Continuous improvement is a phrase you probably hear often in the manufacturing industry. But what about continuous training? It doesn’t get mentioned as often, yet it’s a necessary component for maximizing the efficiency, productivity and performance of an industrial operation.
As the industry faces a looming skills gap, continuous technical training is more important than ever, ensuring that the right skillsets are present in your current workforce — and the next generation of highly skilled, technical employees that will replace retirees.
What Is Continuous Technical Training?
Let’s break continuous technical training into two components — the technical training part, and the continuous or ongoing part:
In manufacturing, technical training is the methodology of staying up to date with:
Continuous technical training should be viewed as an ongoing, integral part of employee development and management responsibility.
Ongoing technical training is meant to be proactive and should not occur on an as-needed or cursory basis. In order to be beneficial, it must be baked into an employee’s responsibilities each week or month, and be specifically designed to go beyond onboarding. With continuous training as a philosophy, you’ll get the best performance out of your employees and your facility.
How Does Continuous Technical Training Help?
Continuous technical training can deliver the following benefits:
Keeping pace with competitors — Technology upgrades typically require a significant investment, and adoption across the industry is occurring at a gradual pace. However, the technology is there, and that means at least some of your competitors are probably already using it. By remaining knowledgeable about current, available technology, you can make informed decisions on how new machines, add-ons and systems - like connected sensor equipment or automation integrations - can benefit you. Through continuous training, your employees will be able to transition to more advanced equipment and processes with ease.
Increased the efficiency of operations — Staying up to date with process efficiencies and best practices is an easy way to ensure that operations remain as productive as possible. Ongoing technical training also reinforces existing processes and requirements, so that employees are always working within the required parameters. Training in new technology can deliver an immediate - and significant - efficiency and productivity boosts.
Improved employee satisfaction and performance — When you provide ongoing training opportunities, employees will recognize and appreciate the investment you are making in them. A comprehensive training program not only gives employees the tools they need to reach their full potential, but also makes them feel like an important part of the bigger picture - especially when cross-training is introduced.
Cross-training also opens up opportunities for management and workers to identify strengths in other roles, functions and departments, creating a more effective organization with a mission to grow and develop the careers of its employees.
Opportunities for process improvements — Training across departments and functions gives employees a more holistic view of how the organization operates and how their departments interact with others. The firsthand experience that cross-training provides can empower employees to identify previously unconsidered process improvements and efficiencies in their work within the larger organization.
As you can see, ongoing technical training provides benefits to the entire organization and individual employees alike. It is one of the most effective ways to introduce efficiency and performance benefits with a minimum of overhead investment — and should be a part of any organization’s improvement tool kit.
Author bio: Chris Hobbs has more than 25 years of manufacturing experience in various hands-on and managerial roles such as machine builder, reliability engineer, maintenance technician, maintenance management, consulting, and more. Chris is currently the Technical Training Program Manager at Advanced Technology Services where he oversees the SkillPoint™ training program comprised of electronic and mechanical courses to improve technicians’ skillsets and meet the needs of modern manufacturing.
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