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Client Spotlight: Hill’s Pet Nutrition Onboards New Workers with Cross-Functional Training

By Intertek Alchemy   |   

Hill’s Pet Nutrition takes great pride in producing science-based, veterinarian-prepared food for pets across the world. At its Richmond, Indiana plant, Hill’s produces 1.5 million pounds of dog and cat kibble daily through four production and packaging lines.

With the need for steady production combined with tight margins, regular turnover, and ongoing retirements, training new workers quickly and thoroughly is critical to the business. The facility recently added a fourth shift and expanded production from five days a week to seven. The new 24/7 production schedule created an immediate need to bring in a large group of new employees all at once, increasing training needs.

“It’s hard enough dealing with everyday challenges of running our facility, but we poured some fuel on the fire by adding another shift and going to 24/7 production,” said Brian Williams, operations manager at Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “The mass influx of new team members meant that practically everyone in the facility became a trainer, but not everyone was equipped for that. Training fatigue became a real issue.”

Brian and his team faced the challenge of providing the right tools and content to ensure any on-the-job instructions given were accurate. They knew it was important to standardize the process to provide consistency across instructors while verifying that all trainees understand and can apply training safely on the floor.

Introducing Cross-Functional Training
To address these issues, Hill’s initiated a cross-functional training strategy that included team members from operations, safety, quality assurance, and human resources. Collaboration between these departments was key to ensuring the new employee training was holistic.

But they also needed a technology solution to implement the new training program and ensure everyone would provide consistent, quality instruction when needed.  Brian and his team turned to Alchemy Playbook and Alchemy Coach to create, deliver, and govern on-the-job training for new hires.

Representatives from each department shut themselves in a room for several days and made an exhaustive list of items to address as part of the training. Then the team turned each item into a “learning moment” using checkpoints in Playbook that included the correct tools, PPE, and other processes. Playbook also allowed them to video record the right way for each process and develop a series of training courses. They used Alchemy Coach to verify and document the correct application for each process and create walkthrough checklists.

“Our cross-functional training strategy could have never become a reality without Alchemy Playbook and Coach,” added Williams. “We’ve created 111 learning moments to date, and these tools make on-the-job training and learning incredibly efficient.”

​​With new hire on-the-job training created, Brian and his team focus on ensuring it is implemented properly and consistently across different functions. For “train the trainer” sessions, they always verify trainers understand why various approaches are included so they are fully bought into the strategy. For trainers and trainees, Brian’s team develops attainable and reasonable goals, so people don’t get frustrated and discouraged.

At its Richmond plant, Hill’s new employees know upfront they must follow the training program, as they are tested 45 days and 90 days from hire. If they don’t pass the 90-day test, they cannot work at Hill’s. For existing employees, the goal is to train them all using the new process.

“Thanks to Alchemy’s solutions, our on-the-job training program has been a great success,” said Williams. “Even with the stringent 90-day policy, everyone has passed since we implemented the strategy. And we can already tell that the effectiveness and confidence of new team members on the floor has greatly improved.”

Contact us to learn how clients like Hill’s Pet Nutrition are using Intertek Alchemy solutions to create, deliver, and govern on-the-job training.

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