“Training precisely what you value”
Interview with Daniel Ramm, Head of the StarragTraining Centre in Rorschacherberg, Switzerland
How do you train newly hired employees in Asia, with no previous specialist knowledge, working in a new plant in the aviation industry, in a short period of time to operate, maintain and program a high-end machining centre? We discuss this challenge and the key focus areas of his day-to-day work with Daniel Ramm, Head of the StarragTraining Centre in Rorschacherberg and Chemnitz.
Learning by doing: Practical experience is the priority in the individual training of the Starrag Group for operators, maintenance engineers and programmers.
Mr Ramm, what is the professional background of somebody who heads up the Starrag Training Centre?
Ramm: I am a qualified electrical engineer and I spent a long time work- ing in the Starrag plant in Chemnitz, Germany, as a field service technician. One day, I took over the training of Asian customers; nobody else wanted to do it but I was intrigued. So, I became a technical trainer and, over a period of ten years, slowly built up the Training Centre in Chemnitz. I have been leading the Training Centre in Rorschacherberg since 2013. It also coordinates the work of colleagues in the plants and regions across the whole of the Starrag Group.
You are a technician by nature, so how do you manage the educational side?
Ramm: To a certain extent, I taught myself the theory of education and the methodology, but I’m now gaining more fundamental expertise at the University of St.Gallen, where I have been studying education management for industry and business for two years now.
“We build on ‘learning nuggets’ to develop the respective individual training.” Daniel Ramm, Head of the StarragTraining Centre in Rorschacherberg
Who do you have in your team?
Ramm: There are training administrators, training engineers and technical trainers, who also work as field service technicians. That means their knowledge and skills are always up to date. We want to keep expanding the number of technical trainers we have. Starrag is also developing trainers in regions where languages spoken on-site include Russian or Chinese. Our goal is to be able to deliver standard training in the language of the respective country, without needing interpreters.
What services do you offer?
Ramm: In the first instance, we train the employees when a customer acquires a production plant. This almost always focuses on the key areas of operation, programming and maintenance. This is done partly at the customer’s premises and partly in the manufacturer’s plant for the machine. However, the Training Centre also sells its training; for subsequent training of new employees, for example, or to share new expertise in fields such as programming and maintenance. Most customers prefer individual training for their employees, which they pay for based on the time required. We discuss their training concept with them in detail, so that the training focuses on their specific needs.
This is in keeping with the Starrag slogan “Engineering precisely what you value”.
Ramm: Exactly. For us, it could also read: “Training precisely what you value”. This is reflected in our sales pitch, where we present our tried-and-tested standardised training blocks. We build on these “learning nuggets” to develop the respective individual training.
Not just for show: In the long term, the showrooms will also offer alternatives to training for customers where production operations would otherwise be interrupted or at least slowed down.
“Our goal is to be able to deliver standard training in the language of the respective country, without needing interpreters.”
But how do you handle smaller customers who cannot afford the individual training for individual employees or small groups?
Ramm: We offer them the more cost- effective group training together with employees of other companies. Participants benefit from a broader view – i.e. the exchange of expertise with colleagues from other companies and industries. They are also in the perfect environment for networking.
But you also train the in-house service team of the Starrag Group?
Ramm: The second most important ask of the Training Centre is training the 300 active employees of the Customer Service business unit worldwide. We have designed an internal, modular training program for this purpose. However, we also offer some of the modules from this program to valued customers on request, so that they can learn about service with all our “tips and tricks”. Part of the training takes place during the assembly work in which these components are produced. A typical example is the proper alignment of a tool changer in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.
But we can’t all follow your example and study education management alongside our work, so who teaches your technical trainers?
Ramm: These employees represent Starrag in a particularly important way, because they work closely with the customer and are responsible for the success of the training. They receive very intensive training from an external professional, who shows them in a methodical and theoretical way how to convey technical subjects in the classroom and, crucially, at the machine itself. The training engineers then present our training concepts in detail, diligently coaching the technical trainers using personalised and intensive methods over a longer period of time. Putting together the training contents and managing the translation stage is handled by our training administrators, who always make sure the documents are ready on time. We are all very proud of our well-established team.
“In the long term, I am focusing on blending learning; combining traditional training with e-learning.”
Without interpreters: Starrag training is not only available in German and English, but can also be customised and delivered in many different languages.
Electronic media is increasingly replacing printed manuals and tutorials. What is your strategy?
Ramm: In the long term, I am focusing on “blending learning”; combining traditional training with e-learning. We have already used a document management system to make all the training documents available in electronic form. But another thing that is very important to me is that we are currently working hard with professional translators to create printed and electronic documentation in the respective customer language.
Is there a recent highlight that was particularly challenging for you?
Ramm: One of our high points was definitely a custom-designed training course lasting several weeks for an aviation company in Malaysia, working on a large STC 10800/170 jet engine housing. Our high-end product is being used in a completely new plant, where newly hired Malaysian specialists are starting to work on the six-axis machining centre, manufacturing complex housings. We have put the 12 employees through an individual program over several weeks, covering operation, maintenance and programming. All in all, the training lasted around two months, with interruptions.
Do you also receive enquiries about current issues, such as “predictive maintenance”?
Ramm: Yes, our training content is already oriented in this direction with “conditionbased monitoring” and “fingerprint”, which we deliver within the scope of our training for maintenance engineers and operators. Fingerprint, for example, is a report on the status of important machine components that an employee can start with a few simple commands on the controller. First, the evaluation is performed in an initial assessment by the technician on-site and then in a detailed analysis by in-house Starrag specialists, taking into consideration the reference measurement created on delivery.
Who is responsible for which training within the Starrag Group?
Ramm: The Chemnitz Training Centre uses training machines to deliver training in programming, operating and maintaining HEC machines with Siemens and Fanuc controls. Fully equipped simulators are available for use in the Training Centre in Mönchengladbach, Germany. The innovative “Advanced Maintenance Training” and “Advanced Application Training” sessions were also developed there. We are currently developing similar learn- ing environments in Rorschacherberg – individually also in Vuadens and St. Etienne. As an alternative to training directly with the customer, our long-term plan is to offer training with a local trainer in our own showrooms – in China and the United States, for example.