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10 The Importance of Training

Training is one of the hottest topics being discussed by managers throughout the plastics industry. To be competitive in today’s lean global marketplace, companies must continue to produce quality parts with a minimal number of skilled employees.

Machine, tooling, processing, and material technology are con-stantly changing and training is one of the best ways to prepare your employees to handle this constant change.

A greater understanding of the job at hand can be achieved through structured training – allowing new employees to become ‘experi-enced’ much more quickly.

The effort required to set up a structured training program is paid back many times. Any manager can quickly assign a monetary value to all of these areas.

Competent workers provide immediate payback through:
• Lower Scrap Rates
• Reduced Mold Damage
• Decreased Machine Downtime
• Improved Troubleshooting Time
• Faster Machine Startup
• Fewer Defects
• Consistent Part Quality
• Highly Repeatable Processes
• Shorter Cycle Time
• Less Accidents
• Process Optimization
• Increased Customer Satisfaction
• Quicker Changeovers
• Extended Tool and Machine Life
• More Energy Efficient Processes
• Less Employee Turnover

Figure 10a: Annual Savings Per Machine (with a structured in-house training program)

Injection Molding Machine Hourly Rate

% Cycle Time Improvement

$30/hr

$40/hr

$50/hr

$60/hr

10%

$18,000

$25,000

$31,000

$37,000

15%

$28,000

$37,000

$47,000

$56,000

20%

$37,000

$50,000

$62,000

$75,000

25%

$46,000

$62,000

$78,000

$93,000

30%

$56,000

$75,000

$93,000

$112,000

35%

$65,000

$87,000

$109,000

$131,000

This table represents the cost savings per machine when improving process efficiency through structured training. The annual figures above are based on a 5 day/24 hour operation.

10.1 Training and the Plastics Industry

A business grows and profits when its employees are constantly increasing their knowledge and experience. No one can dispute that an experienced employee is a valuable asset to any company. But while most managers realize that training is important, many don’t take the time to set up a training initiative and keep it going.

An in-house training program gives you the competitive edge in today’s fast-paced plastics industry. Having trained employees who understand the concepts of the molding process can better adapt to new production runs and can troubleshoot in a more logical and efficient manner. The bottom line is that your company will run smoother and will have a reputation for consistently delivering qual-ity parts.

Businesses with long term success provide extensive and continu-ous training for their employees. This attention to education and training is one of the reasons these companies are still competing today. A business can only grow when its employees are constantly improving their skill levels. Setting up a comprehensive, yet flexible in-house training program takes some work, but the dividends are well worth it.

10.2 Success Factors for Employee Training

Relevant: The information being presented to your employees must be relevant to the workplace. An effective in-house training plan incorporates all of the training necessary to instill a good base of fundamental knowledge.

Captivating: In-house training must be captivating in order to keep the participants’ attention. Basically, your employees cannot learn if they do not pay attention to what is being taught.

Interactive: Employees retain significantly more information in an interactive environment. Answering questions, selecting options, receiving feedback, reviewing materials, and determining the pace will all contribute to an interactive training environment.

Customizable: Even with relevant information, the training must be tailored to meet the specific needs of your plant. Training media, such as online and focused hands-on training can be easily custom-ized to your facility.

Skill Development: Although theoretical information can be helpful, it is critical that your training teaches how to apply the information. After being trained, the participant needs to develop skills so the knowledge can actually be used in the workplace.

Progress Monitoring: Tracking of results is critical to proving the effectiveness of the training initiative. Facilitators need to use a train-ing method which makes it easy to track, monitor and report on the successes of each employee.

10.3 Available Training Options

Training comes in many different forms including books, manuals, videos and DVDs, seminars, online training, process simulation software, and plant specific on-the-job training. Many companies would like to provide on-the-job training performed by a knowledge-able, experienced leader with a knack for instruction. However, the right person for the job is often too busy performing at a high level to take the time to extensively train new employees.

We have determined that an effective in-house training initiative re-quires a combination of training methods. The following paragraphs give a brief description of each available training method.

10.3.1 Printed Materials

Books, manuals, and industry publications are inexpensive, easy to obtain, and can be used over and over again. However, asking an employee to read and retain a large body of written information is somewhat unrealistic. Most people require interaction in order to learn effectively. Printed materials are essential forms of reference but do not provide any measured results.

10.3.2 Video Training

Training with videos or DVDs is visually interesting and is somewhat inexpensive, but still lacks interaction and the ability to monitor progress, unless hand written tests are passed out and logged by a facilitator. Another drawback is that a video is a linear presentation that cannot be customized. Video presentations can be very lengthy, and studies have shown that retention drops after more than three minutes of continuous video. It is for these reasons that video or DVD training are not viable options when choosing the best training method.

10.3.3 Seminars

There are several variables associated with classroom training, guest lecturers and seminars. Will the workers be able to understand and keep up with the instructor? How much will they retain if they “zone out” during the session? How many times will they have to repeat the session to apply it on the job? What’s the ideal number of employees to train at one time? Although the information provided in a classroom setting may be useful, it is almost impossible to track its effectiveness. Therefore, such methods should not be used as the primary training source.

10.3.4 Online Training

This form of training is continually gaining popularity throughout every industry. This is most effective when it combines 3-D anima-tion, digital video from actual production environments, on-screen titling, and professional narration. This formula is designed to captivate the end user and ensure a higher level of retention is achieved. Each training course should contain many questions to test the participant’s knowledge while the program is delivered. This type of training should be available 24/7 to allow employees to learn at their own pace. Such training programs should be up-to-date and use ‘industry best’ practices. Furthermore, courses should be easily customized to your specific needs. Online training provides measur-able results and is most effective when used in conjunction with plant-specific exercises. This ensures that the knowledge gained during the interactive training can be demonstrated as learned skills out on the production floor.

10.3.5 Process Simulation Software

This virtual machine allows the user to experience a ‘real’ pro-cessing environment without the costs involved with interrupted production, machine time, and material waste. Good simulators should require participants to ‘produce’ acceptable product within given specifications while utilizing realistic interactive process control parameters. Process simulation software is an ideal transition between interactive training and the production floor – allowing you to isolate part defects, improve cycle times, and test various processing methods.

10.3.6 On-the-Job Training

Hands-on training is perceived as the best way to train any em-ployee, but it is very costly. For this type of training to be moderately successful, it must be conducted by an experienced supervisor or manager. On-the-job training can teach an employee about the visible workings of machines, but not the inner workings. This is one primary reason why we suggest a structured or “blended” approach to training. When implementing an in-house training program, specific on-the-job training should be combined with other training methods in order to be effective and efficient.

10.4 Structured In-House Training

No single method of training can meet each of the success factors necessary to teach all your employees. For this reason, it is impor-tant to use a training plan comprised of multiple training methods targeted to teach your employees the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. These training methods can include factors such as focused on-the-job instruction, interactive online training, and skill development exercises.

Since it takes many months to reinforce better behaviors, practices, and habits, the most successful initiatives provide the training in small increments on a weekly basis. Additionally, the components of the training plan which are critical to the success of your employees should be repeated each year to ensure the information is not lost.

In order to make your training program successful, the objectives of each training session should be clearly defined to your workforce. Each participant must understand the goal of the training and how it pertains to his/her job. The facilitator must have methods to direct the training and steer the participant from one objective to the next.

Introducing in-house training to your facility is just the first step. Effective implementation is then required to significantly increase workforce competence. Your structured training plan is used to ensure that the information being presented is in the correct order. This plan dictates the overall flow of the in-house training by estab-lishing a realistic pace which does not overwhelm your employees.

An effective training program also needs the support of manage-ment. Employees will follow management’s lead and will develop the same attitude toward training that management has. This is why it’s critical to train from the top down.

Over time, your employee training plan and training materials should be routinely reviewed for accuracy and relevance. These should be easy to update whenever practices, equipment, or responsibilities change. Ultimately, your in-house training plan should be compre-hensive and flexible enough that you can constantly develop and improve the skills of your employees.

10.5 Training Room Setup

When setting up the training room, it’s important to understand the effect that the room will have on participants. If the room is profes-sionally appointed, clean and quiet, participants will take training seriously. If it’s dirty, cluttered and noisy – with people wandering in and out, the training room will seem more like a break room or cafeteria, and little or no learning will take place.

Choose a room set away from the production area. There should be sufficient lighting, enough chairs and tables for participants to be comfortable, and a small shelf with texts, magazines, manuals and other materials for participant reference. Remove everything from the room that does not pertain directly to training. If this isn’t pos-sible, move boxes or other clutter to a corner of the room and cover it up so it doesn’t distract the participants.

Make and uphold a few simple rules to distinguish the training area from other areas of the plant. For example, you might insist that no food, drink or smoking be allowed in the training area, and that breaks be taken outside the training room. Make a sign with the rules and post it on the door. This tells participants that the training room is for training only, not for socializing or coffee breaks. The room should be a soft, light color, such as pastel blue or green. Always avoid dark colors since it may cause them to want to sleep.

10.6 Program Implementation

To get the most value from a training program, a custom design and on-site implementation support are essential. Our training design-ers can visit your plant to create a custom plan for each employee, covering not only major concepts but job-specific tasks to develop and reinforce proper day-to-day work habits as well. The most effective programs take a blended approach, with online courses in which employees can learn at their own pace reinforced by routine practice in the plant.

Our successful startup program also includes training on how to track, monitor, and customize your in-house training system.

RightStart™, Routsis Training’s custom implementation process, incorporates all these elements to help you accelerate your training initiatives. For more information, please contact us:

Routsis Training
275 Donohue Road, Suite 1
Dracut, MA 01826 USA
phone: (978) 957-0700
email: [email protected]

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