Years ago I was working with inevitable changes in our manpower. After a revision in our business plan, the entire operation was going to change requiring less manpower. A very generous retirement plan took care of most of the extra employees under the new operation scheme. The challenge for me was to choose what job the remaining group would have. After a life doing a manual job that will no longer exist, these people (90% of them women) whose age was between 50 and 60 years will have to learn to do something else.
All the available jobs required to operate a machine that runs at speeds between 150 to 400 units per minute. It was not only to feed the machine but also to be able to control the settings to comply with quality requirements, clean the machine and assist maintenance with troubleshooting and minor adjustments.
Most of these ladies were really afraid about what would be their new job. Assigning jobs and provide appropriate training was a critical task which required to show respect towards these persons. I interview every one of them to hear their concerns, fears, and expectations regarding their new jobs. The real intention of these interviews was to have a one to one meeting to clarify doubts, ask if they had any preference regarding what machine they would like to work with and assure them that we will train and support them every step of the way. With the information gathered during the interviews, their training records verification and skills assessment, the supervisors that work with them before and their new supervisors help me to choose the machine they would be assigned to.
We created visual work instructions for every task and every machine, design theoretical and hands-on training, and use all these material to teach them. We also used a buddy system to ensure that every new operator was with a more experienced operator 100% of the time during at least one week. The shift supervisors help me to assess their job and we scheduled some additional to some individuals based on the results.
The journey was stressful at times, difficult at others and challenging all the time but in the end it worth it. This group of operators learns at their own pace, they grew up to be an excellent group and some of them even become trainers for newcomers. Their smiles and how good they feel about themselves for all their accomplishments during that time it is forever one of my personal favorite stories.