July 30, 2016 / best practices, continuous improvement, LIT, operator training, productivity, skills gap
As manufacturers continue to seek ways to reduce the industry’s skills gap, more and more emphasis is being placed on human capital. While the tendency has been for companies to focus more on technology than on people, companies are starting to understand the value of investing in their employees as they attempt to attract a new generation of workers—a generation that doesn’t have the necessary skills or even interest in manufacturing.
One huge area that manufacturers are focusing on is operator training. Many companies are either updating their current programs or rebuilding their entire training process to not only ensure that new employees have the right skills, but to keep them motivated and excited about their manufacturing careers.
Of course, there are several tactics ball and roller bearing manufacturers can employ to enhance their training programs. Based on research from the LENOX Institute of Technology, the following four strategies are worth noting:
- Use Technology. As discussed in an earlier blog post, mobile technology is changing the manufacturing landscape. Besides increasing productivity, portable devices can be leveraged for other business functions, including training. For example, devices can be used as virtual training textbooks. As an article from American Machinist explains, companies can create web-based training that is optimized for smartphones and tablets to help employees brush-up on best practices, learn new techniques, and develop new skills anywhere and at any time. This tactic may be especially attractive to the incoming, tech-savvy generation of workers.
- Use Visual Aids to Motivate. Although technology can certainly have its benefits, a simple visual aid can also speak volumes to employees by both motivating them and holding them accountable. Tech Manufacturing, a contract machine shop featured here in Modern Machine Shop found this to be true. In an effort to improve cross-training among employees, the company began tracking employees’ time with various equipment, awarding bronze, silver or gold status based on the hours logged. The sheet is posted in the shop for any staff member to see. There was no reward system attached to the status level; however, the company found that cross-training began to increase as soon as it began posting the skills and status levels.
- Use Diverse Skills as an Asset. By 2020, companies will be challenged with balancing five generations in the workplace, according to the eBook, Five Performance-Boosting Best Practices for Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Company. However, managers can use the different strengths found within a multigenerational workforce as an asset. While younger, less experienced workers may lack industry knowledge, they are typically more technology savvy and more willing to embrace new techniques. Seasoned workers, on the other hand, may be resistant to both change and technological improvements; however, they typically have a vast amount of experience and loyalty, and may be able to mentor new employees. When leveraged appropriately, many companies are finding they can use this diversity as an opportunity to improve operations and create new and innovative solutions to traditional problems.
- Use Ongoing Training to Develop Leaders. One important best practice for any manufacturer is to implement an ongoing training program, either internally or with the help of a supply chain partner. According to the white paper, The Top Five Operating Challenges Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Face in Industrial Metal Cutting, too often metal-cutting operations only provide upfront training, as opposed to continually reinvesting in their operators. Leadership training, in addition to basic operator training, will be key for managers struggling to fill skills gaps and replace retired employees. Just like existing customers are often the greatest source of new business, the underdeveloped potential of existing employees could be an operation’s greatest source of new talent.
What strategies are you using to improve training at your manufacturing operation?