Unipart, the engineering and parts distribution group, aims to save more than 20,000 production days a year by introducing online training for its workforce.
The group is investing £1.5m in a system that will bring computerised training courses to the workshop floor, allowing staff to learn skills as they need them.
Unipart believes it can cut training time for its 10,000 staff by at least 20% by allowing them to learn skills online in their place of work, rather than taking time out to travel to courses.
"We are definitely looking for a 20% improvement on time, but my guess is that once we have done this for a year, we will find the benefits are greater than our initial assessment," said Frank Nigriello, Unipart's corporate communications director.
The system, dubbed Virtual U, is designed to encourage what Unipart calls "just-in-time learning". Workers will be able to upgrade or refresh their skills when they need to - and be back at work within 15 minutes.
A pilot study, by Unipart's precision machining business, showed staff were able to learn how to use a precision micrometer in just one hour of online training, compared to six hours needed to attend a course off-site.
Unipart, which was unable to find suitable commercial training packages, has opted to develop its own courses.
Employees, who each receive an average of 10 days training a year, will be able to access the courses from desktop computers in existing shopfloor classrooms. They will also be able to train from home by logging onto the University for Industry's Web site.
The system uses Lotus Domino software, together with Macromedia's Authorware, to create courses, and Pathware to manage user access.