The Schaeffler Group Bringing Objectivity and Precision to Industrial Certifications
The Schaeffler Group develops and produces rolling bearings, plain bearings and linear systems for the industrial sector and—as an automotive supplier—precision components for engines, transmissions and drive trains worldwide.
Skilled employees must take annual certifications to ensure their knowledge of machinery, blueprints, safety procedures, quality procedures and documentation. One-on-one certification exams previously conducted by engineering personnel in manufacturing plants did not produce consistent results. Some engineers were more lenient than others, and testing often took place at inconvenient times.
Today, Questionmark assessments are bringing objectivity and precision to the certification process, as well as flexibility in test scheduling. Schaeffler Industrial Engineer Aaron Vaughan says it’s easy now to administer tests within the workplace on conveniently located kiosks. Employees can take tests when it suits them without losing as much work time, and supervisors no longer need to schedule test appointments with engineering staff, thereby freeing up resources.
“I sometimes had to give tests at 2 a.m., for people working the third shift,” recalls Vaughan. “I certainly don’t miss that! But the main point is that online tests we give us a far more accurate idea of what people know and don’t know. We create an assessment for each job type and we have the questions set up by functional areas. Each test covers the functional areas that each job type requires. Some questions are used in tests for many different job types, and some are specific to a particular job.”
In order to pass their certifications, employees need a solid understanding of such topics as plant procedures, quality control, documentation and statistics. They need to be able to interpret blueprints and measurements precisely—down to tolerances as narrow as a human hair. So the company’s four test authors scan blueprints and quality documents from job orders into Questionmark and base questions on them. Some questions require the participant to identify the exact place on the blueprint where particular information should be found, to identify different elements within the blueprint or enter a calculated value such as a maximum limit interpreted from the print.
Assessments delivered via Questionmark were initially piloted in one facility but met with such success that they are now used in three manufacturing plants, with more to follow. Seven hundred employees now take Questionmark assessments consisting of 20 to 70 questions, depending on the skill level of their job. If an employee does not pass a certification, a supervisor will review the Questionmark Coaching Report for their exam to identify problem areas. Vaughan also creates Excel files that show performance on all of the questions as a means of identifying specific weaknesses in employees’ collective understanding. This information is relayed to trainers, who can target their instruction accordingly.
The company plans to incorporate Questionmark into more skills testing and training programs in areas such as maintenance, material handling, and support staff.