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5 Tips for Assessing Training Needs of Manufacturing Employees

A ccording to the 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index report by Deloitte, United States is set to be the top manufacturing nation followed by China, Germany, Japan and India by 2020. In the same report, the top five drivers of global manufacturing competitiveness are stated to be:

  • Talent
  • Cost competitiveness
  • Productivity of workforce
  • Supplier network
  • Legal and regulatory system

One way of assessing the training needs is to assess the status of these drivers in your organization vis-à-vis the best-case scenario. If there is a gap, they would be the training needs. Let me elaborate taking the drivers one by one.

1. Assess Talent

Talent is key in the manufacturing sector because the skills required keep changing as organizations adopt new technologies to improve their products, processes and business models. Assess existing talent and juxtapose with your business goals. Do they cater to your future requirements? If not, you will have to work towards upgrading the knowledge, skills and abilities that help you achieve your business goals. Employees may have been hired for their skills that were relevant back then.

 In the meanwhile, you would have changed your processes, updated technologies or acquired a new piece of machinery that might require additional skill sets. Do you have a system in place to train your manpower alongside the changes in infrastructure, systems and processes? You may have senior employees with niche skills and experience. They will retire in few years. Do you have qualified people to replace them? If not, you need to ensure that their knowledge and skills are passed on to the younger generation. These are the areas you need to assess for training needs.

2. Evaluate Cost Competitiveness

There are many factors that affect cost competitiveness. Some of the factors (though not always the main ones) could be wastages, redundant manufacturing processes, outdated supply chain processes or inefficiencies. Evaluate your costs vis-à-vis competition and identify areas where lean principles can be implemented to prevent wastage of material and time, streamline processes and reduce inefficiency. Once these areas are identified, new systems or processes will have to be developed and employees can be trained accordingly.

Typically, manufacturing organizations will require training on lean principles, or Good Manufacturing Practices, which can have a bearing on lowering manufacturing costs and enable organizations to provide competitive prices.

3. Check Workplace Productivity

Another area that can be examined is workplace productivity. You need to question whether the productivity of your workforce is acceptable or can it be improved. Generally, productivity is considered to depend on various factors such as positive workplace culture, employee training opportunities, career growth, leadership, rewards and recognitions.

You can assess these factors and see how they can be improved. Some can be done through training, while others require policy and HR changes. While training may not always be the only solution, training does provide an opportunity to engage with employees and enable them to upgrade their knowledge and skills. Providing certification and rewards for the trainings completed can motivate employees and encourage them to perform better.

4. Monitor Supplier Network

Supplier network is key to the success of any manufacturing organization. Gauge to what extent your supplier network is strong and in synch with your business goals. Sometimes, supply chain processes may not be in sync with the current demands. Other times, suppliers may not be tuned to your business goals or aspirations. One of the ways to build a strong supplier network is to provide them support with training their field sales force and employees about products and selling skills.

Good discounts, margins and incentives are all important. At the same time, providing training infrastructure such as an online learning platform and resources required to achieve better sales will add to the strength of the relationship.

5. Examine Legal and Regulatory System 

Companies tend to lose millions of dollars as legal fees, fines or compensations for loss of equipment or manpower due to accidents or regulatory breaches. Take stock of your legal and regulatory system to identify loop holes, potential breaches and offenses. If you have a good system in place and have not had to shell out money for fines or compensations, well and good.

All you need to make sure is that your employees continue to adhere to the legal and regulatory framework. It is a good practice to periodically check the effectiveness and relevance of the mandatory compliance training content, safety training or ethics training programs as per the needs of the industry and the organization.

Ultimately, manufacturing organizations need to be competitive and if training needs have to be assessed, what better way to start than to look at the top drivers of global manufacturing organizations. Training may not always be the only solution but it does offer options to support the initiative in many situations. So, this time when you are doing training needs analysis, try evaluating the drivers of global competitiveness.

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