When people talk about eLearning, it is usually in the context of online courses at universities or corporate training programs for internal employees. It’s easy to overlook learning scenarios for manufacturing organizations that could benefit from eLearning programs, especially those that focus on learners outside the organization. This article will showcase one such innovative example conceived and implemented by Madico, Inc., based in Woburn, Massachusetts.
Background on Madico, Inc.
As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of laminating and coating solutions, Madico offers a wide range of highly engineered multilayer films for energy, safety, security, and architectural uses. From needs analysis through product specification, installation, and service, Madico is committed to securing a strong return on investment for its customers. Madico relies on third-party dealers to competently perform this range of functions with its end-users – such as architectural firms, general contractors, and building managers. Therefore, the success of Madico’s business is dependent upon the transfer of accurate and comprehensive product knowledge to its dealers. This is not an uncommon situation for manufacturers who tend to focus on honing their process and materials while relying on external entities to sell, utilize, install, service, or incorporate their output into a range of applications.
Manufacturers and the Extended Enterprise
Manufacturers operate in a complex web of relationships. A manufacturer’s network might include its sources of raw materials, parts, and equipment and extend outward to other parties who in turn utilize the manufacturer’s specialty in a process, service, or product of their own. This collection of business relationships is referred to as a company’s extended enterprise. Each point of contact – between the manufacturer and the other parties who participate in its economic output – is a node of information exchange. Often, the quality of this information transfer directly relates to the quality of the resulting business relationship and its outcome.
Madico’s Traditional Training of Its Extended Enterprise
A key constituency of Madico’s extended enterprise is the hundreds of dealers located around the world who sell and install Madico’s films. Historically, Madico educated its dealers via face-to-face meetings at dealer locations once or twice per year. Some of the problems that emerged from this mode of training included the following:
- Dealers would need to focus their learning efforts into the inadequate timeframe of the annual or semi-annual Madico visit.
- After the two-day training event, dealers would request additional training time. Madico could not accommodate these requests due to the full and demanding training schedule.
- Madico would make a significant investment in the annual dealer visit and then find that many dealer employees would not be able attend due to illness or other commitments. This resulted in a lower training impact per dollar spent.
- Madico product information would change more frequently than the training visits. This meant that dealers might be working with outdated information.
- New dealers would require an even greater investment of training time and effort. These needs would tie up valuable Madico staff members whose expertise is in high demand.
Madico’s efforts to educate hundreds of dealers with a small staff of experts delivering face-to-face training was costly and not meeting the full scope of needs for either Madico or its dealers.
Madico’s New Training Model: Madico University
As a result of its training challenges, Madico developed a plan to create Madico University. Early in the process, they decided it would be beneficial to work with nSight, Inc., an eLearning vendor. Working with an external vendor allowed Madico subject experts to focus on their areas of expertise while the vendor provided instructional design and technical implementation.
Madico University is an online learning program designed to provide dealers with convenient, self-paced learning modules available at any time from any location. Not only will Madico University deliver information about Madico and its products, but it will go beyond the scope of traditional training to help dealers improve their sales process and build a profitable business.
Madico University’s curriculum includes courses about Madico’s industry leadership, product solutions, sales and service improvement, and business development. Table 1 provides a full list of courses slated for release in Madico University.
This roster of courses meets Madico’s information transfer needs in the context of its dealer relationships by providing:
- Product information in a timely, clear, compelling, and digestible format
- Process information that positively impacts the relationship between Madico’s dealers and its customers
- Business development information that motivates dealers to improve their business practices
The comprehensive education provided via Madico University strengthens the distribution of Madico’s products by helping dealers meet their own internal business goals.
The Benefits of Online Learning for Madico and Its Dealers
Creating and maintaining a full range of online courses for its dealers, yields many significant benefits for Madico. These benefits, as described here, serve to distinguish Madico from its competitors and increase the likelihood that dealers will experience greater success with Madico’s products.
- Dealers can access online product information in a manner that best suits their schedule. Dealer employees are no longer constrained by the face-to-face training schedule. They can learn new information online as needed and refer to it repeatedly in the course of their work.
- Madico staff is freed up from standard training needs in order to focus on deeper and more targeted training issues. New and existing dealers can use the online courses to achieve a baseline of product knowledge. Madico staff can use face-to-face time for working with dealers on more difficult and targeted issues.
- Madico can expand the range of topics on which it educates its dealers. Historically, Madico struggled to keep up with educating all dealers on the most basic and high-priority topics due to the limitations of a full travel schedule. Now they can create a full range of online courses that dealers can continually access on their own time.
- The courses provide dealers with the resources to increase their customer’s satisfaction. As the dealers deepen their knowledge of Madico products, they will be better equipped to recognize appropriate uses and manage successful implementations.
- Dealers are able to expand and mature their businesses. Through its dealer relationships, Madico has developed knowledge of dealer challenges and pain-points. By providing dealers with education around these issues, they are helping dealers to grow sales and improve business practices.
- Madico can widen the target audience for course materials to include end-users, new hires, suppliers, or other business partners. As Madico develops a full curriculum of company and product information, they will be able to leverage this information in other educational opportunities. For example, Madico recently acquired another company, and will be able to use Madico University to train the newly acquired employees. In addition, these courses can become a valuable human-resources tool for new-hire orientation.
- Increased dealer contact provides more opportunity for information exchange. As Madico adds wikis and other online collaboration tools to its University, dealers will have more channels for communicating valuable feedback and input to Madico from the field.
- Madico University lays the foundation for launching professional certification in the trade. Madico’s online course offerings will build over time to become a professional degree or certification program in its trade. The online curriculum also creates opportunities for Madico to make connections with educational entities such as high schools, trade schools, or relevant university programs.
Through development of this important eLearning initiative, Madico is demonstrating a deep commitment to the businesses in its extended enterprise. Madico recognized the strategic importance of providing accurate, accessible, and on-demand information for those it relies on. To achieve this goal, Madico is creating an online university that provides dealers with a valuable road map for successfully selling and servicing Madico’s products. By investing in the knowledge and skills of its partners, Madico is extending the range of its product quality – outward from the confines of the manufacturing floor and into the world of purchase and utilization.