Manufacturers are facing new and different challenges associated with the digital revolution and Industry 4.0 changes. Deloitte’s recent report says leaders who use data-driven decision making will be more successful in preparing their businesses for the future. So, maintenance employee assessment will become more important than ever for manufacturers looking to stay ahead of the curve.

Knowing your workforce is equipped with the right skills to meet today’s industrial challenges is crucial. Key to plant operations running smoothly are the maintenance professionals tasked to keep the production line equipment in good repair. But attaining the best staff can be quite a challenge, given the current manufacturing skills gap.

Moreover, when your role includes managing the technical training, your main goal is to ensure your employees are developing the skills their jobs demand through an efficient and cost-effective program.

But how will you accurately assess your existing and future staff? And is this solution easy to set up, run and administer for a large group as well as a small amount of people?

What to use: Physical simulators vs web-enabled solutions

Traditionally, physical simulators, such as electrical wiring trainers and actual pieces of equipment, have been used to assess the skills of industrial maintenance employees. However, often overlooked are web-enabled solutions that provide digital-simulation assessments.

In theory, using a physical device to simulate a particular problem a maintenance worker might come across is an effective way to appraise someone’s skill level.  The person can demonstrate the way he or she would go about solving a real-world issue. Managers can get a sense of the critical thinking abilities employed and the person’s knowledge of the equipment.

But there are some drawbacks with using physical-assessment methods. The first is that using one device or even a couple is not scalable when needing to assess a large number of people all at once because only a limited amount of individuals can use the physical simulator at one time. Also, since the simulator has a physical presence, employees need to be in the same space to interact with it.

With a digital-simulation assessment tool, however, the software can present a realistic environment in which a person can have a hands-on experience that is absolutely safe. Digital-assessment tools can be used by any number of people at any time. Tests can even be administered via a link, so the person being assessed doesn’t necessarily have to go anywhere or be interviewed by personnel to be evaluated.

And the economical benefits of a web-enabled maintenance employee assessment solution can be superior to a physical simulator. First, the initial investment costs are less. Physical-assessment simulators are expensive to set-up and/or move to different locations. Whereas web-enabled simulation creates a simulated environment using software rather than a physical machine, so the set up is easier, only requiring a few computers and internet access to train a large number of people.

Also, a digital simulator has a smaller footprint required than a physical simulator, which can save expensive and valuable plant floor footage. Plus, assessing people via a physical simulator requires managers and maintenance staff to evaluate a person’s performance, which can be extremely slow and difficult, leading to lost time and productivity, which ultimately hurts the bottom line in the long run.

Data-driven decision making via digital-assessment simulation

A digital-assessment tool allows program administers to easily manage assessments, track progress and evaluate all new and existing staff. With web-enabled solutions, hundreds of simulated problems, or faults, can be assigned to workers, providing a more comprehensive and exhaustive list of skills to assess.

Additionally, with the advancements in AI, digital simulators will soon be able to automatically deliver the appropriate level of problems to the user based on performance. For instance, a novice maintenance employee would get a different set of problems to solve for compared to the senior plant maintenance staffer.

Digital-assessment tools are easy to setup at any time and can be used multiple times to assess different skills with any number of people. Plus, the instantaneous maintenance employee assessment test results provided make evaluation and grading effortless.

Also, since the software uses gamification training techniques, a younger workforce is attracted to these interactive teaching methods. Existing workers will also be able to sharpen their skills for advanced positions by engaging with an effective training program. This will enable your entire workforce to train and perform better, leading to more efficient and productive plant floors.

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