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Team learning helps operators share information while reviewing standard processes and learning best practices. Photo: Red Oak Consulting

In this fast-paced, digitized world, there is too often a rush to cram operator training programs on new systems or equipment into a one-time event. Operator training typically is conducted somewhere between installation and startup of a new piece of equipment or system without necessarily considering the long-term or programmatic need for retraining and refining that training over time.

Many utilities already do a fair job at the initial training efforts that may include:

  • Training by vendors
  • Proprietary or equipment-specific operations and maintenance manuals
  • Outside expert training at startup.

This training can collectively be thought of as coarse-tuning your staff's operational awareness of the equipment and systems. What is often missed or not fully considered, though, is the need to fine-tune that initial training and to conduct periodic retraining based on organizational or operational changes and staff turnover or reassignment.

If new operators are trained informally—typically by another operator—or learn by trial and error, subtle but critical information covered in the initial training may be lost forever. Another potential problem with an initial training program is that it might be primarily generic material that does not take into account your site-specific situation or your valuable experience gained through years of operating other pieces of equipment within that system.

Managing this vital information through a knowledge management and training strategy is a good way to help protect against the “brain drain” that affects many utilities due to turnover and retirement.

A proactive and relatively inexpensive program can help protect your valuable institutional understanding, better prepare your next generation of staff, and continuously fine-tune your system operator training program. Here are some features to consider: