Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Master Printer series: Employee training to reduce down time

From our Master Printer

An installers view

Our technicians and our sales people travel the globe installing machinery into screen printing shops that are both large and small.  While we are securing the machinery for proper operation we train the users on the operation and maintenance of their new purchases.  We often suggest some changes to the shop flow and to the tools that the operators have on hand.

As a rule of good customer service, we will stop back into the customer's location some time after the initial installation.  We do this to answer questions that will come up after they have been running for awhile.  These questions are typically about unusual jobs and how to print them.  Sometimes we will need to review maintenance so that the machines run to the optimal level.

What happens next is when this gets interesting.

Brown Manufacturing Group offers unlimited phone support.  This can be to the main office or to a cell phone.  Sales people and technicians take calls 24/7 in an effort to keep our customers on time for job deliveries.  The questions we hear are, very often, not related to the machinery that we installed.  

As an example, a call came in yesterday concerning the cure of a job.  A customer had a very short production run returned with under cured ink issues.  Every shop has been in that situation and it is one that you want to solve immediately.  After confirming that the oven was operating correctly, the conversation turned to understanding curing of plastisol inks.  Many times we are talking to a shop owner and this information stays with the shop but often it is with a production person.  

How much information does or should a shop employee have?

Studies suggest that employees need in-depth training to stay interested and involved in what they do.  Also, they should be encouraged to gather additional information that is beneficial and stay current on  new technology.  So, we have conversations with shop employees about curing or screen processing or any other facet of shop production.  

In a recent shop visit, a customer was having trouble with screen exposure.  This shop employee repeated, often, "I have been doing it like this since I started.  This is how I was trained."  Well, that initial training was great.  What was never taught was that bulbs fade, emulsion is temperamental to humidity and mesh counts make a difference.  So, productivity was down for more than a week while additional information was taught and the machinery was updated.  If this employee had been given technical information as they continued to stay on the job, then much of the interruption would have been avoided.

So what do you do?

Technical information and shop maintenance are a full shop necessity.  If employees and shop owners understand how things process then they will have a stronger link to keeping it moving.  Good places to expand knowledge are trade shows.  

At each of these, these are classes taught on all aspects of production.  Also, part of walking the floor of a show is to talk to experts.  Stop in a booth and ask questions and learn about how the process works.  This should only take a day.  Employees should be assigned tasks of what information they are to gather.  Don't just wander in without a plan.  That is like sending a group of middle school kids to a museum without an assignment.  They wander around, too shy to talk to people, and randomly grab literature while playing on their phones.  When everyone returns to the shop, a quick walk through of what people learned would then spread the information to all.  

Yes, this sounds expensive and maybe wasteful of a day's production.  But in the long term it is beneficial for many reasons.
  • empowerment -- yes a buzz word.  But really, informed employees are usually interested employees
  • Problem prevention -- new information will allow the employees to look at what they do with a deeper understanding and they may be able to fix issues before they impact production
  • Respect -- if your employees think you are willing to invest in their education, then they may invest more into your shop
All of this is a win-win.  

And remember, after all of this effort.  Brown is still available for 24/7 support to keep your shop running smooth and productive.