Shop Talk
by John DeVecka
Technical Services Representative
Quanex Building Products
October 19th, 2021

Getting Strategic With Your Training Initiatives

The general situation for manufacturers of residential windows has remained constant for some time now: high demand, labor challenges and supply chain issues. As of late 2021, these are things that window manufacturers may be accustomed to, but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with—especially considering other factors my colleagues have noted in recent months. Many are working on renewing critical certifications before year’s end—a task made more difficult with high staff turnover. Elsewhere, energy standards continue to evolve, and manufacturers must remain cognizant of new strategies to achieve higher product performance while balancing everyday challenges on the plant floor.

I pondered the convergence of these challenges after fielding a request from a customer recently. And that brings us to today’s tip:

Be strategic with your training initiatives.

The customer conversation went something like this.

Customer: “John, I need your team to come in for some training.”
Me: “Okay, let’s talk about what we want the training to be around.”
Customer: “Well, most of those people have left, so we are going to need a refresher on everything.”

After a bit more conversation and collaboration, we decided that a good solution would be to provide more extensive training for plant floor supervisors. There were a few reasons for this. First, supervisors are generally less likely to turn over at the same pace as line operators, so investing in deeper training for these folks makes long-term sense. Second, armed with a greater depth of knowledge, the supervisors themselves can train and teach new employees on the proper techniques for manufacturing insulating glass units (IGUs).

The point here isn’t to devalue training regular operators. That’s important, too. But when you have a supervisory team that is well-versed in the practices and procedures that go into manufacturing high-quality IGUs, they’ll be better equipped to help identify and correct issues when they come across them.

Consider that poor workmanship on spacer application is probably the number one issue I see on a regular basis. This can lead to a number of seemingly small errors that can add up to unit failure. An improperly sealed final corner, for example, is an issue that can mean the difference between whether the unit passes or fails a certification test. A robustly trained staff—from the person putting together the individual units, to the person supervising an entire production operation—is more likely to notice and correct these types of workmanship issues before they cost you.

As our industry collectively navigates several ongoing challenges, it’s worth stopping to remember the importance of knowledge sharing in your manufacturing environment. Training is an investment, and it’s one that can benefit your business in the long run.

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