IIMS 94 contents
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Elephants, computers and packing machines

Linda J McDonald
Smith's Snackfood Company, New South Wales


Historically, the majority of training carried out in the manufacturing operations of The Smith's Snackfood Company has been on the job training. With the introduction of enterprise agreements and skill matrices, training has become more structured and formalised, although still carried out mostly by supervisors and experienced operators. Training staff have provided the resources, ie, developing training modules and administering the training systems. Some training, primarily for complex equipment, has been done in the classroom and supplemented by "hands on" training on the equipment.

The project to develop a multimedia training course was initiated because of the need to provide more effective and efficient training of operators. With the introduction of enterprise agreements and skill matrices, there will be an increasing need for multiskilling and training non-operators and operators experienced on other packing machines. Multimedia, ie, use of computer technology combined with video, was chosen because of the ability to simulate machine operation using graphics, sound and video clips. It is interactive and allows trainees to proceed at their own pace. The Hayssen Yamato packing station was chosen for the pilot project for the following reasons:

  1. This combination of equipment is in three plants; the majority of the machines in the Queensland plant are Hayssen Yamato.

  2. Packing stations purchased in the future will likely be Hayssen Yamato.

  3. Across the three plants there are a large number of people who will need to be trained in this packing station over the next few years.

  4. The technology and operating procedures are relatively stable.

About the course

The course is a self paced, individual instruction training course. It has ten modules comprising five or six topics in each instructional module and two assessment modules. The final topic, in each module is an assessment of the learning in the whole module.

Trainees proceed at their own pace and may review any topic within a module including the assessment modules. They can proceed to subsequent modules only when they have successfully completed the current module. Module eight is an assessment of modules one to seven and module ten is an assessment of module nine.

The content of modules one to eight is designed for entry level and is intended for cross-skilling operators experienced on other types of packing machines and for training people who have had no packing machine experience. Module nine deals with more complex skills. At the time the course was evaluated, only modules 1-8 were available.

The course runs on a Macintosh 2ci (or greater) with video card using a CD-ROM drive. It uses QuickTime Software. It is contained on a compact disk and each trainee has their own student disk (an ordinary floppy disk) which records their progress through the modules.

Evaluation of the course

Because this project was the first of its kind in the company, it was necessary to evaluate the course to determine its effectiveness as a method of delivering training on complex equipment to a trainee population with a wide variation in literacy and English language skills and generally low level of education.

The plant in Queensland was chosen for the evaluation because it has the largest number of Hayssen Yamato packing stations and therefore the largest number of operators. They also have other bagmakers so the course could be evaluated for its effectiveness in cross-skilling operators experienced on other machines as well as people with no bagmaking skills.

Assessment Schedules and Fault Correction Schedules were prepared for the Fuji Ishida and the Hayssen Yamato. The Assessment Schedules were based on competency standards suitable for trainee operators. The Fault Correction Schedules provided a means of assessing trouble shooting abilities of the operators and trainees. Hayssen Yamato operators and Fuji Ishida operators were assessed for their competence and trouble shooting abilities before and after completing the training course. Packers were assessed on the Hayssen Yamato after completing the training course. A total of 16 people participated as trainees in the evaluation.

The Maintenance Supervisor carried out the assessments and the Training Officer managed the evaluation process and coordinated the training schedule. Three computers were available for 3.5 months for the duration of the evaluation phase.

Pre and post assessment of competence of Hayssen Yamato operators indicated the degree of improvement (learning) in competence as a result of completing the training course. As these operators have had considerable training and experience on these machines, it was expected there would be little or no change. In fact, there was little change in their competence.

Fuji Ishida operators were assessed to determine their level of competence to operate a Hayssen Yamato. The results showed that 11 hours of this course trained operators on the Hayssen Yamato to a similar standard as their competence on the Fuji Ishida machines.

Post assessment of packers evaluated the program for its ability to train unskilled people to a predetermined standard of competence. The results showed that around 14 hours of training can produce unexpectedly good skills with some trainees and acceptable skills with others.

Reactions to the course

The course has had total acceptance from all who have reviewed it, either as a demonstration by managers or by trainees who have undertaken it for field testing or evaluation. The comments from various people include "Great!", "Excellent!", "Fabulous!" and "Absolutely brilliant!".

Trainees stated reasons for embracing the methodology included:

  1. They can learn at their own pace.
  2. Fun way of learning, better than in a classroom.
  3. Makes you eager to learn.
  4. Course content is detailed and thorough.
  5. Combination of being told and seeing made understanding easy.
  6. Interaction ensured concentration was maintained.
  7. Can repeat topics that are difficult and speed up areas that are easier.
  8. Embarrassing to ask questions in a classroom but not to have a computer repeat a topic.
  9. Classroom training moves at the pace of the slowest and others can get bored.
  10. Trainees are in control of their own learning; in a classroom the trainer is in control.
  11. Questions focussed on main points trainee must know and be able to do.
  12. One to one training next to a real machine is noisy and it is difficult to hear trainer.
  13. Covers all the steps; experienced operators may miss out some of the basics.

Findings and conclusions

There seems to be little doubt that interactive multimedia technology is an effective and efficient method of delivering training on complex equipment. The results of the Evaluation and Field Test show that it has many advantages to trainees, trainers and management.


  1. It has the capability of "cross-training" Fuji Ishida operators to a performance standard similar to their level of competence on the Fuji Ishida machines.

  2. It trains unskilled people in about 14 hours to an acceptable level when they are assessed against pre-determined standards of competence.

  3. It deals with varying literacy and English language levels very effectively.

  4. It replaces entry level classroom training and way reduce the time required for hands on training.

  5. The trainees love it and are therefore more motivated to learn.

  6. It can be used as a screening tool for selecting prospective operators.

  7. Over the next two to three years, it will potentially save:
    400 hours of trainers' time
    950 hours of trainees' time
    $20,330 in wages and salaries of trainers and trainees
    Opportunity costs are, therefore, reduced by using this method of delivering training.


  1. The flexibility of the delivery method is a major advantage for trainees, managers and trainers. As it is self instruction and self paced, it can be scheduled to suit production schedules and work loads.

  2. Training can be delivered "just in time" and not have to wait for a trainer, a machine, or a classroom course. It is available for initial entry level training and refresher training when it is needed.

  3. There will be only one person in training at a time rather than a classroom full of them. This will reduce overtime costs and/or loss of production.

  4. It replaces entry level classroom training with its disadvantages of lack of flexibility, necessity to move at a pace that may not suit many trainees and tying up a trainer in preparing and delivering the training. The varying levels of literacy, English, education and general ability make a classroom environment very difficult and often threatening for many trainees.

  5. Trainers, who are usually technical staff carrying out training as part of their duties, are not tied up preparing and presenting classroom training.

  6. The trainees are in control of the training and can repeat difficult topics or move more quickly through topics they find easier. Reinforcement and review are easy.

  7. Because it uses sight and sound, learning is faster and easier.

  8. The trainee gets immediate feedback on their learning and can track their own progress.

  9. Supervisors and trainers can easily track the trainee's progress either on the disk or on hard copy.

  10. The trainees like the interactive nature of the course which helps maintain concentration and is more interesting and fun than either classroom or learning from a training manual.

  11. It delivers training in a private, safe, quiet and non-threatening environment.

  12. Training is delivered in a consistent and reliable way to every trainee. There is no variation in quality or content as there can be with classroom training.

  13. By using a computer for undertaking training, trainees are less likely to feel threatened by computer technology in other areas or in the future if they need to use a computer.

  14. The computers the course runs on can be used for other applications.

  15. For people with severe literacy and/or education problems this is the only type of training they could cope with. Classroom or paper based modules would be useless for them.
Smith's Company logo

Author: Linda J McDonald
National Training and Development Manager
The Smith's Snackfood Company Ltd
GPO Box 3943 Sydney NSW 2000 Australia
Tel. 02 259 6111 Fax. 02 259 6620

Please cite as: McDonald, L. J. (1994). Elephants, computers and packing machines. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 342-344. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1994/km/mcdonald.html

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