In today’s post COVID economy, labor is in short supply. Here’s an old-school manufacturing practice that can be used to develop a deeper labor pool.
Way back in the day, I had a production management position at Louisville Assembly Plant during the initial Explorer launch. The launch was hugely successful. Production quickly ramped up to 87 trucks an hour (that’s one off the line every 41 seconds!) and build quality was excellent…off-line repair bays were mostly empty.
A big key to that success was labor versatility. Having trained operators on every job every day just didn’t happen. Training to develop a deeper labor pool was a priority.
A simple tool was used to manage training: the versatility chart. Each production supervisor had one for his or her zone. Down the left side of the chart were all the employees and across the top were all the jobs. If an employee was trained on a job, a “1” was entered in that cell. Across the bottom of the chart were the total number of employees who were trained on that job.
Ideally, each job was three deep. That is, there were three trained employees for every position on the line. Versatility gaps became cross-training priorities.
The more jobs your people know, the deeper your labor pool. This simple concept applies outside of manufacturing.
In baseball, rosters are limited by rule. Managers need flexibility to give stars a day off and to make strategic moves in the late innings of close games. Players who can play multiple positions are essential for a deep bench.
In business, people are limited by budgets and, more recently, by labor constraints. Managers need flexibility for any number of reasons: vacations, illnesses, seasonality, etc. Cross-training develops flexibility without adding staff.
So whatever your situation, consider cross-training to develop a deeper labor pool.
Thirty years later, I still use best practices from the Explorer launch in my day job as a Professional Engineer. Click HERE to visit my Operations Engineering page.