Training For The Future

As packaging machinery becomes more complex, a flexible, well-trained workforce is necessary to remain competitive.


With competition at an all time high, packagers must ensure that their lines are as efficient and cost effective as possible. Companies looking to improve or add to their capabilities through machinery acquisition must consider a wide variety of factors.

At the point of sale, it's often difficult to see past a machine's sticker price. However, the sticker price is only the tip of the iceberg. It is important to consider that the initial cost accounts for only a fraction of the total cost of ownership.

Total cost of ownership can be broken into three primary categories: acquisition cost, sustaining cost and maintenance cost.

The acquisition cost includes the purchase price, engineering, installation, initial training, any customization and start up costs. The majority of purchasing decisions are made at this juncture. The list price of a machine for the features offered is the easiest point of comparison when shopping for new equipment.

Sustaining costs include operational costs such as labor, utilities, consumables and equipment reliability. Although they will reflect annual increases and go into the TCO, it's difficult to control these costs, with the exception of reliability.

Maintenance and repair costs include spare parts, maintenance labor, service, life of equipment and de-commissioning costs.

One of the greatest challenges facing packaging operations today is the industry-wide high personnel turn-over rate. As technology advances and packaging machinery becomes increasingly complex, the need for a well-trained, flexible work-force is necessary to remain competitive.

With a little planning and preparation, proper training can offset cost at every stage of a packaging line's life-cycle.

Focusing on the acquisition cost, most packagers view equipment training initially as the responsibility of the equipment manufacturer. But because the quality and effectiveness of training has a direct impact on the total cost of ownership, project success and, ultimately, the bottom line, these end-users should take a more active role in setting training expectations and ensuring their employees receive the best training possible.

This is especially true considering that for a large number of equipment manufacturers, training lacks a formal structure and process. It is often an afterthought as busy service technicians give a brief overview of the equipment to each shift as they juggle their installation responsibilities and hurry to get to the next project. The lack of an established curriculum or evaluation standards for the training means that each shift could be learning different procedures or covering different topics.

Along with setting clear training expectations, these problems can be reduced significantly if not overcome by having dedicated internal trainers within the plant. If the service technicians have a "point person" to train and communicate with, this internal trainer can serve to reinforce the OEM's training program and continue it after the service technician leaves.

Most importantly, in-plant trainers can significantly reduce the impact of high-turnover. Ideally, an in-plant trainer is well versed in the advanced functions of each machine, operating and maintenance procedures, as well as audience appropriate instructional techniques. An internal trainer may be a subject matter expert (SME), a lead person or a solid performer who has good technical and communication skills.

When acquiring new machinery, it is essential that in-plant trainers receive in-depth instruction from the supplier. Training manuals and job aides must be readily available and easy to understand. Effective training should be conducted as close to start-up as possible ,which can reduce the start-up time for a new machine as familiarity allows for a machine to be more effectively integrated into the packaging line.

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