How does the transfer of know-how work at Rheinmetall?
Marcus Hanke is a project manager for systems training at Rheinmetall. He is, in a manner of speaking, the professional trainer for experts, and responsible for setting and conveying Rheinmetall’s standards for different products or projects. He works with a team of around 40 colleagues at the Training department.
I joined Rheinmetall Landsysteme as a project manager in 2019 after leaving the German Armed Forces. In the last six years of my service there, I was able to gain a lot of experience in training and development at various military training establishments, including the Munster Training Centre, as a chief instructor and trainer. Perhaps that is another reason my department head, Mr Groth, felt I was predestined for the role.
My job is now to organise, plan and implement training strategies for our wide range of projects. These are increasingly localisation and/or know-how-transfer projects, as with the Boxer MIV project in the UK or our new joint venture for the infantry combat vehicle Lynx in Hungary, for example.
In particular, they also involve planning and designing or adapting the course system to the respective requirements. There are totally different things to bear in mind with an existing plant, as in the case of RBSL, our subsidiary in Telford in the UK, compared with a fresh start like in Hungary.
Highly effective course system is the basis for consistent Rheinmetall standards
To ensure that know-how transfer is as efficient as possible and consistent in accordance with Rheinmetall standards, we at the Training department have developed a highly effective course system. Those participating in the training, i.e. future welders, assembly workers, service technicians, production supervisors and material managers, for example, are taught everything they need to know to set up a production facility that complies with Rheinmetall standards in workflow-based training courses.
For us as a company, the clear advantage of this approach is, of course, that our products will be of a consistently high quality. By providing our Hungarian, Australian, German and British employees in Quality Management, for example, with exactly the same training, sometimes even together, we are making a decisive contribution to ensuring consistency in terms of quality, processes, documentation and many other areas. For the employees themselves, this often brings an incredible boost to their knowledge. At RBSL in Telford, the employees benefit greatly from our experience in takt-time production of the Boxer, for example. But they also gain a huge amount of additional knowledge in the areas of CAN-Bus technology and welding and bonding certification.
Of course, there is a process for developing new training strategies. A roadmap and a clear structure, if you like.
Here, the requirements of the “customer” are always the starting point for planning. However, it is also important to essentially work backwards from the end when thinking about training. That is, you should ask yourself what the situation should be and which skills should be acquired by the end. So, once we have defined the starting point and the aim (requirements and desired end result), then we use the training needs analysis to establish any existing skills, where the focus lies, which topics can be largely excluded from the training courses and where foundations still need to be laid.
Little by little, the picture becomes increasingly clear, like a jigsaw puzzle - until eventually, a training strategy is formed. Of course, all of this applies not only to know-how transfer projects, but also to the many, many conventional training projects that the department carries out. From Lance turret training and driver and gunner training, simulator training, maintenance training, armoured recovery vehicle training, remote-controlled weapon stations etc. right through to tactical training with armoured vehicles up to company level.
Our factors for success: central pooling of knowledge and good communication
In my view, there are two reasons that the department is able to adhere to the consistent standards so well. The first is that the Training department acts as a ‘one-stop shop’ for training and development. This means that the department is the central point of contact and has also pooled the concentrated knowledge, whether it be in organising and planning training or the specialist expertise on the topics itself.
The second important factor is the good communication within the team. From the head of the department, to the project managers and training managers and through to the trainers, there is good, very direct and open communication between staff at all levels. The fact that I, for example, can talk very candidly and cooperatively to our experts and trainers at any time prevents misunderstandings. Clear assignment of tasks ensures good teamwork.
Up to now, we have only ever received positive feedback. And we are working on becoming even better all the time. Of course, our conventional training courses on the system technology in our vehicles have proved their worth and we regularly receive very positive feedback from all our participants and customers. The same goes for our tactical training.
But we have already received very good feedback regarding the newer production-related training courses, e.g. at Land400 in Australia.
The greatest challenge at the moment is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. In the course of my work, I spend a lot of time talking to the people within our company who possess particular expertise, to external service providers, to customers and, of course, also to our experts and trainers at the Training department. Admittedly, we are fortunate that you can do a great deal via video conferencing these days, but holding various workshops, in particular, or consultations with partners that you have never met before is simply easier, more enjoyable and more effective when you can you talk face to face. The coronavirus pandemic and the travel restrictions that go hand in hand with it are a limiting factor in this regard, no doubt. But we are managing and I personally have also adapted to the new situation very well already.
In a nutshell, very good communication skills, technical expertise and the desire and ability to teach people and explain things to them.
Our trainers generally have a wealth of experience in their fields. Almost all of them spent several years working in production or customer service first or served as soldiers for several years. We spend a lot of time improving our own knowledge and skills.
As a result, I would say that the will to never stand still, but instead to constantly acquire new knowledge and a willingness to travel for business purposes are also part of it. Anybody who is interested in that and who has these characteristics has an opportunity to be welcomed into a fantastic, very close-knit and high-performing team.
The transfer of know-how in practice
How do we create standards? How do we impart these to others? The following projects undertaken by our Training department provide a fascinating look behind the scenes. Click on the tiles to find out more:
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