10 November 2021

CASE: How operators are onboarded with video SOPs at Essity Operations Gennep B.V.

The Challenge

With manufacturing factories worldwide, Essity Operations is one of the biggest suppliers of hygienic products such as Tena, Libresse, Libero, Tork, Tempo, and many more. However, the employees that produce these products are often required to operate difficult and complex machines and procedures. 

In the Essity factory Heijen, a new machine is expected. With the arrival of a new machine, operators have to be instructed and onboarded to work with that specific machine. This enormous machine entails many complex components and processes that operators need to familiarise themselves with. This should be done as quickly as possible, since every minute the machine is not functioning is a minute lost. The speed of re-educating operators is therefore a crucial task. For this reason, Essity Operations Gennep BV uses GPAL to facilitate an accelerated Onboarding process. 

“The App is really convenient and very user-friendly. The added value of video instructions on a smartphone is that it consistently provides our operators with the right information at the moment of need.” 
– Johny 

For this reason, Essity Operations Gennep BV uses GPAL to facilitate an accelerated Onboarding process. With the use of digital video instructions, operators can easily familiarise themselves with the new machine. 

The Approach 

In line with the GPAL sprint-method, two goals have been established for Essity Operations Heijen. First, a complete Onboarding course for the new Leap machine will be made with video instructions. Secondly, other Onboarding processes in Heijen will be made with the use of video instructions. In the long run, GPAL will be used in all connected departments.     

Project 1: The new LEAP machine – from paper SOPs to video

Before the use of GPAL, the arrival and implementation of a new machine was quite a different process. A team of operators was sent abroad to learn how to assemble and operate the new machine in a different establishment where the machine was already operating. The information required in those few days was then written down in a step-by-step explanation in a word document, which eventually would become the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). This process of writing down information often takes up a lot of time and is not always efficient Miscommunications and other difficulties can easily arise when trying to explain complex machinery on paper. 

However, these difficulties are easily overcome with videos in which someone can clearly explain verbally, while at the same time visually showing and pointing out different components of the machine This is a more precise and unambiguous way of explaining than just photos with textual explanations. 

“It can take up to a few hours to make a good and understandable SOP, now imagine making at least a hundred [for the new machine].[voor de nieuwe machine] It is also very difficult to explain in a written SOP whether, for example, a light is blinking fast or slowly. Short and clear video instructions, made by our own experts, will make this process much easier and will save us a lot of time and effort.”
– Chris 

After the team has learned the new procedures connected to the new machine, they return to the factory in Heijnen. However, it can sometimes take months before the machine actually arrives. Often this means that much of the new knowledge and skills of the operators have already been partially forgotten. The making of video instructions on site (abroad) will not only accelerate the process, but it will also enable operators to fall back on previously learned procedures and refresh their knowledge and skills.      

“There is a Leap machine already operative in the Essity factory in Poland. For this reason, a team of our own operators will travel to Poland to learn about the machine. They can use GPAL to make short instruction videos on site. This saves a lot of time and we immediately have useful videos for the operators that are staying behind in the factory in Heijen.”
– Johny 

Project 2: Filming onboarding processes

Essity would also like to film the onboarding of existing production machines at the Heijen plant. A few film-days have already been organised with great success. On these days, mentors (experienced operators with a supporting role within the Onboarding process) are able to independently film various standard work instructions in the factory. Even though some mentors are still getting accustomed to seeing themselves on film, many take great initiatives. One of those initiatives was to record the voice over after making the videos, due to the loud noise in the factory. Quickly many short and clear instructional videos appeared in the GPAL app.

“Quite a lot of mentors really enjoy making the videos and believe it to be much more efficient. The static, standard work instructions have now transformed into dynamic and educational instructional videos.”
– Chris 

Some examples of the instruction videos that are made in the factory in Heijen.

At this moment, the video instructions are mostly made by the mentors. However, in the long run GPAL will be used throughout the whole organisation. Mentors are encouraged to film certain instructions when Onboarding a new employee. This way it is not necessary to reserve extra time to make instructional videos. After all, an instructional video is made in a few minutes. 

“We always have a few mentors, who work above staffing levels, to ensure they can help new employees in their Onboarding process the first 6 weeks. These mentors are capable of Onboarding a new employee, while simultaneously making instructional videos of their instructions. This way we can guarantee a steady flow of new videos”
– Chris 

The Results

Making new instructional videos is for now the main focus of the mentors. To start off the mentors often ask a small group of operators to assess the quality of the videos and give additional feedback. The videos are often met with positive reactions. Due to the good word of mouth, other departments are becoming more curious about the possibilities of GPAL. At the end of this year, the GPAL-app will be made available for all operators, with high expectations. Still, some interesting results are already observed! 

The right knowledge at the moment of need

The biggest disadvantage of the original SOP, Chris explains, is the fact that knowledge is not always easily accessible. A SOP has to be printed from the main computer, however, this is often not as quick as it sounds; empty cartridges, empty paper tray or the paper gets stuck in the machine. This all costs a lot of time and often discourages the operator to look up a SOP when in doubt. Watching instructional videos on a mobile device could easily solve this problem, as it is more efficient and quicker. 

“Imagine you are working on the third floor and you have to walk all the way down everytime you want to print a SOP. It would be easier to quickly watch an instructional video on your own smartphone.  Videos can even be watched offline in the GPAL-app.
– Chris 

Onboarding & Performance support 

GPAL has many benefits for new employees, but also for more experienced operators. As Johny explains, the app is a good means to facilitate more performance support. More experienced operators who, for example, have to work at a different machine than the past few months, can easily refresh their knowledge. Apart from the fact that this can give a confidence boost to your employees, it also increases flexibility and operability of employees. Another benefit is the fact that experienced operators are enhancing their knowledge and skills by making instruction videos for newer operators. When making a video, operators are immediately reflecting on their own work and whether they are following the right procedures.

“The value of the GPAL app is that it forces everyone in the organisation to reevaluate their own knowledge and skills. When a mentor is explaining a certain procedure on video, he or she will immediately refresh his or her own knowledge with regards to the procedure. Sometimes this even requires a little bit of research.”
– Johny 

In the future, instructional videos will be used in the standard Onboarding process and to facilitate Performance support throughout the entire factory. Chris explains that with the use of the GPAL app, new operators are able to work and learn more independently, as they can always rely on the instructional videos. Even when the mentor or other colleagues are not available.

A strong support base amongst colleagues

Even though some mentors are still getting accustomed to filming, most of them are enthusiastic about instructional videos. Instructional videos, they believe, are more clear and more accessible than written SOPS. GPAL also facilitates more interaction between colleagues. This is something the mentors that are currently using the GPAL app are already experiencing. They share feedback, tips, and encouraging comments in the GPAL chat. 

“The mentors, currently using GPAL, are giving more elaborate feedback on each other’s videos. I definitely believe that there is more respect for each other when there is more open communication.” 
– Chris 

Essity Operations Gennep B.V. is still working hard to implement GPAL. Soon, a team of operators will leave, with GPAL, to Poland to make instructional videos about the Leap machine. Eventually, GPAL will be deployed in the entire factory. To be continued…