The Best of Both Worlds

Balance speed and competency in training with a FAST score

by Bruce Bader

Little rapids corp., a manufacturer of paper-based products in Green Bay, WI, had two challenges with training: student competency and the speed at which the training was conducted. Little Rapids Corp. measured these two factors separately.

Competency was measured with a pass or fail test. Speed of training was measured as the time between the start of training and when a supervisor indicated the training had been completed. The desires to maximize competency and minimize training time often appeared to be conflicting goals.

During my 17-year tenure as the continuous improvement manager, Little Rapids Corp. developed what we call focused, analyzed success in training (FAST) to optimize training. FAST uses statistical tools in a unique combination of competency measurement and training speed to develop a meaningful measure of successfully optimized training.

Training is divided into small increments, and three teaching methods are used: lectures, visual aids and hands-on experience. When a student indicates that he or she feels the topic has been mastered, the next increment begins. After all increments are mastered, the training time is considered complete.

Competency is measured after a predetermined period of time has lapsed since a student completed training. For Little Rapids Corp. the predetermined time is six months. The test consists of five or six questions about safety, quality systems and key performance issues with written and physical demonstration segments.

Evaluating the data

The test is scored and recorded as a percentage of correct answers, and the score is divided by time spent in training to arrive at a value called the FAST score. Using confidence intervals around a FAST value, a trainer can determine whether a student is progressing at an acceptable pace.

For example, an employee spent 3.1 months learning to operate a sheeter machine and scored 80% on the competency test. Eighty divided by 3.1 equals a 5.65 FAST score, which exceeded our minimum score and indicated a successful training process for competency and speed.

We achieved the following after implementing FAST scores:

We had presumed that the time it took to learn how to operate all machines was the same. The FAST scores, however, showed that some machines are easier to learn than others (see Figure 1). Trainers now allot a standard training time depending on machine group instead of a general training time for all machines. We are now able to more accurately predict when an employee will be ready to operate a machine at maximum output, which increases production output.

Figure 1

We reworked training materials for a machine group in which all students had low FAST scores, thus improving long-term competency and reducing quality defects.

We now select employees to be trained on a particular machine when their previous FAST score indicates an affinity with that machine group. This has eliminated the waste in training employees who are unlikely to pass a certain machine’s competency test.

Bruce Bader is owner and lead consultant at BBader and Associates in Green Bay, WI.  He has an MBA from Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights. He received his Six Sigma Black Belt certification from the Milwaukee School of Engineering  and is an ASQ-certified manager of quality/organizational excellence. A senior member of ASQ, Bader is the education chair of ASQ Section 1206 in Appleton, WI.

it might be a better idea to use the exact time PERIOD; such as per hours rather than per months, which is a variable time period; to have a better estimate of the competency, etc.

Aylin N. M.

I liked the article. It is a fresh concept which can be used as part of training program. I only wanted to now how the calculation of FAST score is done in more detail. In the example when I divided 80 by 3.1 (0.8/3.1) the answer is 0.258. A clarification will help me better understand an apply the concept.
--Raj S, 09-01-2016

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