Manufacturing jobs are all about making, building, and assembling— actively doing tasks that produce the company’s goods. When success is measured by productivity, there’s an impulse to avoid anything that interrupts the flow of work. There are many benefits to offering a formal training program for manufacturing jobs. 

Ignoring proper manufacturing training, or doing it in an informal and haphazard way, is actually more expensive in the long run. Luckily, an effective manufacturing training program is easier to implement than you might think. Short-form content that is accessible whenever and wherever is convenient makes it possible to keep up with safety and compliance protocols, as well as learning specific manufacturing tasks.

 

The Cost of Not Having a Formal Manufacturing Training Program

Some might see training time as cutting into valuable work hours, and therefore company profits. The most successful manufacturers know that the opposite is true: An inadequately trained manufacturing staff is more costly for a business.

Untrained staff members pose a number of costly and even dangerous problems:

  • They work slower.
  • Their work product may be subpar.
  • They’ll make mistakes.
  • They may cause accidents.

We can divvy up these issues into two broad groups: Competence and compliance.

 

Competence

The costs associated with a lack of competence are noticeable pretty quickly. Employees who do not learn correct procedures and protocols will struggle to reach their full potential, and that will chip away at the bottom line. For example, an employee making $50,000, might be only 50% effective after 8 to 12 weeks on the job, costing the business roughly $25,000 due to lost productivity. By some estimates, it may take an employee up to two years to reach full productivity. Proper onboarding training, however, can get employees up-to-speed more quickly and mitigate those costs.

Consider the financial impact of a product recall due to a manufacturing error that might have been prevented by proper training. Lost sales, replacement and exchange costs, lawsuits, reputation damage, government fines can cost companies billions of dollars. 

 

Compliance

Issues with compliance cover things like safety training, anti-harassment training, and so on. These costs are harder to see, but they are there. As our eBook on the cost of not training employees shows, a simple OSHA safety violation can cost $13,260, and a simple compliance court case can run into fees in excess of $75,000.

There are “ripple effects” with these kinds of events, too. Suppose you have a safety accident at one of your plants. You aren’t just dealing with worker’s compensation claims now. You are dealing with downtime at the plant, shift changes to cover the injured worker (and possible overtime costs), potential damage to machinery and equipment, and missed work. Longer term you may see drops in employee morale or increases in turnover as other employees worry about their own safety and future with the company. Unfortunately, the bigger your organization, the higher the chances that a costly event will occur.

In summary, formal training is a way to contain costs, and it is particularly effective in manufacturing. 

 

Why a Formal Training Program for Manufacturing?

Most manufacturing employees learn on-the-job, usually through a combination of job-shadowing and informal lessons or coaching. These will always be important in getting new employees trained, but they are not adequate all by themselves.

Image how much better the process could be if formal training is added to job-shadowing and informal coaching. New employees would not have to “start from zero” when getting trained by a more tenured employee. They can get formal training on machine operation and safety protocols with an online training course, for example, and use their time with their mentor to ask questions and practice their skills. This kind of “blended learning” has proven very useful in corporate environments, and could be even more so on the manufacturing floor, where time is more directly tied to productivity.

Formal training also ensures that there is consistency in what employees learn. Even experienced employees who are good at their job can pick up a bad habit or two, or forget part of their training. Having a formal training program ensures that veteran employees get the refreshers they need, and that new employees learn everything they need to know, the right way.

 

Topics to Include in a Good Manufacturing Training Program

Training in the following areas is essential for any successful manufacturing training program, regardless of the industry or type of products produced:

Machine Operation. Employees need to learn how to use specific machinery and equipment to do their jobs. While user manuals can get some information across, nothing beats having an actual demonstration. Again, a blended-learning approach works best, particularly when you can have custom content made for your particular machinery and procedures.

Compliance, Safety, Accountability. These are important topics to include in manufacturing training. Compliance with company and government regulations, OSHA safety rules, and accountability in terms of self-management are all necessary for a manufacturing environment. Some industries have very specific training they need to do in these areas; for example, our  Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) course is a specific program for commercial vehicle drivers and their employers, and it provides just about everything they need to know in these areas.   

Lockout Tagout. OSHA requires this important training for manufacturing so that employees know how to disable and turn off equipment powered by gas, electricity, or other potentially hazardous energy. This is essential in the case of an emergency or accident, but also in preparing to inspect, clean, or do maintenance on machinery.

Lean Manufacturing. Sometimes called Lean Six Sigma, this is a concept that focuses on delivering the highest quality product while eliminating as much waste as possible. Waste, in this sense, means anything that does not add value in terms of transport, inventory, motion, waiting, over-processing, overproduction, or defects. Lean manufacturing training demonstrates ways employees can accomplish this in their jobs.

ej4’s off-the-shelf content catalog has an extensive list of courses available on these topics, and we have the ability to make custom-tailored videos as well. Using these can help achieve the kind of consistent training that saves money in the long run. 

 

Training Where Work Happens… Or Not

There is a distinct advantage to short-form content that can be accessed anywhere, even on an employee’s smartphone. The information is available when it is relevant to the task at hand and will therefore make the biggest impact.

In the case of a safety violation—for example, not wearing a hardhat or electrician’s gloves—a manager can stop the workflow immediately and assign a short safety video to an employee or the entire team. Seeing an illustration on the spot of the correct way to complete the task safely, and possibly engaging in a short discussion of what the employee or team did wrong, is much more likely to be absorbed and the lesson learned.

Accessible microlearning is also helpful when a short refresher or reminder is helpful. For example, a worker might watch a quick video on lockout tagout procedures before starting a potentially dangerous machine maintenance job.

Other training, such as a new OSHA rule or instruction on operating a new piece of equipment, might be handled differently. It might make more sense to gather a team in a conference room and watch the new material together. This allows for a group Q&A, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

Another benefit of easily accessible training videos is the ability to watch them at home or anywhere, on- or off-the-clock. High-performing employees can take charge of their own self-directed learning as they work toward their next career move. It can help speed up onboarding, and aid in cross-training individuals and teams. Videos can be assigned for staff to watch when it’s convenient, then put their new knowledge to use when they’re back on the manufacturing floor.

 

Make the Investment in Training for Manufacturing

However microlearning videos are used, the benefit is in their flexibility and availability. A lot of training for manufacturing must be on-site and hands-on. Using ej4’s microlearning content where possible frees up more resources for the nuts and bolts of the job. 

Organized, structured learning is much more than just a good financial investment. It is an investment in the safety, wellbeing, and personal development of your employees. When everyone is on the same page with consistent training, fewer mistakes and accidents will happen, and productivity and morale will improve. If you’re still skeptical, sign up for a free trial of Thinkzoom to check it out for yourself.

 

HSI and ej4

In January of 2021, ej4 was acquired by HSI, a leader in Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and workforce development software, training, and compliance solutions. The HSI family is a unique blend of companies dedicated to delivering custom-centric training solutions with additional expertise in safety management. Our combined offering can help you develop your workforce, keep people safe and meet regulatory and operational compliance requirements. Learn more about HSI. 

 

Additional Resources

 

Kathy Irish

Written by Kathy Irish

Kathy joined ej4 in 2007 as our first Instructional Designer. She has over 15 years’ experience in Human Resource Management, Training and Organizational Development. In addition to managing and planning ej4’s yearly new content development, Kathy also oversees all the production on updates (both legal and style-wise) to current off-the-shelf content.

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