Tune Up Your People

The cause-and-effect diagram shown below (also known as the “fishbone” or “Ishikawa” diagram after its creator Kaoru Ishikawa) is used to systematically list all the different causes that can be attributed to a specific problem (or effect). A cause-and-effect diagram can help identify the reasons why a process goes out of control.

Many times the focus is on every branch of the chart except “Manpower.” When the Manpower branch is examined, and there is a perceived capability issue with personnel, the subject of training comes up.

The purpose of this column is to present some thoughts on effective training, since this endeavor is a significant time and cost commitment. Here are four basic points to consider as you set up training:

  • Train for specific objectives with numeric measures relevant to the business and that address the problem or problems at hand.
  • Use training content to achieve the objectives.
  • Deliver the training, and test for comprehension. This test does not need to be intimidating — simple multiple choice works well.
  • Monitor the numeric measures, and reinforce training as required.

Do you have reservations about past training experiences? You may wish to examine how this framework might have helped.

Most suppliers to the converting industry have training programs staffed and funded for their customers, and it makes sense to utilize them. Examples of such training would be on the correct use and handling of inks, anilox rolls, plates, treaters, and substrates. Suppliers are eager to get in front of the hands-on users of their products and address any current problems and improvement opportunities. A word of caution: Preview supplier training to assure that a consistent message will be delivered.

In addition to the proven training provided by various trade schools and community colleges, there are some very innovative, nontraditional programs now available to converters. Press simulators are becoming more widely used and are available from Sinapse Print (www.sinapseprint.com). These are designed specifically for packaging applications in gravure, wide and narrow web flexo, corrugated, and offset applications. The simulator runs with two monitors — one shows the press and its setup, and the other shows the resultant print output.

Presses can be set up with alternate substrates and equipment for use as a virtual diagnostic and training program. In addition, custom-designed software packages allow the student to interactively practice problem-solving techniques off-press.

Included in the software is a monitoring and cost analysis package that allows the training process to correlate effective press utilization with the theoretical cost on a “live” press. The training tool analyzes individual student performance against recommended solutions to problems. There is a certification program based on industry partnering that links certified trainers with trainees for training delivery and testing.

Another new training program is being offered by the Flexographic Technical Assn. (FTA) under the name of “TEST” (Technical Education Services Team). This is the TEST Virtual Campus, an online resource where users can browse, download, or purchase streamlined FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances), which are considered to be compliant learning materials.

TEST currently offers both the Level 1 and 2 certification programs through the campus and is working diligently to have Level 3 available by mid-fall. In addition, TEST offers hundreds of other courses covering professional development, OSHA safety, and Microsoft, among others. For more information contact TEST@flexography.org.

All of this is well and good, but it still lies with converter management to work through the four steps given above and make sure the training gets the required measurable results. If not, it might be the equivalent of just “taking the trainees to lunch.” A nice gesture, but did anything change in the operation?

Process improvement expert David Argent has 30+ years of experience in process analysis with particular emphasis on ink and coating design and performance. Contact him at 636-391-8180; djvargent@sbcglobal.net.


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