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1/5/2004 | 3 MINUTE READ

Raising The Bar To Compete In A Global Marketplace

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As a manufacturing professional, you are being inundated with news of global competition. Your shop is no doubt being impacted in some way that is making the news of global competition a reality for you on your shop floor.

As a manufacturing professional, you are being inundated with news of global competition. Your shop is no doubt being impacted in some way that is making the news of global competition a reality for you on your shop floor.

Each month in this column, you are exposed to ideas, opportunities and solutions written by a number of people who, like the readers of Modern Machine Shop, care deeply about the manufacturing industries. The ideas in this column focus on training and educating your workforce so that we can all enjoy a better tomorrow.

I want to ask you to think a bit differently about the methods you are using to train and educate your employees. I would like to talk about the reasons why it makes sense for you to use the Internet as a training tool that, among other things, will allow you to maintain and then increase your shop’s productivity so that you can continue to compete in this global marketplace.

How often have you been unable to remain true to your corporate culture and provide the training you and your employees need? Maybe it was because you had to cut the training budget, because you could not afford the downtime that would result from taking productive workers off the production line or because you did not want to incur travel expenses. Or, perhaps you wanted to train your people at a school in your area but found that the apprenticeship program had been dropped for lack of interest.

If you have faced any or all of the above scenarios, then it’s time you considered online training, or what is known as e-learning in the white-collar world.

That’s right, I used the term “white collar.” You see, traditionally, online training has been targeted toward people who work in offices for a living. Only recently has it migrated to shopfloor employees. Granted, there are good reasons for that. For one thing, most of your employees don’t have a PC with an Internet connection at their workstations on the shop floor. And chances are that these employees don’t have an at-your-company.com e-mail address of their own, either.

So how do you use online training when access is problematic? Work the problem. Think of it as “Trading Spaces” for the training room. You already have a TV monitor and VHS machine on a video cart in the training room; just move it aside to make room for a couple of PCs with Internet connections. And if you already have a couple of PCs in the training room because you’ve done some CD-ROM-based training in the past, simply upgrade those computers and get them on the network so they have Internet access.

Yes, there is a small upfront investment, but have you seen the prices that Dell, Gateway, IBM and others are charging for PCs these days? Even your accountants have to admit that technology is cheap.

Once you convert the training room over, then what? Fortunately, there are a number of online training providers for manufacturers. So whether you want to continue an apprenticeship program or just provide your employees with training on basic math and blueprint reading, lean manufacturing methods, materials science, or a specific type of CNC control, you can find all of these classes and more online.

And did I mention that because the training is online, your employees have the option to log in after hours, at home, on their own time to take the classes?

Best of all, online training provides you with a better measure of the results of your training so you can continue to keep your accountants happy. And you will keep your ISO and QS auditors happy as well. Instead of simply documenting who showed up for a traditional training class, online training allows you to document who took the training and tells you exactly what they are working on and what their progress has been. It also gives you access to their test results.

I know of at least one Fortune 500-type manufacturing company that has established metrics so it can document increases in productivity resulting from its online training program. The company measures things like production process improvements and improved quality of work based on a reduction in scrap. This company was able to document a 7 percent increase in productivity as a result of an online training program they implemented.

How much more competitive would you be if a 7 percent improvement in productivity hit your bottom line?

For more information about online training programs for manufacturers, check out:

ASM International (www.asminternational.org)
MasterTask (www.mastertask.com)
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (www.sme.org)
Tooling University (www.toolingu.com)