Onboarding

Onboarding

THE START OF SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL

Starting a new job can be a little stressful.   Meeting new people, learning new tasks and an adjusting to a new workplace culture.  Can you think back to your first day with your current employer?  Were you nervous? Excited? How were you greeted by your new peers?  Was everyone expecting you?

Some employers seem burned out from the hiring phase – it is like a revolving door for new employees.  Employees are hired and then they leave within a week or two resulting in more time and money spent on recruiting and training.

Without a doubt, hiring employees has gotten much more difficult in recent years.  There is a shortage of skilled workers who have the workplace competencies needed in manufacturing.  So, recruiting qualified candidates is much more difficult.  (Check out this article on tips on recruiting the most qualified employees.)

But, once you have selected a qualified employee, you want to make them feel welcome. Have you thought about the first impression you give your new employee on their first day?  Could you do more to let your new employees know you view them as a valuable member of your team?  Here are few suggestions that could help in retaining your new employees:

  • Interview current employees about what they thought about their first day, week or month with the company.  What was their impression of how they were welcomed by the company?  What is one thing they would like to see improved or implemented?
  • Establish a mentor program so veteran employees can assist new hires assimilate into the culture.
  • Create an employee based committee to assist in developing and instituting the onboarding process.  You might even consider allowing them to participate in interviewing candidates.
  • Provide a checklist for the hiring manager or supervisor so they can ensure the company is prepared for a new employee prior to the first day.

Establishing an onboarding program is an important part of retaining your work force (check out this blog for more information on onboarding).  But, don’t overlook the importance of making a good impression on the first day.  Making the employee feel welcome and helping them adjust to your culture can help retain a valuable new employee.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to www.keyprocessinnovations.com.

Safety, Icebergs and Business Profitability

Safety, Icebergs and Business Profitability

The goal in manufacturing is to SAFELY make an end product that meets customer specifications with the lowest cost possible. There is nothing more important than the safety of the employees.  But even looking beyond the employee, having a strong safety culture also impacts your bottom line.

I recently met with a manufacturing professional who shared if you want to know if a company is profitable, ask them about their safety statistics.  If they don’t know them off the top of their head or can’t find them quickly, they are probably struggling financially. Without a strong safety program, eventually the number of workplace accidents will start to climb.

When thinking about workplace accidents, I imagine an iceberg with 20% above the water and 80% below the water.  The cost of the accident is the part above the water including doctor/hospital bills, employee time-off, etc.  But, the actual cost is what is under the water which includes increased insurance premiums, higher payroll and reduced plant productivity.

But, you don’t have to take my word for it.  I found a lot of data that supports the relationship between a strong safety culture and profitability, including the following:

  • A Liberty Mutual survey reports 61% of executives say $3 or more is saved for each $1 invested in work place safety (http://www.the-osha-advisor.com/CASE.html)
  • Participation in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program saved one company $930,000 per year and the company had 450 fewer lost-time injuries than its industry average (http://www.asse.org/bosc-article-6/)
  • According to the American Society of Safety Engineers, investment in health and safety programs can result in saving in workman’s comp claims, liability damages and litigation costs in addition to improvement in productivity and employee morale.

Providing a safe workplace for your employees is a win-win.  It is good for the employees and good for your bottom line.  If you believe your safety program needs a little work, there are a number of resources available online including an article I recently wrote on the importance of reporting near-misses.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to www.keyprocessinnovations.com.

How Do You Manage Your Process?

How Do You Manage Your Process?

WITH RIGIDITY OR FLEXIBILITY?

One of the reasons operators are trained to do a task the same way is to ensure uniformity and reduce process variability.  However, this approach may not take into account how operators should react to slight process variations.

Yes, we want consistency from operator to operator but, we also want the operator to be aware of process fluctuations and adjust accordingly.  One of the benefits of having an operator do a job rather than a robot is that they can observe the process.  However, operators need to know what to do when slight changes are observed.  Should they modify the process or stop production and notify management?

Some argue that operators should all do the same thing and not make any changes to the process.  Others suggest that it is best to have operators aware of the overall process and the desired end result and then give them the flexibility to modify the steps based on their perceived best method.  I see benefits and challenges with each of those approaches.

If operators are instructed to follow the process exactly as they were trained, the following questions come to mind:

  • What is the impetus for making improvements to the process?
  • What if a shift in the process impacts the final product?
  • How do the operators provide input for a better method?
  • Who decides whether this new method should be implemented?

If the operators have the flexibility to modify the process based on their perceived best method, I start to question:

  • How do the operators know that their modification won’t impact product quality?
  • Is their modification the most ergonomic method?
  • Will other operators try the same modification but achieve a different result?

Regardless of the how you approach improvements to a process, it is critical that the operators have input.  They work in the process on an ongoing basis and will detect subtle changes that might otherwise go unnoticed. Establishing a method for incorporating process improvements will go a long way towards reducing process variability.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to www.keyprocessinnovations.com.

The Study of Andragogy

The Study of Andragogy

UTILIZING SCIENCE TO OPTIMIZE ADULT LEARNING

As you develop an approach to training your operators, it is important to remember that adults have different motivations than children or adolescents. Being aware of these differences and making adjustments to your training approach will make your operator training much more effective.

Andragogy is the method and practice of teaching adult learners. After studying the theory of adult education, Malcolm Knowles combined his research with andragogy and developed six assumptions related to adult learning:

  1. Tell them the Why.  It isn’t enough to tell an adult that something has to be done a particular way – they also need to know why it is important.
  2. Motivation.  Adults are motivated both externally (promotions, higher salaries, etc.) and internally (increased knowledge or self-esteem). Awareness of these motivators can augment the learning process.
  3. Self-concept.  They need to be treated like they are capable of learning and have the ability to direct their learning.  This means giving them freedom to identify areas of weakness that require further study.
  4. Respect prior experience.  Adults have different experiences that they will bring into their new workplace or position.  Try to draw out these experiences to use as a foundation for current training.
  5. Readiness. Motivation is much greater when focused on subjects they will encounter in either their work or personal lives. The days of learning Advanced Linear Algebra have passed (one would hope).
  6. Orientation. Learning should be based on problems that will be faced instead of theoretical issues.  The student will ask how this knowledge will solve a problem.  If a sufficient answer can’t be found, the motivation may be lost.

So, as you begin training your operators, try to keep these assumptions in mind.  As training material is developed, ensure that it contains information that is pertinent to the task they are being trained to do. Use job specific examples that can be easily applied. And remember to include why the training is important.  The more mindful you are of these assumptions, the more effective the training will be.  And that will in turn have the desired affect.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to www.keyprocessinnovations.com.

Benefits of Defining Your Skills Matrix

Benefits of Defining Your Skills Matrix

Understanding the Learning Continuum

39ab6100-96bb-4c42-a5f0-a0b58bc38e7cI don’t believe that any parent would allow a teenager to drive on a freeway without practice to develop the required skills. Learning to drive needs to be introduced in steps: first, a large parking lot, then maybe some side streets.  Once that seems easy, start driving on some busier streets and then eventually head onto the freeway.  Along the way, the driver exhibits understanding before progressing onto the next step.  The final demonstration is a written and practical test at the local DMV.

Not all operator training needs to be as structured as learning to drive.  But, we can agree that it takes time to learn the skills necessary to perform a task efficiently.  And before moving onto the next task, the student needs to demonstrate a certain level of competency.

A Gordon Training International employee, Noel Burch introduced the “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill” in the 1970s. These four stages are:
Stage 1: Unconsciously Incompetent – I don’t know what I don’t know
Stage 2: Consciously Incompetent – I know what I don’t know
Stage 3: Consciously Competent – I know what to do but still need to think about it
Stage 4: Unconsciously Competent – I know what to do it and don’t need to think about it

Unfortunately, many manufacturers label operators as trained or not trained.  However, being aware of these four stages can help develop a Skills Matrix for your plant and your employees.   Defining Stage 1 and Stage 4 is relatively easy, but, how do you define when an operator is at Stage 2 and 3? What is your criteria for determining when an operator moves from Stage 1 to Stage 2? How about from Stage 2 to Stage 3?

Adapting these four levels to a Skills Matrix for your employees could include the following criteria:
Stage 1: Minimal Understanding – must have constant supervision
Stage 2: Some Understanding – can work independently but supervisor must check work periodically
Stage 3: Fully Trained – can work independently
Stage 4: Trainer – able to train others how to do the task

Utilizing these 4 stages within your Skills Matrix can highlight areas and operators within your organization which would benefit from additional training.  It can also be used as a tool during employee reviews.

As you look at your operator training program, where do you fall on the continuum?  If you aren’t at level 4, what do you need to do in order to get there?

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to www.keyprocessinnovations.com.

Don’t Be Like Me: Overcoming Obstacles to Effective Training

Don’t Be Like Me: Overcoming Obstacles to Effective Training

A number of years ago when I was a “wee little chick”, I was called into a room full of managers and told that I had been selected to attend a training.  I wasn’t given any of the reasons behind the training, the goals for attending the training or the duration of the training.  To be honest, I don’t exactly remember my frame of mind when I heard I had been selected, but, according to the trainer, my body language clearly conveyed that I was skeptical of the training and the trainer. Over the duration of the training, I learned a great deal about myself and how to be an effective manager and to this day, I also have the pleasure of calling that trainer my mentor.

This story is a good reminder that most people are skeptical about attending training.  Questions that may run through their mind include: Why am I here?  Is this really important?  What are the motives of the management team in selecting me for this training?

When it comes to preparing your employees, it is critical to be aware of these concerns and if possible, take steps to alleviate those concerns prior to commencing.  Communication is an important part of ensuring your employees get the most out of the training.  This communication can include why the training is important to the employee, why it is important to the company and what the company wants to achieve by investing in the training.

In some instances, training is a precursor to changes that are going to be instituted at the company.  And the employee concerns may be around those changes and how it will impact him.  Acknowledge that and provide the opportunity for the employee to share his or her concerns.

After the training, take some time to get feedback on the training, what worked well and what could be improved.  Not all training needs to be as entertaining as a U2 concert but, it is important that the employee gains the necessary skills, understanding or mindset in order to have the desired impact on the organization.

There is no doubt that if my manager had a 5-minute conversation with me about the training and why they were sending me prior to the initial meeting, I would have been much more receptive to what the trainer was sharing.  Yes, over time I did find value in the training, but, being prepared ahead of time would have allowed me to learn even more. As you send your employees to training, I hope you will learn from my experience and prepare your employees in order to optimize their learning.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to www.keyprocessinnovations.com.

Seven Benefits of Operator Training

Seven Benefits of Operator Training

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Over the past few months, I’ve been writing on a wide range of topics around how to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce.  But, perhaps I should share why I find this topic so important.

First, it starts with safety. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of an employee.  And, ensuring an employee is properly trained is a critical step in preventing workplace accidents.

Beyond that, here are some additional reasons why investing in training your employees is so important.

  1. The cost of replacing manufacturing employees ranges from 16 to 20% of their annual salary.  That might not seem like a lot, but, depending on employee turnover, this cost can add up quickly.1
  2. Ten percent of the workforce over the age of 50 are expected to retire every year. Without a methodology to capture plant knowledge and a means to transfer it to newer employees, your business risks losing valuable information when a long-term employee retires.2
  3. It can take up to a year for an employee to reach peek job performance, however over 25% of employers do not have the necessary onboarding program to assist a new employee in gaining the necessary skills and knowledge during the first year.3  This results in lower job performance or higher employee turnover.
  4. Investing in employee training is a valuable tool for attracting and retaining employees. Employees, especially those from the Millennial generation, want opportunities to gain knowledge and learn new skills.
  5. Ensuring that operators are trained in multiple positions provides flexibility to the organization.  This allows the plant to easily adjust to changes in work flow, varying product lines and changes to customer requirements.
  6. Employees who are properly trained are more familiar with the requirements of their position resulting in less scrap and increased productivity.  Both of which will have a positive impact on your bottom line.

There is no doubt that having a robust operator training program will have an impact on your business.  And the sooner you get started, the sooner you can help reap the benefits.  If you know you need to improve your training program, but, you aren’t sure where to start, read this post titled It All Starts with One Step.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to www.keyprocessinnovations.com.

References:
1https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/labor/report/2012/11/16/44464/there-are-significant-business-costs-to-replacing-employees/
2 Pitt-Catsouphes & Matz-Costa, 2009
3http://www.tembostatus.com/blog/how-career-training-can-reduce-employee-turnover

Data: Another “Sense” for Quantifying Process Improvements

Data: Another “Sense” for Quantifying Process Improvements

A lot of people claim to have a “6th Sense” when assessing a situation.  But, when it comes to making a business investment, having a benchmark and being able to quantify improvements is essential. Making process improvements in your process may require an investment in financial, personnel or temporal resources and in order to justify the investment, you may need more than a sense in order to get the necessary support. change-is-childsplay-4-1056970-1279x852

No matter what problem solving methodology used within your plant, most start by defining the problem.  And part of this initial step includes identifying measures of process performance and establishing a baseline. An often overlooked reason for this step is to ensure the gains are sustained after improvements have been implemented.

Listed below are some metrics that can be used to measure process performance.

  1. First Pass Yield.  This measures the number of good units produced against the total number of units produced.  Depending on your process, this measurement can be broken down by department, by machine or by operator.
  2. Value Added vs Non-Value Added Time.  Gathering data for this can be done via Value Stream Mapping or through Time Observations. From these studies, value and non-value added steps can be identified.  As non-value added time is reduced, process output should increase.
  3. % Uptime.  By defining % Uptime as outlined below, this measurement also takes into account set-up, changeovers, loading, unloading, idle time, breaks, cleaning, maintenance, etc.
% Uptime = (Value Added Time) x 100
            (Operating Time)
  1. Process Capability, Cp or Cpk. In order for a process to be considered capable, it needs to be stable.  Process stability means having consistent centering around the mean and predictable variation.

As you look towards making improvements in your process, try to pick a metric currently in use (or one that should be implemented) and use that to establish a baseline.  Then utilize that metric to show areas which need improvement. Additionally after changes are made, data is available to document the improvement and provide a metric to sustain the gains.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to www.keyprocessinnovations.com.

It All Starts with One Step: Improving Your Operator Training Program

It All Starts with One Step: Improving Your Operator Training Program

Most manufacturers will admit that they don’t do a good job training their employees.  It isn’t that they don’t see the value, it is rather that the task feels overwhelming and they don’t know where to start.  But, like any other journey worth taking, it starts with a single step.  Listed below are some steps you can take to improve your operator training program.

  1. Pick a Starting Point. What is the area that is causing you the biggest issue? Is there a department with high turnover?  How about high scrap?  Is there a bottle neck in your plant that shouldn’t be there?
  1. Assess the Situation. What are the tasks that need to be performed in a particular department? What are the skills needed in order to complete those tasks?
  1. Develop the materials. Review the established procedures against the current process and if a discrepancy is found, decide which should be included. Once that is complete, ensure the procedures are up to date. In addition to procedures, other training materials which may be of use include videos, standard work or visual aids.
  1. Quantify the skill levels. For each of the tasks, quantify the skill level and determine how the skill level will be measured. The skill level should range from Untrained to Fully Trained, with various levels in between. Using the defined skill levels, assess each employee against each of the tasks.
  1. Complete the skills matrix. Once each operator has been measured against each task, the skills matrix can be completed. And from the completed matrix, the gaps for the department have been identified and an action plan can be developed to address those gaps.

I would agree that implementing or improving an operator training system may seem daunting, but, having a process which results in fully trained operators makes the journey much easier to start.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to www.keyprocessinnovations.com.