Doing training Confucian style?



Dr Yvo A Saanen, Managing Director TBA, Delft, the Netherlands


What I hear, I forget What I see, I remember What I do, I understand (Confucius).

Confucius already knew that learning by doing is the only way of effective learning; and learning is needed in our industry. As the demand for productivity continues to rise, and the complexity of systems and operations increase – not least driven by automation and the introduction of even more systems – people need to be trained to be effective at what they do. This article discusses people controlling operations through the various systems present, ie planners, super visors, dispatchers. How can they become better trained applying Confucian style learning?

Room for improvement

The need for training starts with the current efficiency gap. What can we gain if our operational control staff is better trained? (‘Operational control staff ’ is a term we shall use to describe the staff planning the work (yard, vessel, rail), supervising the execution, solving incidents, and allocating and directing equipment in real-time). When we started our training programmes at TBA, we never envisaged that the efficiency gap could be as large as we now know it to be. Having put hundreds of operational control staff through our training programmes, we found that by improving their capabilities and applying best practices, average productivity levels could be increased by as much as 30%. We also found that the difference between the worst performer and the best performer is typically in the range of 50-60% in achieved productivity levels. Finally, we found that with the use of more automated tools – in many cases already licensed but poorly used – the consistency and performance of operations could also be substantially increased. The most common training methods today in the maritime industry are on-the-job training and classroom training, mainly through a standard and potentially tiresome series of PowerPoint slides. The effectiveness of this training method has proven to be less than 10% (regarding what people can remember from the material presented).

Learning by doing

Therefore, the time has come to start learning by doing. Depending on the trainees and the objectives of the training, we have developed training programmes in various forms; these range from three days to whole weeks, where trainees are confronted with plan preparation, planning, and work-execution-type jobs that are similar to the ones they have to perform in live operations. Tasks range from setting up the yard, planning discharge containers, decking export receivables coming in through the gate, determining how much equipment shall be deployed in the upcoming shift, allocating equipment in real-time to yard locations, planning the crane split, the quay crane-work queues, etc. In principle, this covers the entire range of duties of operational control staff.

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