Mad skills: Making training a priority

In this Big Picture Interview, a Nissan PdM supervisor says get creative when it comes to skills development.

Brett Dyess, CMRP, is maintenance supervisor at Nissan North America’s Canton, MS, plant. In a presentation at UE Systems’ Ultrasound World conference in Florida last month, he discussed continued employee training as a vital component in sustaining an effective predictive maintenance program – and noted that training budgets (or a lack thereof) shouldn’t dictate whether, when, where, or how workers are developing their skills. Dyess elaborated on the training imperative in a recent interview with Plant Services.

PS: At Ultrasound World, you mentioned that your plant conducts pre-employment skills assessments for all maintenance technicians as the basis for personalized training plans. Tell me more about those.

BD: When you interview with this company, you take a pre-employment test which goes over, maintenance-wise, 10 maintenance skills. We don’t have crafts or specialists here. Some (employees) are better than others at different things, but all of us are multiskilled technicians. That’s the reason for the pre-employment test and the preassessment. It assesses all your strengths in all the areas – mechanical, electrical, hydraulics, fluid power – all of the basic fundamentals that we deem necessary to do the best job. If you’re good in this area, we might use you to train others, or (if you’re lacking in an area) we’ll educate you and develop a training plan based on that preassessment.

When we get that assessment back, we look at the needs in each area for that employee, and we also look at where they’re going to be assigned inside the plant. Whereas one shop might require a greater need for pneumatics or electrical skills, one shop might require a greater need for mechanical. So we take the where they’ll be assigned into account and we also look at failure history. If a shop is having a good bit of downtime in a certain area, whether it be mechanical or something like that, we take all those into account and lay out a training plan based on the courses we have available. We schedule out their time, and they take all these classes online, and then once they complete those, there’s a hands-on class (taken in the plant’s training center) that will give them an actual certification.

PS: And all technicians must have at least a Level 1 certification for a particular technology to perform rounds on it?

BD: As part of our standard operating procedures, for each technology that’s used, we have a standard procedure on how to utilize the technology and run the route. One of the requirements is that to run this route, you must be at least certified Level 1 against that technology. That’s just to ensure consistency and repeatability. For me, on the personal side, it also allows them more buy-in and ownership of that technology. It lets them confirm that they know what they’re doing, they know how to do it; they can speak to it, talk about it; they know how to analyze it. They’re not just out there as a bunch of minions taking readings every day.

PS: What does continued training look like for your plant?

BD: For example, with ultrasound and infrared, the main technologies that we utilize, I don’t want to have just one or two guys as specialists in those areas. I want all of my guys to be at least a Level 1 and a Level 2 if possible. For vibration or more specific or in-depth technology, we do send those guys away maybe for a four-day course or something off-site, and then they’re responsible to bring back as much information as they can to help us develop some kind of intro-level class that we can do in-house.

If they want to learn more about a certain technology and budget-wise I can’t provide that for them, and there’s a YouTube video or they Google search it or find an abstract and read it, two or three hours a week, I tell them, educate yourselves, guys. I’m not here to tell you I can get you everything you need, but if you find another way to get it or there’s a short webinar on it, and all you guys want it, I’ll pull it up on the screen. And they create work orders for that. I know what they’ve done and when they did it. We do (also) have a relationship with our local community college; they offer workforce development classes that Nissan pays for. Those they do have to take at nighttime. Nissan will pay for them, but they have to be during non-work hours.

I don’t require them to do two or three hours a week, but I’ve found that there is no need to do that because sometimes they actually will spend a little more than that.

PS: That's an interesting point, because one might think some employees would balk at the idea of a couple of hours of training each week or would be unwilling to follow through if it wasn't going to be strictly required. How do you get workers on board with your goals, your approach, your PdM efforts in general?

BD: I allow them to do a lot; I'm not a micromanager. I feel one of my strengths is understanding the people side of things so I have quarterly one-on-one (meetings) with all of my guys, and I tell them, "I'm not here to talk about business; I'm here to talk about anything you want to talk about. If it is business, that's fine, but I want to understand who you guys are, because if I know who you are here and I know who you are outside of here, what things you like, what you value most, then I can understand if I see something going on inside of here when you get to work. I know how to approach – I have to approach all of them in a different way. They like ownership. All of the contacts I have for our vendors, I have all that information posted downstairs, so if they're having an issue day to day, I don't make them come through me to contact the vendor for help. I allow them to contact the vendor, troubleshoot it, get it fixed, just let me know what went on.

I have a meeting with the technologists every week, and we'll discuss the previous week's KPIs; we'll go over any current weak signs or any issues they might be having, offering up stuff the technicians have told me – just an information-gathering, cross-functional process that we go through week to week. And I have a shift-start meeting every morning with all of the technicians. I'm pretty laid-back at that meeting. Sometimes we might sit in there and talk for a few minutes; sometimes it might be an hour long and we might be talking about work or something they need help with. … If there's anything going on PdM-wise, we just let 'em know, communicate it.

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