“Ability to collect and transfer knowledge will be one of the highly demanded competences”

Next in our multi-tiered series on competence management in traditional industrial companies, we talked to Vsevolod Gavrilov, Unit Market Director at Volvo Penta.

Market leaders in today’s fast paced manufacturing industry face many challenges such as changes in technology and generation shifts. One of the companies that successfully adapted to the changes is Volvo Penta, a major producer of engine for marine industry, that now sell its comprehensive, reliable solutions all over the world.

But back in 1868 Volvo Penta had a humble beginning. It started as a foundry and a mechanical workshop. Since then the company has grown to be the world leader in diesel engines for marine and industrial use. Throughout the time Volvo Penta has improved its business while having a clear vision of managing employees’ competence.

In this interview Mr. Gavrilov reviled how Volvo Penta successfully developed competency-based education model for its in – house engineers, and shared his thoughts on possibility of such scenarios as coexisting with a robot in the workplace.

Mr. Gavrilov, does aging of workforce and lack of replacement prospects worry you? Could knowledge and expertise be successfully transferred from the Gen X to Millennials and Gen Z?

When it comes to transferring knowledge, we do have certain issues. Mostly due to fact that Gen Z wants everything in 6 minutes (average attention & focus time).

Another problem we see is that younger generations do not want to stay long with one company, so they surf a lot. They have high ambitions but lose interest for self-education when face a huge competence gap.

What do you in terms of increasing employee’s engagement and wellbeing?

This is one of the areas where we have high focus right now. Here we can do much more, without involving costly tools. But such kind of work requires a lot time as it often connected to changes of the culture.

Do you believe Volvo Penta as a brand resonates well with digitally savvy millennials, young software obsessed engineering graduates?

Volvo Penta and Volvo Group are investing a lot to new innovative technologies, especially connected to connectivity and electromobility. You may say that we are still too much product focused rather than interface focused. This gap is noticed and company is working on this as well.

So far has the cost of automating and robotizing main company’s tools been justified?

Many IT tools became much more affordable that before, but still tuning of the tools, data base creating, process description etc. requires a lot of time and money. Moreover, when the job is done the tool is often outdated and you need to start all over again.

Productivity is connected to connectivity, competence and new IT tools. Works sometimes for large companies, but still a huge challenge for small and medium business.

Do you believe each department (Engineering/ Service/ Products) should have a competence management system or should the company set a competence management center or an academy to handle this?

Ability (competence) to collect and transfer knowledge will be (and very often already is) one of the highly demanded competence in the future. If don’t do it then someone else will. And that someone else will drive the customers. Want to note that there will be high demand for remote knowledge transfer, i.e. educations based on augmented reality, video labs, VR etc.

Splitting the competence centers may work efficiently on very special cases only. I vote for one center academy, where all competences shall be connected and mixed. New world will require solutions based on conjunction of the experiences from different areas.

Also, it would be good idea to have employee competence journey, where employees could see how he could switch from one position in the company to another one, which competence is missing and how to cover the gap. To do that you need to run educational programs under one roof. The trainings itself still can be outsourced, but it is important to keep eyes on training path so it develops company in the right direction.

What kind of cross functional training could be created to upskill or enhance custom competencies of your in-house engineers?

If we take the service area, where I have most of the competence, this is one of the challenging areas for education today. Service specialists need to know:

  • Mechanical part of the product
  • Electronic and software part of the product
  • Understanding of lean productivity and right data collection skills
  • Problem solving methodology
  • Communication skill
  • Basic financial understandings
  • Basic marketing understandings
  • Leadership basics

On top of that you can add understanding of all modern means of data transferring tools, fact checking, facts verification. Last but not least – ability to focus on customer.

If you would try to build training path for such specialists you would need to come up with a lot of Xo functional disciplines.

Are you wary of AI – fueled robots taking over jobs that are beyond the scope of engineering/production chains? And what are you doing about it?

No worries about AI – fueled robots. First of all, I do not believe they will replace people completely. Instead it would be a good reminding and organizing tool.

The interesting thoughts are that new generations are heavily used to work with AI helpers, as they learn it naturally playing computer games. Many of the computer games has virtual advisers built in to the games. It works in many industries already today (for example, during picking process in large warehouses computer gives a hint on how much goods need to be picked up and where).

We may need to change or adapt job description for some people but I see no huge danger at the moment.

Lastly: Coexisting with a robot in the workplace, is it a far fetch concept or have you already started preparing for it now?

As I mention, new generations are well prepared for this. So, it will enter to our life quite softly, but not everywhere. In certain areas (like production) it will come quicker, in certain areas like physical repair – it will take some time.

Interview conducted by Iva Danilovic