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Trillium Machine finds a way to effectively train newbies

Paul van Metre President ProShop USA
By Paul van Metre President, ProShop USA

One of the biggest challenges that any shop faces in 2020 is finding skilled workers to backfill those baby boomers who are retiring, or simply finding staff to meet the demand of a healthy manufacturing economy.

Not enough new young people are entering the industry. This requires coming up with creative solutions for recruiting.

Many companies are resorting to developing their own training programs and hiring less-experienced- but-mechanically-adept workers.

The challenge then becomes how to develop the training process, organize the content and deliver it in a way that is effective. There will be general content, such as how to use calipers, how to upload g-code programs into your machines, or how to record a non-conformance report in your ERP system.

Then there will be specific content, such as how to set up the machine for PN 123456, or what problems you’ve encountered in the past when the tolerances for PN 987654 start to reach their limits.

These two types of learning may be best solved with different solutions, but the challenge is still the same: How to cost-effectively translate this tribal knowledge and basic skills to a new employee who has little to no background in your industry.

For many companies, this would include using Word and Excel or PDF documents stored in file folders.

While this can be effective, it’s likely not efficient and comes with an overhead burden, which may make it impractical and have other problems of managing revisions and access.

Trillium Machine in the Portland, Oregon, area has been particularly effective in using ProShop’s company position, training and work instruction modules to solve this problem.

That has resulted in Trillium Machine’s ability to hire a competent-but-completely-inexperienced employee and have that person successfully integrated and productive in just a few months.

The work started by defining all the training topics that were required for an entry-level machinist. Topics like proper use of a caliper, how to identify cutting tools and use of the controls on their CNC machines.

These topics and the content— included in ProShop and enhanced by company employees—are organized in the company positions and training modules of ProShop’s ERP/QMS software suite.

When an employee is hired, the position is selected, which automatically outlines all the training topics. The new employee will watch videos, read and follow lessons and be trained one-on-one by current staff.

For part-number-specific training, all the relevant work instructions are outlined in the part module in ProShop, by part number and operation number. Work instruction pages for each operation will outline, in easy-to-understand text, photos and videos, exactly how the part and machine are to be set up.

These instructions are created and vetted by machinists who know these parts very well.

As these instructions evolve over time, it is all revision controlled and access controlled so only the authorized employees can make changes.

By following this relatively simple formula, Trillium Machine has been able to take completely inexperienced employees and have them successfully setting up complex parts on multi-axis, mill-turn lathes in just two to three months.

This ability essentially has allowed Trillium to grow very quickly in the last year.

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