The National Association of Manufacturers predicts that nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled over the next decade. Two million of those will remain unfilled due to a skills gap. That puts the importance of manufacturing training into perspective, doesn’t it?
One way to close the skills gap is to hire inexperienced manufacturing workers and train them. Matrix Tool president Paul Ziegenhorn told Crain’s Chicago Business that he prefers that approach: “They get a little bit more experienced, and you have some time before they’re at $30 an hour. Years. Business 101.” The Boeing Manufacturing On-the-Job Training Project found tremendous success placing entry-level workers in 39 advanced manufacturing firms around the country.
And according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, “Training on the job is one of the most important ways for workers to become competent at many occupations in manufacturing.”
Keys to successful manufacturing training
Whether the training is formal or informal, short-term or apprenticeship, the key to success is communication. No worker trains himself. A trainer of some sort—an experienced co-worker, supervisor or training instructor—has to be involved. That means dialogue must take place. In high-noise environments where ear protection is a requirement, those critical conversations often end in a shouting match. It also means that movement is restricted, since trainer and trainee (or trainees) have to be in close proximity to be heard and understood. This limits the authenticity of the on-the-job training and ultimately reduces productivity.
Using wireless team communication for manufacturing training
Equip employees participating in manufacturing training with wireless team communication headsets and create a mobile classroom where learning can take place for an entire shift, even if trainer and trainee are at workstations at opposite ends of the plant floor. On-the-job manufacturing training improves with:
- Conference call-like conversations: Full-duplex communication allows all headset users on a channel to talk and listen at the same time. No blocked out communications or incidental button-mashing common to two-way radios, most of which feature half-duplex communication. Trainer and trainee(s) can ask and answer questions in real time.
- Listen-through technology: Even though the training environment may be loud, some noises like alarms, voice prompts and other machine sounds need to be heard as part of the job. Listen-through technology provides users a volume control separate from voice traffic that mixes in ambient noise levels. This also prevents the sensation of being isolated by hearing protection, which can be uncomfortable for some workers.
- Hearing protection: It’s most likely required on the plant floor, so it makes sense to combine the requirement with the necessity. Unlike other passive hearing protectors, wireless team communication headsets that include active hearing protection don’t cut off voice traffic. And when listen-through is turned on they suppress sudden loud noises like engine starts and explosions.
- The ability to use both hands: DECT7 wireless connectivity allows users to just speak and be heard. So long as the audience is on the same channel, users don’t have to push a button. In manufacturing training, where most tasks require two hands to complete, hands-free communication gives trainees one less thing to worry about.
- No dangling wires. There are already plenty of cables in a manufacturing facility. Adding another one that trainers and trainees have to wear is more risk exposure to tripping, ripping the cable out or snagging the cable and wrenching the headsets off a user’s head.
- Prioritize employee comfort, safety and efficiency. Manufacturing floors can be inhospitable. Noise, temperature gradients, dangerous machines and chemicals and long shifts are just a few of the factors that discourage millennials or career changers from pursuing manufacturing occupations. Training and working with wireless team communication headsets illustrates commitment to safety, communication and an employee’s overall job satisfaction. That brings in more applicants and encourages workers to stay longer.
Finally, wireless team communication headsets make possible an extremely efficient type of training that has traditionally proven problematic in on-the-job manufacturing training scenarios: group training. Depending on the size of the group, you can fit everyone on a single channel to engage in full-duplex communication, or you can train larger groups in broadcast mode, where the trainer talks and trainees listen: just as Socrates would have liked if he had been a manufacturing training instructor instead of a Greek philosopher.