Seek and You Shall Find

Quality manager uses web to net training for his employer

By Gary Knapp

In March 2009, I joined a small computer numerical control (CNC) job shop’s management team as quality manager.

I started there after working in quality management for 11 years, gaining experience developing new projects, launching new programs and participating in automotive advanced product quality planning program management.

At the job shop, I spent my early days observing and learning who was who. I also spent time evaluating how well the ISO 9001 standard was being met and, subsequently, identifying gaps that could be filled quickly and others that needed long-term attention.

In those early days, I could not find any training records and started asking other managers what training had taken place and who had the records. You might say my questions were met with silence and slight smiles.

Have you ever volunteered for an initiative and then wondered what your total responsibilities would include? After volunteering, I learned that 100% of the ISO 9001 training and quality management system (QMS)-related training responsibilities fell on me; HR and other department managers didn’t have an obligation.

There were zero records and zero training initiatives for the past four years, and on top of this, the next ISO 9001 third-party audit was scheduled to occur within four months.

Filling in the gaps

A big part of a fully functioning QMS includes training, comprehension and effectiveness verification. All training should be documented, even if using a simple Word table or Excel spreadsheet.

I knew I could not recreate history, so one of my first action items as quality manager was to develop a realistic training plan that included the majority of the plant and covered the next year. The plan I developed documented training using existing training forms and recording methods.

Training the quality personnel who reported to me was easy. The problem with plantwide training, however, was getting people released from work tasks for training and specifically fitting the QMS training to them.

To figure it out, I spent break time and lunch time searching the internet. I used Google and typed in keywords applicable to the plant and industry. Doing it this way saved time and resources. The power of the search is yours to control—you can start with keywords and then search further by clicking on "similar" after the search result appears in the header.

I searched keywords that included "CNC," "manufacturing" and "training" and found an article written for a tooling magazine within the past year. The article featured a Wisconsin-based CNC plant similar to ours that obtained state funding to support and help subsidize lean training for all employees.

The article was well written and told a good story. Better yet, the article gave me some ideas and solutions to use in developing a long-term plantwide training plan.

I searched the internet again, specifically for "Illinois" (my state)," "lean," "training" and "funding" and found information and contacts for the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC). I identified a local contact, set up a program-review meeting and invited the job shop’s HR manager and operations manager.

Up and running

To make a long story short, within two face-to-face IMEC meetings, an IMEC-facilitated lean 101 course was planned and implemented for completion before the end of the year.

The IMEC program’s value-added features included: an established program ready to implement, a state-funded program with funds available for application, experienced trainers, and a proven training plan and program with numerous success stories.

The best sales feature—from management’s perspective, anyway—was that the state paid 50% of the training cost through federal funds acquired specifically for this type of manufacturing development in Illinois.

One basic need for a successful lean program is baseline training across the organization. Our training was successful because it included plant operators and set-up personnel, as well as engineers and managers. Our next steps include:

  • Establishing lean teams.
  • Walking the plant seeking unused, wasted and misplaced items.
  • Implementing a 5S action plan with frequent plant walks and audits.
  • Getting people engaged and involved.

In the age of search engines and more and more business systems transitioning to electronic media, finding good benchmarking information is easy. If you need information, gap closure, ideas, recommendations or any sort of help, start with internet search engines to find what you need.

Author’s Note

If your plant is located in Illinois, contact IMEC for training and personnel development support. If you are located in another state, search the internet and find your options. Other search options include the National Institute of Standards and Technology at www.nist.gov. From there, find the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Inc. There you can learn more about MEP and its training, including lean.

Gary Knapp is a quality manager at Faurecia in Dexter, MO. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from University College, University of Maryland in College Park. Knapp is a senior member of ASQ and a certified quality manager, mechanical inspector, quality technician, quality auditor and quality engineer.

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