive digital assistance systems and more and more products are produced sustainably. Therefore, knowledge must always continue to be built up," the training expert is certain. "Training never becomes irrelevant."