Dr. Adam StoehrClick image to enlargeDr. Adam Stoehr develops and facilitates leadership, organizational assessment, process improvement, and quality management training for all sectors across Canada.

Training for quality will improve manufacturing efficiencies

Shop Metalworking Technology Magazine speaks with Dr. Adam Stoehr, vice president of education and research at Excellence Canada, Toronto, about how training for quality can help you improve manufacturing performance and efficiencies.

Training for quality is a broad subject. What key components should manufacturers consider when it comes to training employees or implementing a quality program?

Implementing a strategic quality program is easier when employees have a common understanding of what quality is and why it matters. Big picture quality training with a focus on prevention rather than reaction is therefore useful to ensure that all staff understand the overall aim and direction for the company’s quality effort. Once this common language is introduced and understood, specific training on prevention-based problem solving and process tools like Process Mapping and Root Cause Analysis, and measurement tools are useful.

How has training for quality changed in recent years? Why?

In recent years there has been much more interest in the people side of quality. Specifically, training on how to implement a “healthy workplace” and how to ensure that people are happier at work (higher levels of morale, satisfaction, and engagement). Some interesting research we conducted on employee happiness showed that tenure had a huge impact on how happy an employee was at work. New employees (less than six months) had the highest levels of happiness. The longest term employees (more than 10 years) had the second highest levels of happiness. Medium term employees tended to have lower levels of happiness. The group of employees between six and ten years had the lowest levels. As a result of these findings, companies have been targeting medium term employees with training and other programs to help raise their levels happiness at work.

Can manufacturers implement their own program or do you recommend hiring quality consultants?

I’ve seen both approaches work well. However, ownership is maximized when employees implement quality on their own. Involvement of staff is powerful and it tends to be the first step to engagement. Engagement leads to the benefits that come along with employee happiness (higher productivity, higher employee retention, increased profits). Training is more critical when employees are doing most of the leg work. They need to have the right skill set to maximize the potential of the quality approaches. This comes with involved leadership and good training.

Is it essential for people to undergo official quality training and receive certification or is it sufficient to implement a program without certification?

Implementation of a good quality approach is certainly possible without formal certification. Certification is useful in environments where external validation is valued. Employees who are certified in programs like Excellence Canada’s Certified Excellence Professional designation can build credibility with other staff. This credibility can build trust and confidence with staff and leadership.

What cost and time is involved in implementing quality training in a manufacturing operation?

The costs of quality can be separated into three categories. The money and time a company spends on prevention (training, planning, continual improvement, etc), the money and time spent on inspection (audits, appraisals, quality checks), and the money and time spent on failure (re-work, re-call, re-anything). Although the exact amount of money and time varies by company, research we have done with the University of Waterloo confirms that companies that spend more time on prevention will spend less time on failure. These companies tend to have a lower overall cost of quality.

What are the best sources of information for manufacturers to implement quality training?

My organization (Excellence Canada) is a good resource. ASQ has some good training available. There are also some good programs that are run by a lot of the Canadian Universities and Colleges.

Does quality training in manufacturing differ from a quality training program in other sectors?

At the end of the day there is not a huge difference in training between sectors. I have noticed that since manufacturing organizations tend to have more sophistication on the process side of things, there is usually more focus on reduction of variation compared to service organizations. There is also more emphasis on how the manufacturing process impacts the customer user experience. Safety and risk analysis also take more of a front seat in the manufacturing landscape. On the people side of things the same elements apply to all sectors.

What can manufacturers do in-house to minimize the costs of quality training?

What some Canada Awards for Excellence recipient organizations have done is blend their formal training with informal learn and share sessions. In these organizations, if a group of employees take formal quality training, it is their job to share key learnings with others who were not able to attend. This helps keep the costs of formal training down and also reinforces key messages. Teaching others a new quality tool is a great way to be sure that you understand the important parts yourself.

What changes do you expect to see in training for quality over the next five years?

I think with increased stress levels and more awareness of the importance of mental health at work, we will continue to see a rise in the people side of quality. This training will need to focus on how to improve collaboration and teamwork to foster a healthier workplace. Organizations that get ahead of this curve will be in a great position to build an environment at work where people will start saying “Yay it’s Monday” rather than “Thank Goodness it’s Friday.” A “Yay it’s Monday” mindset will unlock the benefits of employee happiness including retention of talent, more openness to change, higher productivity and quality output, reduction of stress, increased creativity and innovation, higher levels of engagement, higher levels of morale, higher profits, and improved customer experience and outcomes.

What is Excellence Canada and what role does it play in quality training for manufacturing?

Excellence Canada is the only not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing standards, certifying, and recognizing organizational excellence across all sectors in Canada. Excellence Canada is also the custodian and adjudicator for the Canada Awards for Excellence Program, under the Patronage of the Governor General of Canada, the Right Honourable David Johnston. Excellence Canada provides training, coaching, assessment and tools to implement, validate and certify organizational excellence. SMT

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