Trends—August 2016

Trends—August 2016

If It Ain’t Broke…Keep It That Way

Manufacturers are seeing big benefits from providing maintenance training. Just 40 hours of maintenance training per employee per year can net as much as a 127-percent return on investment, says a new study from Advanced Technology Services (ATS), a manufacturing maintenance consultancy. The study collected data from 1,189 maintenance technicians across 67 separate factory maintenance programs over 13 months to determine what effect such programs have on a manufacturing operation’s efficiency.

By providing more extensive training to their own employees, manufacturers can perform continuous maintenance on equipment. They also find themselves ahead of the game and with less downtime when equipment malfunctions or breaks down.

"Results of maintenance training impact not just the efficiency of labor, but also the reliability of equipment and the maintenance process," says Micah Statler, technical training program manager at ATS. "The migration from reactive to proactive maintenance hinges upon solid maintenance fundamentals. Once your attention is on proactive functions, rather than fighting fires, equipment reliability can be a legitimate focus."

Well-trained workers feel more valued at work, meaning they tend to be happier on the job and stick around for the long term. Keeping up with annual training also provides a 9.4-percent increase in proactive performance, a 17-percent increase in internal promotion, and a 1-percent increase in employee retention, the study shows.

"We have seen positive statistical results in the correlation between training and retention," notes Statler. "We have also seen training and development opportunities having a very positive impact on employee engagement."

In the manufacturing industry, where companies constantly compete for workers due to a shortage of skilled labor, it’s critical that manufacturers create an environment where employees don’t want to leave.

"The key to getting the most impactful results is to utilize the training as a catalyst to provide greater opportunity," Statler says. "Mentoring, coaching, and providing opportunities to utilize skills in challenging, higher levels of performance help to complete the package."

The skilled labor shortage is expected to reach 3.5 million jobs over the next 10 years, according to the Manufacturing Institute. So manufacturers don’t just need to seek out new ways to retain employees, they also need to find ways to broaden the labor pool. Providing on-the-job maintenance training allows companies that are struggling to fill positions to hire less-qualified candidates and get them up to speed after they are on the job.

Manufacturers should also consider partnering with colleges through job fairs and similar events. Many students in programs such as information technology, mathematics, or science often don’t realize how well the skills they are learning might translate into a skilled labor position.

Engaging students on campus about the positive aspects of a manufacturing career before they’ve made any final career decisions can also help fight the stigmas currently plaguing the industry that manufacturing jobs are dirty, blue collar, or unskilled.

For those already on the market, job seekers can also acquire training on their own to make themselves more marketable. "There are many avenues for job seekers to obtain hands-on training," Statler explains. "And original equipment manufacturers and distributors, colleges, and technical institutes all provide many training programs and opportunities for those in the job market."

Benefits to Keeping Up with Annual Training

The key findings of the ATS study indicate that 40 hours of training per technician per year nets improvements.

Trends inline

Source: Advanced Technology Services survey

Sanitary Transportation Rule: It’s Crunch Time

Shippers, carriers, and other supply chain partners are responsible for ensuring compliance with requirements for safe food transport and delivery as a result of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule. That raises the question: Can shippers use technology to help meet the new mandates?

The answer is yes; many useful technology tools are currently available or are on the drawing board. "Digital technology can make food safety compliance a lot easier," says Brent Arbeau, digital marketing manager of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia-based Iron Apple International.

The Sanitary Transportation final rule is the sixth of seven to be published by the FDA to implement its groundbreaking Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which mandates a more preventive approach to food safety. The goal: to avoid practices that can contaminate food or cause other problems. The rule spells out requirements for shippers, loaders, truck and rail carriers, and receivers. Companies transporting food meant to be exported have to comply with the rules while the product is in the United States.

The rule covers a few specific areas. First, shippers have to ensure vehicles and equipment are in sanitary condition and spell out required temperature and pre-cooling requirements in written agreements with carriers or loaders. They also have to confirm food transported in bulk is safe.

In addition, companies have to make sure food not entirely enclosed in a container—think a bunch of apples in open wooden boxes—doesn’t experience potentially harmful exposure. And extensive record-keeping requirements mean maintaining documentation—from the bill of lading to required temperature levels during transport—for every shipment.

But just because a shipper has, for example, a written document specifying a carrier has met its requirements doesn’t mean it’s off the hook if a food safety issue arises. "Shippers are still responsible for making sure their carriers meet the requirements," says Lindsay Glass, Iron Apple’s training manager.

That’s where technology tools come in. Shippers can use them either for in-house compliance or to ensure their carriers meet requirements. Examples of these technology tools include:

  • Temperature tracking and control. Because shippers dictate the particular temperature range allowed in refrigerated units, they’re better off with carriers using telematics systems that can track temperature information in real time.
  • Coretex, a Fort Lee, N.J.-based solutions provider of telematics cold chain temperature monitoring products, for example, offers a platform that enables it to monitor temperature in the back of a trailer and send a real-time alert via text, email, or computer if the level fluctuates too cold or hot. And the system can automatically start pre-cooling and monitor for when the temperature reaches the right level to begin loading.

  • Data collection and record keeping. A lot of data needs to be documented and stored. Shippers need to make sure that not only they, but also their carriers, have all the documentation ready and tied up neatly, in case regulators come knocking (they have 24 hours to comply).
  • To that end, solutions providers such as Iron Apple offer cloud-based digital document management platforms that store records about temperature, hygiene, and sanitation in the cloud. Its system covers seven areas, such as pest control and transportation, with all the required forms, policies, and procedures for each requirement. Dispatchers or other employees can scan their own forms into the system or fill out the documents online.

    Solutions provider ReposiTrak, based in Salt Lake City, offers a cloud-based compliance management system that lets users upload any electronic document—certification that a truck was cleaned on a certain date, say, or a description of the specific items loaded onto a trailer. The system then compares the data to a company’s pre-determined business rules.

    "Shippers can maintain food safety compliance without drowning in paperwork," says Randall Fields, CEO of Park City Group, which owns ReposiTrak. Another benefit: The platform creates a centralized dashboard for data produced by the myriad computer systems companies use to collect temperature levels, mileage history, and other data, and sends out alerts if it detects a problem.

  • Training. According to the regulation, every party affected by the Sanitary Transportation rule has to receive training in correct compliance procedures. Because it is considerably faster and more cost-effective for personnel to take such instruction online at their own pace rather than show up in a classroom, Iron Apple is developing an online program, due out by the end of summer 2016.
  • “Shippers need to know what they should be asking their carrier,” says Glass. “And that requires training."

    — Anne Field

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