6 Benefits of Cross Training in a Manufacturing Environment

by Bruce Hayward, President of Commodore Technology

No matter if your company is big or small, cross training is a critical part of ensuring your success. Here are six compelling reasons to start a cross training program within your company.

Technicians in Commodore foam plant extrusion department

1. Uninterrupted Service – Processes require skilled people no matter if it is within the shop or the office. Life happens, and your skilled worker may not be available to support that process. Provide yourself some insurance by making sure you have cross trained people as a contingency plan for the unexpected.

2. Flexibility – Although consistent and steady work is ideal, it is far from guaranteed in today's environment. Most businesses have their ebbs and flows which require you to serve the fluctuating demands of your customer. Having cross trained workers to go where the work is will help balance work and minimize the stress of having too much work or not enough work.

3. Relate to Others Within the Process – When you look at an individual process within the value stream there are internal suppliers and customers to that process. Having people cross train in a position that now puts them in a role as a supplier or customer helps them understand the impact these roles have on that process. This helps them understand and relate to the folks that receive the handoff within the value stream.

4. Process Improvement - Having the ability to relate to the functions within the process gives you opportunity to improve. For example, if your internal supplier gives you work in process or paperwork that you have to sort before you can start your process, you may accept this as normal operating procedure. However, if you cross train in the role of the supplier and you make an effort present your product in a consistent and organized fashion you may reduce the process time. Being part of the solution for process improvement is the key for success and sustainability.

5. Reenergize Employees – If you choose an employee to be cross trained they may feel they are part of something bigger than just a job. Inclusion is a powerful motivator as well as a form of recognition. Doing the same thing every day can have its points of diminishing returns. Looking forward to doing something new and different can bring back some excitement to the job.

6. Succession Planning – Cross training is a great way to evaluate abilities of people to adapt, learn and collaborate. Identifying people that have these traits provides you a stream of capable people to contribute to your succession planning.

Cross training can simply start with one person or a single value stream. The cost of executing such a program is negligible; however, the cost of not implementing can keep your company from progressing.