Empowering the Workforce Through Training: An Investment Return


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We are in close contact with the local colleges and universities. We help in training their engineering students through sponsorship of their senior design projects; sometimes, this includes as many as four teams at a time, providing them with projects and mentoring. In turn, we often receive assistance and the professors reach out to us with opportunities. There are many courses available that directly correlate to developing skill sets that are in high demand in our industry.

Repetition is key to proficiency in any training. Like any ISO or AS certified shop, we have an established QMS with procedures supporting specific functions. Around two or three years ago, we expected that we could hand an employee a written process, ask them to read it, and consider them trained, thinking they would follow what they had “learned.” We have since realized that it is more likely they had forgotten most of what they read by the time they clocked in the next morning. Breaking this material up into smaller portions and reviewing it on a regular basis creates a habit in following the procedure rather than a regurgitation.

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Figure 3: Dan Prina leading a Kaizen training exercise at MC Assembly headquarters in Melbourne, Florida.

Our Mexico facility created a class in-house to provide a Six Sigma overview, which we termed “white belt”. This was an introduction to Six Sigma, where the tools of the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve Control) process are outlined. Even if employees are not developed in the use of these tools, they are now aware that they exist and can request additional training when needed. The Mexico team is now in the process of selecting teams for advanced green belt training for quality and product engineers.

Jose Santos, director of operations of our facility in Mexico, discovered a state-certified electronics course and had 20 employees train for and receive certifications. The payback on this was immediately evident as they lined up for a picture holding their newly signed certificates with beaming smiles. They feel worthy of investment and not just a name on an hourly time clock report.

Inspired by the initiatives shown in Mexico, the Florida team commenced on a journey to certify nearly a dozen employees in Six Sigma Black Belt study. This provides tools for statistical analysis of data and process improvement. It requires candidates to successfully lead a team through an actual project in Six Sigma process improvement. This is a train-the-trainer opportunity. Master Black Belts certify Black Belts, who can lead and mentor Green Belts, who can take their co-workers through basic waste analysis, elimination, and control.

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Cross-training within our facilities is a mandate from our COO. Flexibility to perform multiple jobs gives employees opportunities to become more valuable to the organization. In this way, we can mitigate schedule risks caused by absenteeism or the departure of an employee. Cross training to eliminate a single point of failure is a benefit for the company and is rewarded during employee reviews. Tracking this training is performed by their area supervisor and training should be interdepartmental.

We spend a great deal of time outside of our facility, benchmarking training methods and ideas for best practice. Through this process, we have adopted the following beliefs and practices:

  • Visually displaying training opportunities is important
  • Employees made aware of what training is available often seek out training and thus training becomes pull instead of push
  • It’s all too common to have a superstar in your employ and focus training and development on that person, but to be effective, training must be widespread
  • We have created a tuition reimbursement program for personal professional development
  • Supervisors must identify training needs and fill them. Someone, somewhere in your organization should be in training right now
  • Let trainees become trainers. Nothing teaches like teaching
  • Kata – train until a process becomes habit

Since the beginning of our Lean journey, over two years ago, we have initiated more than 50 kaizen events, carefully selected to make improvements that will contribute to our goal. Initially, these events were chaired and run and peopled by supervisors and leads, or engineers. And while these events were deemed successful, we have changed tack and instead now select participants who are users of the process under review. They are given the training needed to properly effect process change. This ensures the presence of a subject matter expert during the event and includes employees in the development of solutions to our everyday problems. In doing so, we are creating an army of problem solvers rather than a facility full of people waiting to receive direction from someone who may not be as familiar with the process as they are themselves.

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