Visuals for Better Paper Manufacturing Training

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Pulp and paper manufacturing is a competitive business (that’s true of tissue and corrugated board as well). You’ve got to be an expert in many things–operations excellence, health and safety, environmental regulations, training, and more.

That’s true no matter where in the world you’re doing business.

In addition, American pulp and paper manufacturers have one arguable competitive disadvantage: they have to pay their workers more than workers in many other nations are paid. As a result, it’s important to provide the best possible training to this pulp and paper manufacturing workforce so they will have advanced skills that allow them to create a product, including value-added products, with more efficiency.

That’s where we come in. We’re experts in pulp and paper training and we’ve been doing it for more than 15 years.

With our training, you can onboard new hires more rapidly, efficiently, and effectively than you can otherwise. And that’s going to matter as the experienced Baby Boomers at your company are retiring and they’re being replaced by intelligent, capable, even college-educated millennials who have a lot to offer but don’t have a lot of relevant job experience.

Our training will help you cross-train workers so they know how to perform multiple different jobs. This will ease succession planning but will also spark motivation, creativity, and innovation from your workers.

It will, as a customer of ours who’s a training lead at a major American paper products manufacturing company has said to me, “turn your machine operators into machine engineers.”

In this article, we’re going to demonstrate a few visual design techniques that make our paper manufacturing training materials so compelling, engaging, and effective. This is actually the second of a two-article series looking at how to design visuals for effective paper manufacturing training. You may also want to check our earlier article, Better Paper Manufacturing Training Through Visual Learning.

Feel free to watch the short sample video, which shows some highlights of our online job training courses, before you begin. You’ll see we make online training materials for pulp, paper, tissue, and corrugated board manufacturing, but also for things like environment, health, and safety; HR and soft skills; general manufacturing; and more.

Principles of Effective Pulp & Paper Training Visuals

This is the second of two articles about using visuals to make more effective training materials for paper manufacturers.

In the first article, Better Paper Manufacturing Training Through Visual Learning, we gave some general tips that you can use to make better training visuals or to evaluate the visuals within training materials created by others.

In this article, we’re going to do something a little more specialized. We’re going to show how to create training visuals that help support the different stages of learning.

We’ll start by getting everyone up to speed on those different stages of learning.

Four Stages of Learning

Ever heard the phrase sensory overload? We’re literally bombarded with information and sensory input at every moment of the day. Somehow, though, we process information, store it in our brains, and later retrieve and use it on the job.

That process happens in (at least) four distinct stages, which learning experts refer to as sensory memory, working memory, long-term memory, and transfer.

Four Stages of Learning for Paper Manufacturing Training Article

Let’s take a little deeper look at each of four phrases.

  1. Sensory Memory: At any one moment, countless stimuli are competing with one another for the attention of our senses. The room temperature, random noises, the view out the window, and of course that training material. The sensory memory is the part of the brain that chooses what to pay attention to.
  2. Working Memory: Once our senses have focused on something, we begin thinking about it in our working memory (this used to be referred to as “short-term” memory). If you’re actively thinking of something right now—hopefully the words you’re currently reading—you’re using your working memory. The working memory has some pretty harsh limits though. It can only hold onto about four bits of information at a time, and if it hasn’t moved that information forward to the long-term memory in about 15 seconds, the information will be lost.
  3. Long-term Memory: The long-term memory is where information is stored in the brain. When new information is added to the long-term memory, it’s “stored” with packets or networks of related information. These packets or networks are called schema. Your brain is constantly in the process of adding to and updating the information in a schema.
  4. Transfer: When you take information from the long-term memory, retrieve it, and use it on the job, this is known as transfer. That’s when the process works correctly. Sometimes, however, you can have the necessary information in your long-term memory and it won’t “come to you” when you need it.

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 Visuals to Support Each Stage of Learning

You can design and create visuals for training materials that support each of these different phases of learning. With the goal being, of course, to help your workers focus on (sensory memory), think about or process (working memory), store (long-term memory), and use the information on the job (transfer).

Because that’s what training’s really about, right? Getting people to use information on the job?

So let’s look at some techniques you can use in your training visuals to help your employees at each stage of this process. There are lots of techniques you can use, so for each of the four stages we’ll show you one example and explain some other techniques as well.

Sensory Memory:

One of the best ways to create a visual that helps focus your employees’ attention on the necessary information is to include visual signals and clues in the graphic.

For example, in the graphic below, the white highlight directs the attention to what’s important as this course on Chip Screening explains how a chip splicer works.

Image illustrating effective paper manufacturing training

Of course, that’s a still taken from a video, so here’s how the actual video (which is one video in the entire course) looks:

Other visual techniques you can use to aid during this phase of learning include:

  • Using color and contrast
  • Placing text on screen close to the image the text relates to
  • Avoiding unnecessary, unrelated, distracting images (even if they seem “fun” or “interesting”)

You can see examples of these techniques in these paper manufacturing training samples.

Working Memory:

Once your sensory memory has focused on some important job-related information in the training material, the working memory takes over and “processes” that information.

There are quite a few graphic techniques that can be used to aid that processing in the working memory. We’ll look at two examples below and then list other techniques for doing this.

An advanced organizer is something used at the beginning of training that lets your employees know what they’ll learn in the training and how the different bits of information in the training are related to one another.

Here’s an example from a course titled Oxygen Delignification. This chart helps introduce a new paper manufacturing employee to the process of oxygen delignification before the course goes into a more detailed explanation.

Paper Manufacturing Training Image about Oxygen Delignification of Paper

And as we did earlier, let’s see that image in the context of the paper manufacturing training video we took it from.

Another technique is to create a graphic that is intentionally simplified, so that the learner isn’t distracted, confused, or overwhelmed.

For example, the image below, from our Brown Stock System Basics online course, provides a simplified explanation of how a brown stock system works.

Brown Stock System Image for Better Paper Manufacturing Article

As before, check out how that image above is integrated into the paper manufacturing training video it came from below.

Here’s another example. The image below, taken from our Lime Kiln Fundamentals course, shows a simplified image of a lime kiln burner with no details in the background to make it easier to understand. Plus it’s a cut-away interior view that’s impossible to capture with a photo or video.

lime kiln burner image for better paper manufacturing training
And here’s the video from the Lime Kiln Fundamentals course the image above is from.

Other methods for creating graphics that aid the working memory include:

  • Creating visuals that awaken knowledge that the employee already has and that’s directly related to the topic and showing how the previous information and new information are related
  • Using graphics instead of text to explain objects that exist or processes that occur in three-dimensional space (the “real world”)
  • Using a consistent, standard visual style
  • Chunking and sequencing visuals and training information in a manner that aids the learning process
  • Using graphics alone without words when the information is self-explanatory
  • Pairing audio and words when the information is complex

Long-term Memory and Transfer on the Job:

Now, let’s turn our attention to some visual techniques that help employees “store” information in the long-term memory and then later retrieve and use that information on the job when required.

One great way to do this is to use visuals that illustrate a change in time and/or space.

For example, this image from a course on baghouses does a nice job of explaining how dirty air enters a reverse bag house, a separate air system periodically reverses the flow of air in the bags, causing the bags to collapse gently inward and dirt to fall down and out (like a lot of the images in this article, this is even better in moving animation).

Reverse Bag House Image for Better Paper Manufacturing Training

And here’s the video from the Baghouse Basics course that the image above is from.

Other visual techniques for supporting these phases of the learning process include:

  • Using charts and graphs to explain numerical relationships
  • Using organizational graphics to explain how things are related qualitatively
  • Using interpretative graphics to explain cause-and-effect

Conclusion: Make More Effective Training Visuals for Paper Manufacturers

That concludes our second of two posts on using visuals to make your training materials for paper manufacturing employees more effective. We hope you enjoyed them both.

Please use the comment section below to share your own thoughts and tips on making effective visuals for training or even about effective training in general.

And feel free to download the free guide below, which is all about using online paper manufacturing training materials, including online paper manufacturing training courses and a learning management system (LMS), at your paper manufacturing facility to improve the knowledge and skills of your workers.

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The Papermaker’s Guide to Online Training

Need to know how to use online training tools at your paper manufacturing company? This guide will tell you everything you need to know and will help you get started.

Download Free Guide

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. Jeff has worked in education/training for more than twenty years and in safety training for more than ten. You can follow Jeff at LinkedIn as well.

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