AHT Cooling Systems & Seedaten, Inc. – Employee Training And New Software Technology

AHT Cooling Systems & Seedaten, Inc. – Employee Training And New Software TechnologyEmployee training has always been important and is even more so in the current environment. Skilled labor shortages, advancements in maintenance capabilities, needs for improving quality and cost - a trained workforce is paramount for all of these!

On Wednesday of last week, the OpExChange hosted a webinar that featured how one of our member companies, AHT Cooling Systems in Ladson, SC, is addressing this. They shared the successes they have experienced, some lessons learned from mistakes, and what they are going to do to continuously improve.

We were privileged to have SeeDaten, Inc. from Duncan South Carolina tag-team with AHT. They showed how learning and retention can be taken to a next level through “reality”, augmented reality, and mixed reality.

There were 65 participants from 36 companies across South Carolina that attended this 75-minute virtual session, including a 15-minute Q&A period.


AHT is a global company that manufacturers refrigerated and frozen merchandising solutions. AHT began USA operations in Ladson in 2017. Their operations are geared toward low-volume, high mix operations. The team there realized they needed a flexible workforce to both improve operational performance while simultaneously engaging their team. An introductory video on AHT is available here: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6693230547877019648

Dan May is Senior Process Improvement Coordinator with AHT. Dan opened with, “The Pay-for-Skills program incorporated our needs for cross-training into a bilateral system that made everyone happy.” It addressed their management direction to improve their lean manufacturing focus, to improve continuity of day-to-day operations, and to unleash their employees desire to be trained.

Dan explained that the cross-training matrix is a visual tool prominently displayed on the factory floor. The levels of training in each category range from 1, which indicates a very basic level of training to 4, which indicates a “Section Trainer” or subject-matter expert on the category. At the core for their work-instruction training is TWI – “Training within Industry,” a standardized work program developed by the US Department of War during World War II.

Amanda McNeal, the site Human Resource Manager, was instrumental in pushing for the pay-for-skills program in early 2019. She explained how employees accumulate points for each skill and level that they achieve on the matrix. The leadership team meets quarterly with each employee to review their progress and chart the course with them for the next quarter. Initially, this was “spoon-fed” to the employees by the supervisor. Amanda explained that this evolved into the associates taking control. “We empower the employees to really take charge of their learning,” Amanda shared.

The success of the program has grown now to not only include production employee but also the logistics personnel. Dan likened the periodic posting of the training matrix to that of posting of college exam grades. The employees eagerly gather around the matrix to see where their training points land.

Dan and Amanda, in the true spirit of continuous improvement, realize that there is ample room to grow. They plan to broaden the scope to include safety, refresher training, standard work, and even “soft” skills.


The meeting segued at this point to SeeDaten, Inc. Philip Riddle, CEO and President, and Noel Bylina, Senior Systems Engineer presented how technology can help transition companies like AHT to an entirely new level. Philip shared that, “Our goal is to let people see useful data and help them accelerate their learning to do a better job.” They demonstrated how reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality can easily be incorporated to reduce training time, improve retention, and simplify the infrastructure needed to train employees.

Noel shared a few applications of reality and augmented reality. In one of these, augmented reality was used in an assembly operation to train an operator. When the operator was in the wrong area, the translucent, superimposed hand turned red. If in the correct area, it turned green. A red “X” or green check would appear indicating if the correct steps were performed. In another example, Noel showed how video “reality” was used to incorporate video learning in a lock-out, tag-out application.

Because of their innovative approaches, SeeDaten received the 2019 Innovision Award for “Technology Integration.”


The improvements made by AHT and the possibilities presented by SeeDaten are all about continuous improvement. Dan talked about some of the early efforts they made and the incremental steps they made. He stated, “We just had to start somewhere.” This captures the spirit of the pursuit of operational excellence. No matter where you reside on the journey, it is always a journey and there is always a next level to be reached. Just get started!

The OpExChange is a peer-to-peer network of companies in South Carolina dedicated to learning and growing together. Member companies host events and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to member companies that provide access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. If you are interested in joining, contact Mike Demos (mike@opexchange.com) or visit the OpExChange website to see other events planned for August: www.OpExChange.com.

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