August 14th, 2014
Make Every Day a Training Day
As the busiest time of year descends upon us, many door and window fabricators are finding quality labor in short supply. Many of the jobs in a window factory are quite repetitious and the plant environments are hot and dusty which leads to boredom, exhaustion and eventually attrition. In many areas, keeping a drug free environment also means alarmingly high attrition rates. The random drug testing is administered and all of the sudden, employers find they have quite a few employees to replace. So with so much turnover and so many windows to make, employee training becomes a critical element to the success of a manufacturing operation.
For this reason, many of the window manufacturers I am visiting have hired or are in the process of designating someone as a full-time trainer. This is obviously someone who intimately knows all of the critical procedures and job functions performed at various stages in the door or window manufacturing operation, and this person must have extremely good people skills.
The trainer’s job goes beyond just teaching employees how to perform various job functions. He or she can also have a huge impact on employee morale and teamwork. By teaching employees how to work as a team, setting up goals and rewarding the teams for achieving daily and weekly production and quality goals, the trainer helps to minimize the attrition rate, improve output and maximize product quality. A key ability of a superior trainer is to make the individual feel a part of something much bigger. The trainer takes employees performing specific tasks and transcends their role from that of an individual role to that of a team function. The individual then identifies him or herself with a bigger picture as part of a production team, as opposed to someone just cleaning corners or installing lock sets. Employees so conditioned in this manner feel the satisfaction and camaraderie that goes along with being part of a successful production team.
Working in a window plant in the hot summer months can be a very demanding job both from a physical and mental standpoint. “Many times when we bring employees in from a temp agency, some of them will be gone by noon,” says one production manager. “Many of today’s young people just do not have a strong work ethic,” he feels. But this same manager goes on to say that, “when we get them involved with their co-workers, forming production teams with goals and rewards, they are much more likely to stick around. It gives them a sense of being a part of something bigger!” This is where something as simple as company shirts or hats can also have a huge impact. Perhaps the IG line surpasses any previous daily production record. So the following week they are wearing new company hats. Something this simple can be a very powerful motivator since it builds team spirit, sets them apart and provides recognition for their accomplishments.
Cross training is also an extremely valuable concept, even though it is more difficult to pull off during the peak production months when units per hour must be maximized. However, in the long run it can pay valuable rewards. If one department is suddenly hit hard with absences, the production manager can pull people from other departments who have been cross trained for that department and can therefore help keep production rate and quality standards on track until the missing people come back or are replaced. Cross training is more easily achieved during the off peak months, but when sales and production quotas start heating up late fall, it can pay huge dividends.
Door and window plants present very challenging production environments. This is compounded by the fact that this is an extremely competitive industry, which tends to keep starting wage rates on the low end of the spectrum. However, by designating a highly skilled person with great people skills as a full-time production trainer, door and window companies can maintain and develop a highly skilled production team capable of supporting the sales team with high quality, cost-effective solutions for the company’s customer base. As one production manager put it, “It’s our people that make this company a winner!”