Training a Skilled Workforce
Small businesses are particularly challenged hiring, training, and retaining productive employees. This has always been a problem, which has been made worse by the current virus restrictions.
First, a few questions:
- Do you have a formal training program for new workers?
- Is there documentation for all the critical tasks throughout your operation?
- When there are product modifications or specials, how are workers informed so that the items are built correctly?
- Are you using high-skilled workers to do low-skill jobs?
- When a worker has a question about order details, does he head for the office?
Small companies typically lack training programs, instead relying on existing workers to train new ones. Your best workers have accumulated what is referred to as “tribal knowledge”. When new workers are hired, they must learn from the experienced employees. This means that your best workers take time from their jobs to train others, at the expense of production.
For a new worker, even simple things are a mystery such as…
- Where does this part go next for processing?
- Do I have all the parts for this assembly?
- This is a special, but what is different from the standard cabinet?
These and many other similar questions probably occur on a regular basis, even if management is unaware. And, it’s not just new workers that have such questions.
What management does know, is that production is slower than it should be. What is causing all the wasted time and how do we improve? We have a great facility and the best machinery, but our workers often make mistakes and are constantly asking questions.
It’s common to hear business owners complaining that skilled workers are too difficult to find. And, even highly skilled new workers were trained in another shop, which uses different machines and processes.
SOUNDS GRIM, BUT THERE IS A SOLUTION: A MANUFACTURING EXECUTION SYSTEMS (MES)
MES addresses each one of the issues described above.
Shops equipped with a properly configured MES system have stations located at key points throughout the manufacturing process. Each station can not only track work, but also inform the worker on the work to perform. New workers are trained more quickly because it is unnecessary to memorize product and process details.
Scan a part and the MES tells the worker everything he needs to know; what it is, where it goes next, which bin to put it in, and so on.
MES can guide production by informing your workers each step of the way, all based in the engineering data that you already spent so much time and money producing. This results in a smoother running shop, with much less contact between employees.
by Mick Peters, Automated Application Technologies