Success Stories » Kinectrics

CASE STUDY: Kinectrics

Profile of the Organization

Kinectrics Inc. delivers life cycle management solutions to help utilities and the energy industry optimize system performance and reduce costs. Kinectrics advanced technical capabilities cover a broad range of services including engineering, asset management, scientific evaluations, comprehensive testing , and product / tooling development for nuclear power, transmission and distribution, hydroelectric / fossil power generation, and environmental technologies.

The Kinectrics organization, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada was founded in 1912 as the R&D Division of Ontario Hydro. Spun off from Ontario Hydro in 1993 in subsequent successor forms as Ontario Hydro Technologies and Ontario Power Technologies, the company evolved as a highly-successful independent, commercial organization before being incorporated as Kinectrics Inc. in 2000.

The Kinectrics’ team of more than 450 scientists, engineers and technologists is supported by accredited testing facilities and rigorous quality assurance programs, especially for the nuclear sector. The company’s registered quality management system complies with ISO 9001 and is fully compatible with the needs of the regulated energy sector.

Now owned by Vision Capital in the UK and earning revenues in the $100 million annual range, Kinectrics continues to be recognized worldwide for outstanding technical excellence in transmission and distribution, nuclear power generation and environmental technologies.

Services and/or goods provided

Kinectrics provides technical services with comprehensive capabilities for the energy industry, including specialized engineering and broad-based asset management services, scientific evaluations, advanced testing, innovative products and independent generation solutions. Kinectrics also offers safety and environmental services and helps companies in the energy sector to better manage the life of their assets. Kinectrics operates predominantly in the fields of:

  • Power Generation: Nuclear, fossil, and hydroelectricity generation
  • Transmission and Distribution: Electrical services and testing on transmission and distribution systems
  • Environmental Technologies: Innovative science and engineering in the areas of air quality monitoring, and active / inactive analytical chemistry
  • Industrial energy services: Kinectrics cost-effective, business-driven solutions effectively address clients' complex technical problems through the application of innovative science and engineering


Critical to Kinectrics’ ongoing international success is the company’s long-established expertise and unique experience as a former utility in understanding how technology affects performance, the environment, safety and the bottom line for its clients operating in the energy sector.

Kinectrics’ wide range of products for the power industry include the PowerKage non-electric fence to minimize outages caused by animal intrusion; SorbWeb™, a proven solution to contain oil spills from transformers and other industrial equipment; KINECTS© power line communication technology to send digital data; ARCPRO, a software tool to assess arc hazards, and establish protective clothing and equipment standards for the industry; and the EVER-CLEAR FILTER, a unique filtration system to help prevent shutdowns and equipment de-ratings.

ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE

Kinectrics’ head office and operations are based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The company recently opened a branch office in Pickering, Ontario and a new facility in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Kinectrics owns 2 subsidiary companies, Axiom NDT Corporation and Candesco Corporation, both based in Ontario, Canada and active in the power generation industry.

HUMAN RESOURCES

Kinectrics has over 450 staff and associates including Axiom and Candesco personnel. Many staff members are recognized experts in their field and hold specialized certifications and/or degrees at the Ph.D. or similar advanced level.

The company has comprehensive state-of-the-art testing facilities and scientific equipment, including numerous specialized laboratories, where new concepts and approaches are constantly being developed and advanced.

Knowledge Management/Transfer Approach

BUSINESS DRIVERS FOR EMBARKING ON KM/KT

Kinectrics recognized that, as a business unit, the company had a significant competitive advantage within the marketplace – specifically, almost a century of accumulated knowledge, experience and R&D based on solving the most complex technical challenges of North American and global utilities.

Two business drivers led Kinectrics to focus on KM/KT, both internally and as a critical business line:

  • Changing demographics (the retirement rates expected both in the broader labour force, and within the energy sector – which was reinforced by a report published by EHRC), and the impending risk to the sector from the loss of knowledge and experience that would accompany this retirement. Many retirees studied Power Engineering at university and many of these programs no longer exist.
  • Internally – Kinectrics recognized it had knowledge and skills assets that could be formalized in a training format for clients and internal staff.


APPROACH TO INTRODUCING KM/KT

Kinectrics has an exceptional “knowledge database” accumulated over almost 100 years of experience in advanced innovation and research and development.

Kinectrics’ management championed a Pilot Project to verify the business drivers and “training as a solution”. The Pilot Project involved market research, development and delivery of test courses and writing a five-year business plan. The purpose of the Pilot Project was to assess whether a focused training program could facilitate the efficient sharing and transfer of “know-how” and “skills” to meet the future demands of power providers.

Market research focused on analysis of current training practices and interviews with Training Managers in key energy accounts. Kinectrics wanted to know if training was an effective way to transfer technical knowledge and expertise to clients—thereby assisting them in the support and replenishment of their own workforce. With the help of an instructional designer, two pilot courses were designed, developed and delivered by Kinectrics’ experts. The evaluation results were positive. A business plan, incorporating a five-year strategy, was developed that concluded that training would be a viable initiative for Kinectrics’ to help clients facing the challenges of how to both retain and transfer key personnel knowledge and skill. In 2007, Kinectrics set up a dedicated Training Department (TD) to develop specialized courses for clients and staff.

Kinectrics Business Model is experts, with advanced labs and facilities and intimate knowledge of client work and environment. This model transferred well to training and the description applied to the training initiative was: “Experts Teaching from Practical Experience.”

KM/KT POSITIONS

The newly established Training Department has a dedicated manager and is championed by senior management reporting through HR. The Training Manager is an expert in instructional design, training administration and business development.

In addition to course design, development and delivery, the Training Department is responsible for business development and administration.

The biggest advantage was Kinectrics’ scientific, engineering and technical professionals were already experts in their field, and had good communication and documentation skills. However, they needed to be trained in the course development methodology and course delivery. Experts are trained in the course development methodology, the Systematic Approach to Training (SAT) and in course facilitation skills for adult learners.

KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER INITIATIVES – FOCUS ON HR

KT PRODUCTS/SERVICES

The priorities for the Training Manager are to:

  • Design, develop and deliver courses to achieve a target revenue
  • Implement the methods and process for Instructional Design using the Systematic Approach to Training (SAT)
  • Establish the training infrastructure to manage opportunities, marketing and administration.


Course topics were selected based on industry needs for work in emerging technologies, new builds, refurbishments and ongoing maintenance. The target audience profile was defined for learners from engineering and technical functions requiring the depth of specialized knowledge and skills for which Kinectrics is recognized worldwide.

The Kinectrics approach is to transfer knowledge and skills based on real work that course participants can apply on the job. This approach can accelerate experience for:

  • younger people at the beginning of their careers
  • people who have foreign education and/or experience
  • people transitioning into the energy sectors from other sectors e.g. automotive, aerospace
  • people who need to refresh/upgrade


In addition to classroom courses, Kinectrics is delivering webinars and blogs.

Kinectrics courses have been certified by the Engineering Institute for Professional Development hours for Continuing Education certification for participants who need hours to maintain professional designations.

Kinectrics does comply with SAT (Systematic Approach to Training). SAT is an internationally-recognized systematic approach used when training electricity generation personnel, particularly in the nuclear area. SAT is organized into distinct phases referred to as ADDIE: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and finally, Evaluation which relies on a series of feedback evaluations as a process for continuous performance improvement. Kinectrics’ instructors follow the SAT instructional design for adult, performance-based learning.

Course development is compressed as the Subject Matter Experts (SME) develops the course material with design input (e.g. in-class exercises, materials, methods) from an Instructional Designer. The components of a completed training course include:

  • Job Task Analysis
  • Course Outline
  • Learning Objectives (Terminal and Enabling)
  • Lesson Plan
  • Instructor Guide
  • Student/Participant Workbook
  • Course Materials (Powerpoints, in-class workshops, handouts, hands-on samples, demonstrations, tours, reference lists of books and/or resources etc.)
  • Feedback and Evaluations
  • Quizzes and Answer Guides


Once the course is developed, the SME teaches the course and all SMEs are trained in course facilitation skills.

In traditional course development, content is transferred from a SME to an instructional designer who designs and develops the course. By having the SME develop the course with design help, the development time is compressed and this has allowed Kinectrics to respond rapidly to client needs for qualification courses needed by a deadline to certify staff for specific job roles.

OUTCOMES /LESSONS-LEARNED

The development of relevant and practical training courses requires the input of Subject Matter Experts. Development of training material is an activity that can be completed between projects or when SMEs have available time that is not assigned to clients.

Clients are challenged by increasing levels of attrition and the ability to backfill staff and/or to allow time off to participate in training. Although training may form part of an annual Performance Review or Professional Development Plan, there is often no time for training. This perpetuates the performance issues. For example, for a major utility client, Kinectrics is developing a 9 module course (over 12 weeks) that will become part of a new job function. This job function once existed, and is now being reinstated to ensure a stable and trained workforce. The removal of the job function in the past has created increased faults/reworks, lost time and increased use of contract resources and these will be the baseline benchmark to measure the effectiveness of the new 12 week training program.

People in this sector have a learning style that supports face-to-face, classroom learning. Participants like practical, experiential learning from Subject Matter Experts who have a work history that can be shared in stories and case studies. (e.g., Tell me how you did it. What could go wrong? What should I do if…?) Kinectrics has chosen the tag line “Experts Teaching From Practical Experience.”

SUMMARY

OVERVIEW OF HOW KM AND KT HAVE BENEFITED THE COMPANY

Key success factors in the design of Kinectrics courses are:

  • Capture of critical knowledge and skills that can be shared
  • Use of the Systematic Approach to Training (SAT) methodology to Analyze, Design, Development, Implement (Deliver) and Evaluate training performance
  • Combining and relating practical experience to illustrate theoretical standards and guidelines and appreciation of client needs/challenges
  • Incorporation of experiential learning elements such as tours of Kinectrics’ advanced facilities and labs, demonstrations, and hands-on practice, in class workshops that meet the learning style and needs of the technical, engineering and scientific audience


Benefits of the Training Business Plan for Kinectrics include:

  • Revenue from training -- Value of the training format to capture “Intellectual Assets” that can be capitalized
  • Formal establishment of a Training Department with management support
  • Approved plan to monitor and document energy sector training needs
  • Training as a value added service for clients


Knowledge Management and Knowledge Transfer benefits to Kinectrics include:

  • Promotion of Kinectrics as a unique environment to work and learn from industry- recognized talent
  • Reinforcement of the importance of training opportunities to candidates during recruitment and for staff
  • Training as a desirable role for retirees to maintain workforce involvement and for ongoing engagement on-the-job
  • Mentoring of new/transitioning staff who audit and then co-teach courses with Subject Matter Experts/retirees
  • New skills in course development and delivery that can be transferred to other professional tasks


As a result of Kinectrics investment in KM/KT, the depth of Kinectrics staff expertise can be promoted and recognized.

The formal establishment of the Training Department has further defined Kinectrics as a work environment in which ongoing learning is embraced and knowledge sharing is encouraged. A formalized approach to training also forms part of an intrinsic “learning culture” within the organization.

Establishment of the Training Department allowed Kinectrics to accommodate both project and staff growth, and also had many secondary advantages. For example, Kinectrics experts were able to identify areas in which training could lead to operational improvements for clients. Training could be incorporated as value-added task in proposals and work plans, enhancing the positive outcome of project work.

In addition, many Kinectrics SMEs discovered a personal aptitude for training as an activity that could also be scheduled between billable projects. As part of the Kinectrics coaching program, the course content became a valuable internal training and reference asset, centrally available to all to learn “who knows what”.

SUMMARY OF THE CHALLENGES EXPERIENCED

  • Design, development and delivery of training by Subject Matter Experts require ongoing scheduling to ensure there are no conflicts with committed projects.
  • Subject Matter Experts need training in the Systematic Approach to Training (SAT) methodology and in adult facilitation course skills to engage learners.
  • Clients have reduced time for training and therefore training must be targeting and concise and driven by an agreed set of learning objectives.


The learning style for technical and engineering people, who are new to the energy sector and lack the experience and knowledge is to “learn from experts” who can incorporate as many experiential components e.g. labs, tours, mock-ups, case studies, workshops, demonstrations, hands-on etc. that will help with on-the-job performance.

SUMMARY OF THE KEY LESSONS LEARNED

  • Training must be designed, developed and delivered according to the SAT methodology
  • Subject Matter Experts need training in the SAT methodology and skills for course facilitation
  • The energy sector needs to accelerate the knowledge and experience of new staff to replace retiring staff and implement Knowledge Management and Knowledge Transfer programs and initiatives
  • Availability of time for training is limited due to workload and therefore training must be compressed and specific


SUMMARY OF THE OPPORTUNTIES CREATED THROUGH THE USE OF KM AND/OR KT

  • The training format is beneficial for knowledge capture, management and transfer
  • Training is an effective way to share scientific and engineering, emerging and best practise information
  • Training provides skills that can be applied to many work tasks and gives recognition and visibility to Subject Matter Experts for their work
  • Training is a source of revenue and identification of new opportunities


SUMMARY OF THE OVERALL ROI AND/OR RESULTS

  • Engineering Institute Professional Development hours for Continuing Education certification for participants who attend Kinectrics courses
  • Participants in Kinectrics courses learn from experts who share their practical experience
  • The Training function operates as a business unit with revenue targets
  • Participation in training by staff that audit, then co-teach and teach courses is an effective way to accelerate


FUTURE PLANS

Future plans include:

  • Expanding the market for training in the USA and globally and with key partners, clients, standards organizations, associations and working groups etc.
  • Specialized training projects e.g. developing and delivering a curriculum of courses; developing training simulations; converting and blending content to new formats such as eLearning, webinars, blogs; collaboration with education institutions; ongoing certification of courses
  • Continue developing new topics based on industry needs and demands
  • Integrating training as a key activity in client projects