Top 10 Employee Training Tools: Production Training


Top 10 Employee Training Tools: Production Training

This is the first part of our ten-part series covering the top ten employee training needs for component manufacturers. As mentioned previously, making an overt and continual commitment to formal and on-the-job training goes a long way toward keeping your employees effective, efficient and satisfied. Providing continual training and professional growth opportunities not only strengthens your workforce, it makes a huge difference in retaining your most valuable asset.

The good news is that offering employee training is very straightforward. It doesn’t have to take a huge financial or time investment, and you don’t even have to create it yourself. In this article, we will cover some of the well-known issues associated with production. Given all the new people that are or will be coming into this industry, we will go over some industry best-practice, proven and effective training tools.

Assessing Skill Level

Gauging an employee’s skill level and their proficiency with the tools of our trade is an essential first step. Assess whether each employee knows and/or has an aptitude to read truss design drawings and related construction documents; understand the fundamentals of building construction; and, appreciate the advantages of the component fabrication process as it relates to the structural performance of a building.

Your veteran staff members sometimes forget or assume that someone walking in the door knows what to do, but you really need to find out first. SBCA’s Truss Manufacturing Orientation (TMO) was created exactly for this purpose.


Start simple, help ensure that every employee understands the manufacturing concepts they witness, as well as the words they hear on the production floor. Most of the terminology in our industry is used daily. Confirming everyone learns and understands those terms can make a huge difference, not only in reducing the chance for errors through misunderstanding, but also in creating an inclusive work environment.

Safety Culture

To reduce the chance for accidents, injuries and illnesses, everyone in your plant needs to make safety and health issues as high of a priority as other issues, like sales, production and product delivery. To that end, it’s vital all employees, especially new ones, are aware of their surroundings, including heavy machinery, sharp plate teeth, bunks of lumber, powered and unpowered hand tools, fork trucks and related situations that may threaten their safety.

A good first step toward that goal is to make sure that every employee is familiar with the entire production process. Whether they are new or veteran employees, conducting a walk through with a small group of your work force from time to time is an excellent way to review everything from steps in the production process to QC and safety expectations.

In addition, here are some handy guidelines all production workers should make into habits:

Five Basic Safety Rules for Non-Powered Tools

1. Keep all tools in good condition with careful maintenance.

2. Use the proper tool for each job.

3. Never use a damaged tool, and report the damage to a supervisor.

4. Operate all tools according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When in doubt, ask your supervisor.

5. Use the correct personal protective equipment with each tool.

Five Basic Safety Rules for Powered Tools

1. Keep cords and hoses away from heat.

2. Disconnect tools from their power sources before service or cleaning, and when not in use.

3. Never yank a cord or hose to disconnect it.

4. Remain a safe distance away from your co-workers when they are using power tools.

5. Make sure all proper guarding is in place before use. When in doubt, ask your supervisor.

Tool Use

Speaking of tools, one of the basic aspects of production training is proper tool use. Two surprising examples of tools that are commonly misused in the production process are hammers and tape measures.

Gripping & Swinging Hammers

Having a proper grip on a hammer is very important. Practice grasping it lightly, but firmly. Avoid holding your hammer too tightly, to help prevent fatigue and injury to your wrist and arm.

Swinging a hammer properly will help an employee avoid injuries, as well as prevent damage to the surface being struck. Before swinging the hammer, first check your grip on it. Also, an employee should try not to use his or her wrist to create the force behind the hammering.

Reading a Tape Measure

Reading a tape measure is a very important skill in the production process. Tape measures clearly mark inches with black lines that go across the entire width of the tape. Between the inch marks are a number of shorter lines, which mark 1/16-inch measurements. These shorter lines are four different lengths. The longest lines (besides the inch marks) represent ½ inches, the second longest show ¼ inches, then 1/8 inches, and lastly, 1/16 inches. Measurements in our industry are usually given as feet, inches and sixteenths.

Equipment Procedures

Beyond basic hand tools, today’s component manufacturing operation is full of complex heavy machinery. Production equipment from component saws to gantry tables and roller presses can be very dangerous. Defining all safety warnings in the manufacturer’s owner/operator manual during a walk through process is important and valuable.

Here are some general, practical guidelines employees should follow:

1. Only trained and authorized workers should operate production equipment of any kind.

2. Keep all safety guarding in place.

3. Check all safety stops and controls at least once every shift.

4. Clear all obstructions away from the machinery.

5. Do not touch moving parts.

6. Do not wear loose fitting clothing or dangling jewelry that could get caught in a machine.

7. Wear safety glasses at all times.

8. Never leave equipment running when no one is around.

9. Check for damaged parts and repair before operating equipment.

It’s also important for everyone in the production facility to know and understand “lockout/tagout” procedures. This is the practice of giving one person the responsibility to turn off and disconnect equipment and machines from their power source before performing maintenance or service tasks. In case of an emergency, it’s also vital that everyone knows how to immediately shut down a piece of equipment.

Constant On-the-Job Training

Finally, consider getting your production supervision team together at least once a week to discuss what can be done better throughout the operation with regard to worker skills training and safety communication. Once the supervision team identifies an area for further training, don’t limit the training to a single worker, but gather the entire team together for a few minutes of review. Those few minutes will always pay off for your operation.

Ben Hershey is a Lean Management & Manufacturing Expert with 4Ward Consulting Group. The topic of Housekeeping will be covered in the June/July issue.