A product-manufacturing path seldom travels in a straight line. Instead, it can resemble our childhood games like Candy Land with a winding track or Chutes and Ladders with tracks all over the place. The path typically consists of more than one manufacturing process, with different tasks for each process.
Individuals working in separate manufacturing areas performing different tasks to create a single component sometimes may feel like they work in silos. They also may not fully understand how their work on a particular manufacturing process could impact coworkers in another production area.
People who are involved and knowledgeable about a product’s entire manufacturing processes, can uncover opportunities for improvements driven by potential flaws or defects that happen during upstream or downstream processes. They can catch problems early. Before they become costly or cause bigger issues. Someone who knows and sees the big manufacturing picture, can assist in educating employees and teams that work in different areas about important details that may bring value to their work.
Applications Development Program
In 2018, we launched a new, nine-month “Applications Development Program,” where we cross-trained an employee using hands-on experiences in various departments throughout the company. Our goal was to advance and broaden the employee’s skillsets across different technical and manufacturing areas.
The employee learned new skills and knowledge within various production environments, such as extrusion, CNC machining, robotics, applications, die shop, and tooling. This included understanding how each process worked, their nuances, level of importance, trouble-spots and innovative manufacturing solutions. The employee then learned to uncover and troubleshoot improvement opportunities, as well as report on collaboration ideas.
We designed our Applications Development Program to open up new learning opportunities. The program provided the employee with exposure to administration operations, including customer service, sales and marketing, engineering, and estimating. Additional training on business acumen and finance, allowed the employee to better understand the inner workings of our organization.
Cross-trained employees with an across-the-plant perspective, can bring fresh insight into creating innovative manufacturing solutions that meet our customers’ product development needs.
Our first employee graduated from the program in February 2019. He transitioned into an applications technician role and rotates among different areas throughout our facility. During rotations, he provides different work areas with additional coverage, support and assistance on everyday tasks and required duties. He continues to look for improvements, and brings new ideas to the team to help create innovative product development solutions.
Looking at the big picture as to how a component’s different manufacturing processes and teams tie together, the Applications Development Program opens lines of communication across teams and operations. It gives employees the opportunity to grow their product and process knowledge in new areas and new ways. It allows employees to determine areas for improvement, address challenges, and improve productivity flow.
As we bring more individuals into the program, our employee skills and knowledge will continue to grow to allow them to perform at their highest potential.
The program also helps us better manage employment shortages (or surpluses) in specific technical areas with cross-trained employees who can readily move across areas.
If you have any questions about your product manufacturing needs, please let your account executive know.