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October 2016 • SMT Magazine 93 vised to better balance introduction of concepts with employee acquisition of the requisite ex- perience to understand and retain the informa- tion. The new employee integration into pro- duction operations process was also redesigned to ensure those employees weren't put in situa- tions where they felt they didn't have a strong enough support network as they were learning their jobs. To address the challenge of applicant lack of understanding about manufacturing careers, AccuMax, a third-party employment screening firm, was hired to administer tests designed to analyze job applicants' competencies and apti- tudes, with the end goal of matching them to the positions for which they were best suited. Under this system, applicants are scored as A, B and C. As are hired, Bs are evaluated carefully prior to hiring, and Cs are not hired. The team then began work on a formal on- boarding process that had six key elements: • Relationship building activities scheduled with new employees from the first day they arrived • A defined trainee period and 'jacket' to make it easy for new employees to be identified and supported by more experienced employees • Training program modifications to provide a better balance between classroom instruction and OJT to ensure concepts were introduced when employees had enough experience to understand the concepts they were learning • A formal mentoring program was created to provide strong support during working hours • Employees stay on first shift until they have completed their training period • A graduation ceremony helps reinforce team membership As part of the onboarding process HR and training communicate closely as new employ- ees are hired. An onboarding plan for HR and trainers outlines specific training activities plus a series of relationship-building activities for each employee's first few weeks. New hires are not counted in production headcount for the first few weeks of training. The goal is to care- fully pace the knowledge they will be receiv- ing and make them feel that they are a valuable part of a team that supports them. The company uses color-coded smocks to denote employee classifications on the produc- tion floor. Trainees wear blue smocks. Produc- tion operators and technicians who have com- pleted training wear burgundy smocks. Quality personnel wear black smocks. This color coding system helps ensure trainees get the assistance they need during the first weeks on the job. The trainer-employee relationship was also evaluated carefully. Previously trainers had been given wide latitude in how they present- ed the material and that created variations in points of emphasis. Under the new onboarding process, trainers now work from a formal pre- sentation script that consolidates the introduc- tory training into a master presentation, which ensures consistency. In addition to the challenge of introducing manufacturing to new hires who have never previously been in a factory, there are also gen- erational considerations. Today's younger gen- erations grew up in a different learning envi- ronment from those raised in the '70s and '80s. Not only are they more used to an interactive, multimedia training environment, they also re- quire a more open and supportive attitude from trainers. The trainers were coached in interper- sonal skills to ensure they were creating an en- vironment that aligned well with those require- ments. The training program was completely rede- signed to include a larger hands-on OJT com- ponent, longer training period and slower in- troduction to more advanced skills such as sys- tems training. For the first two weeks, employ- ees spend 2.5 days in class and 7.5 days being mentored on day shift. After the first 2.5 days of class, new employees get a training plan that outlines the course of their training over the next 60 days. During the 60-day training period, new employees receive classroom training that in- cludes general human resources-related train- ing on health and safety; basic production re- lated training on board handling, component RECRUITING AND MAINTAINING A HIGH-QUALITY MANUFACTURING WORKFORCE

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