Collaboration across continents leads to global e-learning solution built in Hamilton.High tech dairy farmers are learning how to make more data-driven decisions after Company-X built a global e-learning solution for DeLaval.

The worldwide leader in milking equipment and solutions asked the software specialist to build an e-learning solution to teach dairy farmers and DeLaval staff around the globe how to begin using robotic milking systems and farm management software.

Company-X was chosen for the project because its team had a track record with DeLaval NZ.

The project started when DeLaval International’s Lynda McDonald, a New Zealander based in Sweden, approached Company-X consultant Lance Bauerfeind.

“They already knew the company well,” McDonald said. “I thought it would be less of a learning curve to work with Company-X rather than a new company.”

The solution had to be relevant to every farm model from the small European farms to the large corporate operations in China. Company-X project manager Dilan Prasad and senior software developer Wonkee Kim had input from DeLaval staff in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and Latin America. The diversity and geographical spread of stakeholders added to the project’s complexity.

“It’s very much about providing value through knowledge to dairy farmers and staff,” McDonald said. “We are moving from manual milking systems, to farms now managing their herds by data. We need to make sure that we transfer knowledge and give them the best possibility to optimise their systems from the time they purchase them.

“Customer satisfaction was really a significant driver.”

Company-X worked on the e-learning programme in small iterations, allowing the DeLaval subject matter experts to provide frequent feedback on the solution as it was built.

The DelPro Interactive E-Learning solution Company-X built offers 64 e-learning modules that would take about four hours to complete. The content is delivered through nine separate courses including milking, feeding, health, reproduction, performance and body condition scoring. Modules are animated and narrated by an automated voice. Users can turn text prompts on or off. Teaching resources are offered for download for future use as the user progresses. Users can choose to use either the imperial or metric measurement system.

What of the software development process?

One challenge was keeping all of the stakeholders around the world fully informed and engaged. Company-X used project management tool TeamWork to collaborate and define a multi-stage review process. Reviewers and approvers were chosen for each region and a new role called DeLaval Voice to ensure content was consistent with DeLaval style

One requirement was to have the possibility to change both the text and voice within the e-learning when it is translated into other languages.

Company-X used Google Wavenet technology with Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) tags to simulate the appropriate English accent, with a variety of pitch and tone to get the right mix for each region, also with a combination of male and female voices for variety. Company-X built an SSML editor tool to automate this task. This way it was easy to make any changes and to generate voice over files with minimum time.

“Generally the feedback has been very good,” McDonald said.

“Dilan was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. If I was going to do something like this again I would absolutely use Dilan again. Dilan was so responsive and so solution-focused. He always just listens and then solves the problem. Another part of the overall success of the programme was our process, developed collaboratively by Company-X and the project group. This project might not have been so successful without a mature and well-established review and collaboration process, and strong governance of that.”

The next step is to translate the material from English into 15 other languages.

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DATA DRIVEN DECISIONS: A dairy farmer trains on DelPro FarmManager.