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Factory challenges made EZ – knowledge management

How skills audits lead to a winning team

Scheduling employees in a production environment can be complex, especially if you don’t know exactly who has what set of skills. Fortunately, within EZ-GO there is a way to quickly map that out. You can also easily link it to training programmes and the knowledge management feature. It makes planning easier, production more efficient, and makes a direct contribution to employee development. 

Two months ago, we visited a manufacturer who had been working with the EZ-GO platform for a few weeks. We were going to talk about the possibilities he had available to him now that all the work instructions and checklists had been implemented. He was on the verge of cancelling the meeting, because they were busy hiring and training new people and there were problems with staff planning. “Then we should definitely come,” we said. “We have a fantastic solution for that.”

An equation with too many unknowns

The conditions at this manufacturer make high demands on the staffing scheduler: there are multiple production lines at the main location running 24/7, and each line requires a different set of knowledge and skills. There’s an ‘old guard’ who can be deployed anywhere, but growth at the company means new staff are constantly being recruited. It had become a challenge for the staffing scheduler to know who could do what and where that person could be deployed. So he made a draft schedule, checked it with the team leader (‘Uh, yes, I think the new person can do it, but he’s only done it once’), scheduled it anyway, then it turned out that the new person couldn’t do it after all, quickly called someone in, and there goes the carefully constructed schedule. Now it’s on to the next schedule, but this time with even more new employees. We recommended that they start using skills audits.

Skills audit

There’s a wide range of audit options available on the EZ-GO platform, including digital quality audits and safety audits. More and more companies are also using skills audits now. They’re primarily used during training with the EZ-GO app. You tick the box to indicate when someone has been trained on a certain task and has mastered it. You can select different levels, as well. For example, can someone perform a changeover task completely independently? Or can they assist? This gives you a clear online overview of where each person you’ve trained can be deployed. But of course people develop. New employees in particular will learn a lot in a short time. When someone has learned extra tasks, you can add that information to the skills audit so the overview is always up-to-date.

Higher productivity

The staffing scheduler was excited about having a knowledge management tool with up-to-date insights into the skills of the available staff – like an Olympic captain who knows the exact strengths and weaknesses of each member of the team. It allows you to deploy people where they’re most at home. You can also act quickly if someone drops out, because you know exactly who is eligible for what. That would save the staffing scheduler a lot of time.

Another major advantage is that people are deployed according to their capabilities, which keeps people from ending up in jobs where they’re under qualified (which creates stress and increases the risk of mistakes) or over qualified (which brings the risk of boredom and high personnel costs). That leads to higher satisfaction for employees and is the best approach for the budget. It also helps to increase efficiency in the production process, as people are more productive if they’re doing what they are good at.

Fulfilling ambitions

This application offers another important plus for employees: more opportunities for development. This customer is already creating new positions for shift leaders and team leaders. People who aspire to that position can use the app to see exactly what is needed to qualify for the role, thanks to the included skills matrix. You can master the tasks, do the audit, and then it will be documented that you’re qualified for a particular position. In other words: you know what the Olympic requirements are and you train for them. That gives employees more control over their own careers.

Benefits for everyone

The customer has since implemented the skills audit and everyone is happy with it. The staffing scheduler spends less time scheduling and the right people are in the right place. Experienced employees are no longer scheduled for work that’s too simple, just to be on the safe side. They also aren’t constantly being called in to train people; their knowledge is well documented in the work instructions, part of the knowledge management feature. The production manager has seen the productivity of his location increase with the same staffing levels. Human resources are also feeling the benefits, as recruitment orders for new employees are now highly targeted now that it’s clear which specific skills are needed. Finally, the management is satisfied with the results: personnel costs are rising at a more measured pace because available capacity is being put to better use, while simultaneously improving output.

When we called the staffing scheduler recently to find out how things were going, he confided in us that it had even improved the atmosphere: “I was initially worried that people would be uncomfortable being ‘audited’,” he said, “but they actually enjoy demonstrating what they can do. It moves them into positions where they work best, and that’s good for everyone, including me. Now I know exactly what’s possible and I can see that my schedule is generating greater yields. Sometimes I feel like the captain of a team that just keeps winning.”

 

This is part of a serial about challenges in factories. In the blogs, we describe different aspects and features of the platform which improve the safety, quality and productivity of the operation. Read part one here.