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If you’re a manufacturer, you probably don’t need to be reminded that you’re also in the customer relations business. From fulfilling last-minute rush orders to working with your suppliers to get the best materials at the best price, you know that being agile and responsive goes hand-in-hand with maintaining your competitive edge.

However, your workforce is a crucial limiting factor in how nimble your business can be. And when it comes to the manufacturing industry, talent is an increasingly scarce commodity. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment in the manufacturing sector is at an all-time low — dropping from 3.5 percent in September 2018 to 2.8 percent in December 2018.

To make matters worse, the Bureau of Labor Statistics goes on to report that, in November 2018 alone, there were nearly half a million job openings in the sector — yet only a little more than 300,000 successful hires.

Put it all together and the picture is clear: To keep clients happy and operate competitively, you need a reliable employee base that’s both engaged and flexible. And a proven way to build such a workforce is through cross-training.

Benefits of Cross-Training Your Workforce

While most of us appreciate a certain level of predictability in our work, the days of doing one simple task from nine to five are nearly a thing of the past. For management personnel especially, wearing many hats and learning new skills are requirements of the job these days. And for employees who are looking to remain vital to any enterprise, increasing their skillsets is simply a smart move.

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Of course, at an organizational level, having a cross-trained workforce opens doors as well. Here are some key benefits manufacturers enjoy after embracing cross-training for their employees:

  • Improved service: When your production line grinds to a halt because the one person you need to perform a task is working on another project, your services suffer. On the other hand, when you have multiple skilled employees who are capable of many tasks, you’re far more prepared to deliver better service to your customers.
  • Scheduling flexibility: With today’s jobs often coming with tight deadlines, a cross-trained workforce gives you greater choice when it comes to scheduling. And with a schedule that doesn’t overburden one or more employees, you also help prevent worker burnout — leaving you with a healthier, happier workforce and reduced absenteeism.
  • Process improvements: With siloed employees who work separately from each other, it’s often next to impossible to envision process improvements. With a cross-trained workforce that’s encouraged to share ideas on how to eliminate waste and increase efficiency, process improvements are far more easily identified and achieved.
  • Worker engagement: When employees see that their skills are growing and that they’re contributing to the company’s success with more than one responsibility, they feel part of the bigger picture. And when worker engagement increases, so do your employee retention rates, which goes a long way in helping your organization remain competitive in today’s labor market.
  • Succession planning: As members of your enterprise learn from each other, you also become far better informed about which employees are most prepared to move into roles carrying more responsibility. This means, by cross-training, you’re also gaining an awareness that’s crucial to strategic succession planning.

MANTEC Is Your One-Stop Cross-Training Resource in Manufacturing

Whether it’s setting up job shadowing opportunities or training manufacturing employees in LEAN manufacturing methodology, MANTEC can advise you on how best to cross-train your workforce. For over three decades, we’ve been a private, non-profit 501 (c) 3 helping small and medium-sized manufacturers in South Central Pennsylvania realize their business potential.

To establish a cross-training program that’s specifically designed to help your manufacturing business thrive, contact us today.

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