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You would think cross training is something most of us would embrace naturally. After all, wouldn’t it be great if so many members of your team could easily do the jobs of other team members? That is especially true when you have attendance issues where people have not shown up for work, or you have to run shorthanded. If you had more people who could do more of the critical jobs, then you would be able to establish production even during the times when you are shorthanded.
Keep in mind I am recording this during the COVID-19 period where your team is probably being put through more of a test than ever before.
Some are speeding up and having to meet higher than ever production demands while others are downsizing and slowing down to deal with reduced needs or a drop in business. Either way, your team needs to be able to flex and flow to the work required. If they are able to do that then they are basically the most flexible team you could have in helping you achieve your production targets.
When you are shorthanded, it might seem impossible to keep up with production, but what are some of the most crucial jobs?
In fact, that becomes my first suggestion for your leadership team, identify what the most crucial jobs are in your department. Where is it critical you have more people to be trained?
Then ask yourself if you had to decide who on your team should be cross trained on those jobs, who would you select? You can usually keep track of who on your team is qualified in which jobs, and this would make it easy to identify who should be cross trained next on a particular job or task.
The next question you have to ask is, how are you going to do the cross training? This is a real challenge for many supervisors and leaders because when you think about it, most of the time you’re running fairly tight on labor. You don’t have a lot of extra people around. So to double them up for training purposes can be a bit of a challenge. And of course, if you are in a senior management role or a middle management role, you might be saying, “Hey, how can I actually justify putting some extra labor on just to do the cross training that I might not need?”
That is the wrong way to look at it because if you have ever had production disrupted because you didn’t have enough people qualified to run the machines, then you would know doing the cross training can pay off in the long run. Avoiding that one extra day of production loss because other teams are not able to run the machine could easily pay for the extra labor of doing the cross training. Be innovative, think through what are the ways you could do it.
Another suggestion is, recognize that sometimes downtime comes to you unexpectedly. A machine could break down, either up the process from yours or maybe downstream and you are told, “Hey, you have to stop production.” What if you had cross training ready to go so at that very moment, you could take advantage of the 15, 30 minutes, or two hours of downtime to go ahead and requalify one of the people on your team to do a job you are lacking in flexibility.
Make that a business practice and you will find that you can get more of your team cross trained and as they are, it will increase your flexibility as a leader. It will help people deal with not only the COVID-19 situation but just become more capable in general.
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