Workforce Development
Workforce Development for Manufacturers

Workforce Development for manufacturers or anyone really, is a topic I’ve never given much thought to.  I’ve owned a custom manufacturing shop and now help custom job shops and machines shops to reduce lead-time, improve due date performance, and reduce chaos with our nationally recognized 14 week Velocity Scheduling System Coaching Program.

I did a google search on workforce development and there were over 900 million results.

Workforce Development

It’s a hot topic.  There are a lot of people writing on it and speaking on it (over 1300 on the National Speakers Association website).

The US government will talk about workforce development in terms of what skills are needed in the job market.  Others talk about the importance of it. However, none that I have found discusses exactly what to do.

I put the question to ChatGPT since I expect the response to be a summary consensus of what others are saying.  I posed “How do I figure out what kind of workforce development training to do with my employees?”  Here was the response:

Determining the right kind of workforce development training for your employees involves a strategic approach that takes into consideration your company’s goals, employee needs, and industry trends. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you figure out the appropriate training for your workforce:

  1. Assess Your Goals and Objectives:
    • Begin by identifying your company’s short-term and long-term goals. What skills or competencies do your employees need to help achieve these goals?
    • Consider any specific challenges or opportunities in your industry that may require specialized training.
  2. Employee Needs Assessment:
    • Conduct a skills gap analysis by evaluating your employees’ current skills and competencies compared to the skills needed for their roles and your company’s goals.
    • Collect feedback from employees through surveys, one-on-one discussions, or performance reviews to understand their career goals and training preferences.
  3. Industry Research:
    • Stay updated with industry trends and advancements to identify the skills and knowledge that are becoming increasingly important in your field.
    • Consider the regulatory and compliance requirements relevant to your industry, as well as emerging technologies and best practices.
  4. Prioritize Training Areas:
    • Based on your goals, employee needs, and industry insights, prioritize the training areas that will have the most significant impact on your organization’s success.
    • Consider both technical skills and soft skills, such as leadership, communication, and problem-solving.
  5. Choose Training Methods:
    • Decide on the training methods that best suit your organization’s needs and resources. Common options include:
      • In-house training programs
      • Online courses and e-learning platforms
      • Workshops, seminars, and conferences
      • Coaching and mentoring programs
      • Cross-functional training
      • On-the-job training
    • Consider a blended approach that combines multiple methods for a well-rounded training program.
  6. Develop a Training Plan:
    • Create a detailed training plan that outlines the objectives, content, timeline, and resources required for each training program.
    • Assign responsibilities for training development, delivery, and evaluation.
  7. Budget and Resources:
    • Determine the budget needed for training initiatives, including materials, trainers, technology, and facilities.
    • Allocate resources and ensure they are available when needed.
  8. Measure and Evaluate:
    • Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of the training programs.
    • Gather feedback from employees and supervisors to assess the impact of the training on job performance.
    • Make necessary adjustments to the training based on feedback and evaluation results.
  9. Continuous Improvement:
    • Workforce development is an ongoing process. Continuously assess your training programs and adapt them to evolving needs and trends.
  10. Communication and Engagement:
    • Keep employees informed about training opportunities and encourage their active participation.
    • Foster a culture of learning and development within your organization.

By following these steps and regularly reviewing and updating your workforce development strategy, you can ensure that your employees receive the right training to enhance their skills and contribute to your company’s success.

That sounds like a bunch of blah blah blah consulting lingo, so I tried to get more specific.  I asked: “Would you change any of the above for a manufacturing organization?”  Here’s that response:

Yes, when considering workforce development for a manufacturing organization, there are specific considerations and modifications to the general principles I mentioned earlier. Here’s how you might adapt workforce development for a manufacturing setting:

  1. Technical Skills Focus: In manufacturing, technical skills are critical. Ensure that your workforce development programs place a strong emphasis on training and developing technical competencies related to machine operation, equipment maintenance, quality control, and safety protocols.
  2. Safety Training: Manufacturing environments often involve machinery and potentially hazardous materials. Prioritize safety training to ensure that employees are well-versed in safety procedures, emergency protocols, and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  3. Lean Manufacturing: Manufacturing organizations often adopt lean manufacturing principles to improve efficiency and reduce waste. Include training in lean methodologies and process improvement techniques to enhance productivity and resource utilization.
  4. Certifications and Credentials: Manufacturing may require specific certifications or credentials for certain roles, such as welding certifications, quality control certifications, or forklift operator licenses. Invest in training programs that help employees obtain these necessary qualifications.
  5. Machine and Equipment Training: Manufacturing relies heavily on machinery and equipment. Provide comprehensive training on the operation and maintenance of these machines to ensure they are used effectively and safely.
  6. Cross-Training: Consider cross-training employees in various aspects of manufacturing. This can enhance flexibility in your workforce, allowing employees to fill multiple roles as needed.
  7. Quality Control: Focus on quality control and assurance training to ensure that products meet quality standards and reduce defects or rework.
  8. Advanced Manufacturing Technologies: Stay updated with emerging technologies in manufacturing, such as automation, robotics, and Industry 4.0 concepts. Training in these areas can help your workforce adapt to technological advancements.
  9. Teamwork and Communication: Manufacturing often involves teamwork and collaboration. Include training in interpersonal skills, effective communication, and teamwork to foster a harmonious and productive work environment.
  10. Supervisory and Leadership Training: As employees progress in their careers, offer training programs for supervisory and leadership roles within the manufacturing setting.
  11. Continuous Improvement: Encourage a culture of continuous improvement where employees are empowered to suggest and implement process enhancements.
  12. Apprenticeships and Internships: Consider partnering with technical schools or local educational institutions to establish apprenticeship or internship programs that provide hands-on training and career pathways for aspiring manufacturing professionals.
  13. Safety and Compliance: Ensure that all training programs emphasize compliance with industry regulations and safety standards.
  14. Equipment Maintenance: Training on the regular maintenance and upkeep of machinery can help extend equipment life and prevent costly breakdowns.
  15. Feedback Mechanisms: Establish feedback mechanisms to gather input from employees about the effectiveness of training programs and identify areas for improvement.

Customizing workforce development to the specific needs of a manufacturing organization is essential for ensuring a skilled and adaptable workforce that can contribute to the company’s success while maintaining safety and quality standards.

 Ok, that’s better but still not super helpful.  Who has the bandwidth to tackle all 15?  No one, so a better question is — Which of those 15 options will have the biggest impact on YOUR business?

Workforce Development the Theory of Constraints Way

In this article we are going to take a stab at exactly how you can answer that question FOR YOUR SHOP.  And, of course, this will be the Theory of Constraints (TOC) approach to workforce development.

What Workforce Development Training Should I do?

If you could only work on one thing with your employees, what would it be?  How could I decide what would have the biggest impact?

Here’s how you can answer those questions:

4 Steps to FOCUSED Workforce Development for Manufacturers

  1. What does your POOGI (<- click here if you’re new to POOGI) data show? From your data you should be able to glean the biggest disruption to your flow.  If you’re not doing POOGI, it may be time to start.  I say “maybe” because your shop needs to be under control first.  If you’re dealing with lots of chaos and shooting from the hip, do flow based scheduling – Velocity Scheduling System (VSS) first.  POOGI is included in VSS.  By the way, POOGI is a feedback mechanism.  Interesting that it’s last on the list, but not surprising.  Very few manufacturers know where to focus their efforts to achieve bottom-line improvements.  Where you invest and how you spend your limited time should NOT be the output of a brainstorming session, it should be the output of your system.
  2. If your biggest disruption to flow is a machine capacity issue, then figuring out how to leverage – get more out of – this constraint, would be ideal. We always look to leverage existing capacity before adding more capacity or generally spending money.  To figure out what the specific issue is, you’ll need to go deeper into the POOGI data.  Is the issue that the machine spends too much time in repair, or does it spend too much time idle in a setup or something else?  Once you know why it’s not productive enough, you can zero in on what to do. For example, if the machine spends too much time in setup, you will benefit from setup reduction at the machine in question. I’d also make sure that you stagger your breaks because while people need breaks, machines don’t.  In this case, a workforce development project around setup reduction would pay off.
  3. If your biggest disruption to flow is a skill or human resource related issue, then your workforce development focus is clear. For example, if your largest disruption to flow is waiting on a welding resource, then it typically pays off to develop your workforce around welding.  It could be cross training someone new to welding or enhancing the skills of an existing welder(s).  And like #2 above you’ll also want to consider leveraging a person with unique skills just as you would a machine.
  4. While most disruptions to flow are human or machine resource related there is a 3rd category that is less common and can be harder to tackle. If your disruption to flow is something else like raw material vendors, outside process vendors, customer changes, or many other things.  Or, you don’t know how to tackle the issue you’ve found, this is where the TOC Thinking Processes can be helpful.  In fact, from a management and leadership perspective, the critical thinking skills offered by the TOC Thinking Processes might be the best development for your key leadership team.  We offer *free* training on this (until the end of Oct), so you can’t beat the price à Theory of Constraints Critical Thinking and Conflict Resolution (<– click here then scroll down for the free stuff).

In the complex landscape of custom manufacturing, workforce development isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It requires a strategic and tailored approach, and TOC offers a valuable lens through which to identify and address your biggest, profit limiting challenges.  As we have often said, TOC is better than 80/20, the POOGI process is more like 99/1.  Focused effort on the right things provides fast, significant results and that is true in the case of workforce development.

As you contemplate the next steps for your organization, consider the power of focused efforts. What is the one aspect that, if improved, could have a cascading effect on your entire operation? Is it machine capacity, skills development, or perhaps a non-traditional constraint that requires a fresh perspective?

Remember, the journey toward an optimized workforce is ongoing, and the commitment to FOCUSED improvement is as crucial as the strategies themselves. Utilize your POOGI data and focus on the ONE thing that can have the biggest impact.

And don’t forget, the Theory of Constraints offers not just a methodology but also a mindset. As you delve into the critical thinking and conflict resolution aspects of TOC, consider the broader impact on your leadership team. The ability to navigate challenges and drive innovation is a skill set that can transform your organization.

Finally, take advantage of the free training on TOC Thinking Processes available for a limited time. It’s an opportunity to deepen your understanding and equip your team with the skills needed to navigate the complexities of modern manufacturing.

In the realm of workforce development, the path to success is as unique as your organization. May your journey be marked by continuous improvement, empowered teams, and sustained growth.

Wishing you success,

Dr Lisa Lang, Head TOC Expert and Job Shop Whisperer

P.S. Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts or questions!

P.P.S. If you’re interested in focusing on YOUR profitability, check out Velocity Pricing System.


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