Preparing for Lean Manufacturing Training

by Alan Severance

There are many ways to train your supervisors once you have decided to implement a training program. The next step, though, may be trickier. If you really want to change behavior and reinforce your message about your Lean Manufacturing transformation throughout your company, you must find a way to reach every employee.

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Many times I have seen firms use their supervisory training as a screening process to look inside for new managerial talent, but this may lead to rising expectations among all participants, even those who will be screened out by this process. In any case, it’s neither designed nor utilized to reach everyone.

The best way is to combine general population training with the Lean training and the screening process: use the same materials and same approach by actually putting all your employees through this training. Structure the class as one of general employee communication and “prerequisite” to the Lean training that you want them all to participate in. No expectations or hopes are raised, but you still have a great opportunity to see who is truly engaged and might be good candidates for promotion.

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Start with key communicators such as line leaders because they have to give direction anyway. And your old hands who always have a lot to say are going to talk no matter what you do, so give them the correct message to spread. This includes shop stewards if you have a union shop; make them feel important to this process. Include the material handlers because they get around to many parts of the building. Of course you will mix in some of those who might make good supervisors, the ones you have already identified as having the behaviors you want reinforced. There’s no need NOT to use this opportunity!

Other than time away from the manufacturing floor, this does not have to cost a great deal. There are canned programs you can purchase; you can train one or more of your people to be a trainer and facilitator. You can run the classes during your slow cycle if you have one, or whenever your schedule allows. If the time is planned and well-managed, this investment in your workforce will have minimal impact on deliveries or your bottom line in the short run, and a heavy positive impact on both for the long term.

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