Magazine article Personnel Journal

Keep Up Production through Cross-Training

Magazine article Personnel Journal

Keep Up Production through Cross-Training

Article excerpt

Jack-of-all-trades? Not quite, but most employees are motivated to learn--and capable of mastering--another related task. When they do, they can help production run smoothly when a vital position is empty.

In any manufacturing environment, the timely processing of customer orders is dependent upon a number of factors--not the least of which is the presence of an adequate number of skilled workers. Often the absence of even one, because of illness or a family emergency, can interrupt production and create increased costs to the company in the form of delayed shipments, overtime or the hiring of temporary help.

At the world headquarters of Graphic Controls Corp. (GCC) in Buffalo, N.Y., management is looking to its existing work force to fill these unexpected gaps, according to Jannie Redman, manager of HR, Training & Development and EEO. Management's goal is to create a flexible work force, in that many manufacturing operators are cross-trained to perform the duties of at least one other position.

The savings to the company in time and money are obvious, but Redman says the benefits to workers are just as evident. By receiving additional training on the job, some employees are mastering the skills necessary to advance to more desirable and higher-paid positions, should openings arise.

"For years we found that when our people applied for jobs in a different department or floor, they didn't have the experience or exposure to the product that was required to compete successfully in a job-bidding process," Redman says. "Although one of our goals is to increase flexibility in our work force, we also are trying to increase opportunities for the growth and development of our people."

Women and minorities also benefit, she points out. "Women and minorities receive the opportunity to receive education and training in higher skill-level positions, increasing their chances to move upward in the GCC work force," she says.

It was in May 1990 that GCC announced it would begin a pilot project to cross-train some workers for a few highly skilled positions in its 20-department manufacturing area. This new project, called the designated trainee program, focuses primarily on the company's chart manufacturing area, giving approximately 300 to 400 employees a chance to bid on a limited number of training opportunities in their respective departments.

In a brochure issued to workers, the program goals were promoted as two-fold: to produce a well-trained and versatile work force qualified and willing to work where the need arises, and, at the same time, to provide individuals with cross-training, skills enhancement and job enrichment.

To achieve these goals, four basic steps have been developed. First, managers review the work flow in their individual departments, establishing their needs for additional or back-up coverage for particular months or the entire year.

In the second step, for each position identified, the manager then works with a HR specialist to develop a training curriculum and choose a trainer. Ideally, Redman explains, trainers are selected from people in the work force who have demonstrated successful performance of the job for a number of years and have the potential to be good teachers.

The trainers then assist the HR specialist and the manager to establish the training curriculum for those positions. For example, for the position of Category 1 rewind operator (charged primarily with winding paper onto spools), the trainer walks the HR specialist and manager through a gauge change, showing the successful performance of that operation, and then charts out each step of the process. The trainer checks off each step, during the training session, as it's taught, indicating whether the trainee is in need of assistance, Redman says.

Typically, training starts out with classroom instruction and progresses to on-the-job training. In the future, the company hopes to develop computer-simulated training, helping trainees learn and practice performing the operation of equipment using a series of videotapes and interactive computer programs. …

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