No train, no gain

Training is one of the most important components for a company to grow. This is true whether discussing safety training, equipment training or hands-on training. With metal fabrication being a skill-intensive job, continuous training enhances the employees’ capabilities and levels of production, plus it can create a safer environment for everyone in the shop.

When possible, hands-on training is incredibly effective in terms of preparing new employees for the job.

Some employees might be nervous to learn through a hands-on approach to training where they learn on the job versus learning through employee training manuals and videos. However, a hands-on type of training prepares them for their roles much faster. Through hands-on training, employees learn from their peers, typically skilled laborers. For example, at Fabricated Products Group (FPG), the lead fabricators provide hands-on training to the new and inexperienced hires that report to them.

During this process, they often build a unit together, run through best practices and go through the equipment that is going to be used for that job. This is an ideal way for new employees to learn how to operate the equipment. Once the process is over, everyone establishes a role in the project and gets comfortable in that role before full-on production begins.

Safety training

The most important type of training in fabrication may depend on the level of experience of the employee. While some employees are most interested in equipment training,

many companies may want to put an emphasis on safety training first because the top priority is to make sure everyone goes home at night.

Because safety is paramount to many companies, especially fabrication shops, oftentimes

they will employ a director of safety. This individual typically handles all safety training around the shop and on job sites. Presentations are often given to employees to explain the “dos” and “don’ts” of keeping a safe work environment, using videos and other tools. Tests are sometimes given to see how many safety rules employees understand and have retained.

To effectively track a shop’s safety record and efforts, many rely on an experience modification rate (EMR). The EMR is a metric used to calculate worker’s compensation insurance premiums. An EMR of 1.0 is usually the benchmark average. If a company’s EMR number is lower than this average, the compensation premium of the staff will be lower. If the EMR is higher than 1.0, it is considered riskier and the premium will end up being higher.

Safety training is also viewed as crucial because being prone to accidents can hurt a company’s reputation and prospects for new business. Customers want to know that they are working with a safe shop. An unsafe work environment can prevent deadlines from being met, hurting the customer’s bottom line as well.

Training benefits

At Fabricated Products Group, there are several types of equipment that employees much learn to operate, such as the CNC machine shown here.

Offering proper training shows employees that the company cares about them while also preparing them to work efficiently. Any time a company gets a new project, there are several ways to approach the activities the project will require, whether it is cutting, welding or any other task. Most companies have seasoned veterans who have tried several different methods to do the same type of work. When a new employee comes in or a current employee moves into a new role, it is best for them to learn from those who have already done it instead of trying to figure it out on their own.

Learning from those that have already “made the mistake” or “tried that before” helps bring new employees up the learning curve quicker. However, all aspects of a job can still go through several rounds of improvement that are discovered prior to the training process.

In the world of metal fabrication, it is also imperative to have good quality control. Every company wants to make sure they are putting out a good product. The quality of the work is directly impacted by the employee’s approach and tool selection. Whether referring to cutting, assembling or welding, proper training ensures the activity is tackled the most optimal way, the first time.

With good training, a higher level of quality results, but more importantly, there is a higher level of consistency. When a company has a training program, the goal is to ensure it is effective in achieving consistent quality. There is a level of reliability that customers expect in addition to the quality of the products they receive, which are both ultimately derived from proper training. Therefore, maintaining an efficient shop environment can help maximize profitability for the company and the customers.

Cross training

Safety training is critical for all types of employees, especially those that operate cutting machinery, such as the compound miter saw shown here.

Cross training, where workers are trained in more than one role or skill, allows companies the versatility to react to higher demands without compromising quality or speed. Throughout a given year, there could be several opportunities for some employees to try out different tasks, such as welding or learning how to operate a CNC machine. When this type of versatility is achieved in a shop, there is a greater level of flexibility should a need arise. For example, suddenly there may be a heavy month of welding, and through cross training, a shop can be better prepared with additional employees able to act as a “relief valve.”

Cross training can be beneficial on multiple levels. Not only does it provide career growth for employees, but there is also an opportunity for the company to take on more work. If they have a dozen welders and another dozen employees that are also qualified to step into that role if needed, the company can take on nearly twice the amount of work if a specific project requires it.

Cross training can pay big dividends during events like the Covid-19 pandemic. If a shop has a strict deadline and two key employees on that job are out sick, cross training allows the shop to have other employees that can step into that role to still meet the deadline.

Regardless of the types of training a company offers, proper training can enhance employees’ capabilities and levels of production. This benefits the company as it increases the amount of work they can deliver as well as the quality of it. Ultimately, this leads to a level of consistency both in the quality and timeliness that customers will come to expect and could potentially use as a deciding factor on project. Taking the proper time and effort to train employees can be crucial to a company’s bottom line.

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