It’s summer. That means a couple of things for door and window manufacturers.

First: It’s busy season. From now until the fall (and possibly beyond) orders will be up, and you’ll need to meet increased demand with ramped up production. The pace will be quick and you’ll need to be sure you’re not letting speed compromise quality or safety.

Second: It’s also vacation season. Whether they’re headed to sandy beaches, amusement parks, or somewhere else, a good number of workers are likely planning to use some well-deserved vacation time over the next few months.

So, what happens when your vinyl saw operator takes the week off? Or when your quality inspector books an extended weekend away? Do you know who’s available and who has the right skills to fill in those gaps?

And that brings us to today’s tip:

Don’t undervalue cross-training.

During my summer travels to customers’ various plant floors, it’s not uncommon to see a production line that typically runs with about 20 or so people reduced to a skeleton crew of about 15. Workers have taken time off but demand hasn’t slowed down, and these manufacturers must make do with the labor that’s available.

This can go one of two ways. In the first scenario, a well-rounded staff is able to pick up the slack with minimal interruptions to expected production. Workers have been trained in more than just one work function and can take up the tasks left behind by one or more people who are off for the week. Certainly it won’t be the easiest week, but efficiency and productivity won’t suffer too badly.

In another scenario, production workers who are more limited to just their individual work functions aren’t able to reliably cover for the vacationing person or people. The shop’s glazer or beader, for example, is off for the week, and no one else really has the skills to cover that position. Here, production numbers can suffer and quality can be compromised, all while the manufacturer is attempting to keep up with heightened demand during the busiest part of the year.

The point is this: Cross-training on your plant floor is critical. People need to be able to take their vacations without derailing your production processes, and that requires you to invest in broadening the skill sets of all your workers.

You may be able to do this through training programs offered by your various suppliers—for example, the Quanex Technical Services team offers a broad range of training opportunities for every part of the manufacturing process. But no matter which route you choose to take, cross-training your teams can deliver a range of benefits that go beyond just busy season. Labor in general continues to be something of a crisis throughout the manufacturing world, and your ability to navigate labor-related challenges—be they due to time off, absenteeism, or hiring trouble—can be eased when the workers you do have available are able to reliably carry out a variety of production tasks. What’s more, investing in your workers’ skills is a signal that you value what they bring to your organization, and can be a useful tool in boosting retention.

So, as you work to navigate heightened demand throughout the summer, remember that investing in training opportunities can be an effective way to go about it.

John Ryba is Technical Services Manager for Quanex.

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