Want to Reduce Time to Competency in Your Manufacturing Operations? Here’s How.

Manufacturing companies often have a reputation of being slow to change… and for good reason. Change is difficult and costly when it involves making substantial alterations to production processes, retraining a large workforce, or investing in expensive equipment. The problem isn’t necessarily that change is a bad idea, but rather that it’s painful to implement.

Yet change is necessary at times, whether that’s due to shifting competition, the need to implement new innovations, merger and acquisition activity, or other business expansion. When it comes time to open a new plant, integrate a new production line, or get new employees up to speed, the question is no longer whether the change is needed, but how to make the transition as smooth (and as short) as possible.

When significant changes take place in your operations, having the right training resources in place can make a huge difference with regard to employee time to competency. This is a big deal, because the faster you can get employees understanding how to do their jobs well, the less downtime your operations will experience… and the more profit your organization can make.

Also, your chances of employee injury, damaged machinery, material waste, customer complaints, and other issues diminish when everyone has a clear understanding of processes and equipment.

What does a well-constructed training program look like? In many cases, it means having not only the people in place to give instruction, but having a strong operations manual, standard operating procedures (SOPs), work instructions, and on-the-job training (OJT) materials to support the initiative. If you are thinking to yourself, “We have all those things!”, that’s great! But know that there is a difference between having documentation and having documentation that is easily understood and remembered by workers with varying levels of experience and diverse backgrounds.

Three Training Program Must-Haves for Quick Time to Competency

Suspect that your training and operational documentation could use a little work? Here are three factors to consider when assessing your condition:

  1. Do you have up-to-date training materials that clearly specify how to conduct all tasks necessary to the successful execution of your manufacturing operations?

If the answer is “no”, you have an obvious opportunity to reduce frustration and confusion among employees while also avoiding significant risk/loss for your company. If the answer is “yes”, you’re on the right track!

  1. Are your training materials written in a way that is easy to understand for everyone who needs to be familiar with the contents?

This may seem like a tough question to answer, as it’s hard to speak for “everyone”, but start by asking yourself:

  • Are complex processes broken down into easy step-by-step instructions?
  • Is language clear and concise? Is it reflective of the language of employees?
  • Did you avoid using jargon? Are definitions provided for trade-specific terms?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, there’s an opportunity for improvement.

  1. Is there a consistent, proven process in place for delivering the information contained in training materials?

Many instructional materials for the workplace, such as operations manuals, are not intended to be used for self-study. Impactful training requires human interaction and on-the-job education. It should also be supported by checklists for trainers to follow, ensuring they covered everything and can sign off that the learner demonstrated proper skills upon completion of the training. Finally, training should be delivered consistently… If you have three different ways to train employees on a process, for instance, you are only introducing the opportunity for confusion and mistakes.

While change can be intimidating in the manufacturing world, it doesn’t have to be painful if you take a careful approach to training your employees. And you don’t have to do it alone… We have helped many organizations create training programs and supporting documentation to reduce their employees’ time to competency in the face of major change. Check out our case study of how we helped a food manufacturing company get a new workforce ready to operate a new plant effectively, even while factors affecting the training were changing by the day.

Want to talk about how you can improve time to competency in your facilities? Contact us any time.