Training For The Future

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


While embarking on a very large capital project, Nabisco realized the importance of training in ensuring a successful start-up. In the initial phase (acquisition), a formal request for quotation was sent. The RFQ clearly outlined expectations. Open discussions with each vendor were important to find out what exactly was needed. Jointly, targeted training goals were set and roles and responsibilities were identified.

This saved many headaches in the stressful times when everyone was working their hardest to meet project deadlines. Although it causes additional up-front work for the vendor, in this instance high quality training reduced the start-up curve by 50 percent.

Sustaining Cost

Although there is often not much that can be done to reduce sustaining cost, training does play an important role in ensuring equipment reliability. A machine can only run at full capacity if it is operating correctly. Providing operators and maintenance staff with expertise beyond basic functions on new equipment can help the machine perform at expected rates.

Many times, end-users are disappointed when a machine does not perform at the levels promised during the sales pitch. Often, however, the inconsistency is due to poor operation by poorly-trained staff rather than a manufacturing flaw. A complex machine can frustrate staff and effectively "stigmatize" a machine. Lack of proper training and operation increases unnecessary service calls, downtime, accidents, overtime, raw material and packaging losses. Well-presented, consistent training can mitigate frustration and inefficiency.

To address this challenge, internal trainers at Nabisco received training on how to train and spent time at the vendor's facilities to provide input in the development of the equipment in the later stages. This gave in-depth knowledge to internal staff and a skill level that was invaluable at the plant even after installation and training was completed and the vendors were gone. The real successes are seen when trained companies are able to run successfully without having to call vendors for more than three months after start-up.

Maintenance Costs

The last category, maintenance cost, is one area where effective technical training can make the greatest impact on the bottom line, as well as extend the life of the equipment. It's been stated that if you have good equipment and well-trained staff you can extend the life of the equipment by 25 percent. Well-trained maintenance staff can keep packaging lines running efficiently and help to significantly reduce downtime as well as changeover and repair time.

At Nabisco having internal trainers was the key to keeping cost down and keeping skill levels up. The company was able to provide refresher training, as well as on-going training of new personnel. Because Nabisco developed a relationship with the equipment vendors they could easily contact them if they needed additional information or help. It was obvious where the effective training was done-there was less downtime, changeover and repair time was kept to a minimum, parts utilization was lowered and efficiencies were high. They also took greater ownership for the equipment's reliability. Maintenance is a big chunk of any plant's budget-effective training can keep these costs in control. Proper preventive maintenance is critical to keeping packaging lines running at their top speed. Targeted training ensures that the right maintenance is done at the right time, preventing problems before they occur.

Safety First

Safety is another key area where training is essential. Beyond the potential for bodily harm to individuals, on-the-job accidents cause downtime, raise insurance costs, lower morale and increase liability. According to Department of Labor Statistics, goods producing industries had an injury rate of 176.9 injuries and illnesses in 2005 (most recent data available), making manufacturing by far the most accident prone business sector.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets standards for safety requirements and failure to comply with stringent safety requirements can lead to sanctions and heavy fines. While accidents in a manufacturing environment are inevitable, proper training is crucial to keep employees and lines humming.

What To Ask For From A Supplier

All of the responsibility for effective training need not be on the end-users. When purchasing new equipment, the supplier should be able to provide meaningful training.

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