Ongoing Employee Training is Essential in a Manufacturing Environment

An article titled “Human Capital” in the January 2014 issue of Modern Machine Shop states that:

“In many shops, labor cost is the single largest category of production expense. But even where this is not the case, it remains true that only people can fill a customer’s order by carrying the job through to completion, and only people can put the shop’s equipment to use. The shop’s staff members are the greatest source of value in the shop, because they are the originators and enablers of all of the value the shop is able to add. Yet how many shops have taken this line of thinking to the next logical step? Namely: If the employees are a source of value, is it possible to realize more of this value?”

The answer to this question is yes, and it comes in the form of ongoing employee training. An employee shouldn’t receive training only at the start of their employment. Processes and equipment are continually evolving, which means that employees must continually be trained in order to improve output. This includes both formal training and informal training opportunities that may arise as problems need to be solved. Every problem should be viewed as a learning opportunity not only for the person encountering the problem, but for every employee. Bringing the team together to solve a problem forms a sense of camaraderie and means that all team members now understand how to tackle the issue the next time it arises.

Employee improvement translates into overall process improvement and employees can only improve if they are provided with the necessary tools and learning experiences. Sufficient time needs to be dedicated towards ongoing training opportunities. As they say, “knowledge is power”. With increased knowledge, companies may find that employees are better equipped to problem solve on their own, which minimizes downtime and improves efficiency. Training should be emphasized across all levels so more work can be delegated. When only a select few employees have the highest level of knowledge, it can put the company in a tough situation as there is greater risk in losing those employees. Within reason, good employees are typically capable of taking on additional work as long as they receive the proper training to do so.

Ongoing training opportunities can also contribute towards greater job satisfaction. A good employee wants to learn more about the job that he/she is doing and how it fits into the bigger picture. With ongoing training they will feel more confident in their role and believe that they are valued. If training opportunities are limited an employee might become bored, feel undervalued, and look for other opportunities.

In addition to contributing towards process improvement and increased job satisfaction, ongoing training is mandatory within certain industries. For example, medical device manufacturers need to follow very strict training regulations.

From the FDA Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, regarding requirements for training for medical device firms:

Sec. 820.2 Personnel:

(a)General. Each manufacturer shall have sufficient personnel with the necessary education, background, training, and experience to assure that all activities required by this part are correctly performed.
(b)Training. Each manufacturer shall establish procedures for identifying training needs and ensure that all personnel are trained to adequately perform their assigned responsibilities. Training shall be documented.
(1) As part of their training, personnel shall be made aware of device defects which may occur from the improper performance of their specific jobs.
(2) Personnel who perform verification and validation activities shall be made aware of defects and errors that may be encountered as part of their job functions.

During an FDA inspection, the investigator must determine whether the training program is adequate by checking training records. If the FDA finds that your company isn’t following protocol, it will be addressed in a warning letter which is why an FDA-compliant training program must be in place.

According to Nancy Singer of Compliance-Alliance, LLC in this blog post:

To create effective and FDA-compliant training programs, firms need to adopt a culture of learning. Firms on a continuing basis need to devote resources to perform a needs assessment, implement a training program, evaluate its effectiveness and make sure all of the records are complete and up to date. A good training program is a resource intensive endeavor. However, when firms examine their return on investment, they will realize that it is worthwhile, as it is likely to result in a loyal and professional work force that produces safe and effective products.

About the Author

Cheryl Beebe

Cheryl graduated from Providence College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. She has worked in the accounting and finance field for 20+ years in Real Estate/Construction, Asset Management, Telecommunication, Information Technology/Software, non-profit, Diamond Industry, and Manufacturing. Cheryl is currently the Chief Financial Officer at Fishman Corporation, a manufacturing corporation based in Hopkinton, MA.

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