Many manufacturing and food processing facilities are housed in buildings constructed before the acceleration of technology; many were designed before the idea of WiFi even existed. As a result, many companies in this industry have some design challenges to deal with daily that may impact productivity and training. Challenges like low visibility on the production floor or lack of convenient training space can make training space feel like an afterthought.
These days, new manufacturing plants are being built, or existing facilities being revamped, at a somewhat accelerated rate. IndustryWeek noted that the industry as a whole is experiencing something akin to a baby boom.
With that in mind, there is a ripe opportunity to build or remodel a manufacturing plant with a fresh take – one the turns training areas from an afterthought to a focal point. Of course, space is at a premium so it’s worth considering the cost-benefit analysis.
Your plant design is sure to include basic safety features like guardrails and handrails; dedicated training space should be seen as a basic safety feature as well. Better, more engaging training leads to a safer workforce, which can save millions of dollars in reduced injuries, lost time, and workers’ comp.
And of course, better training results in fewer mistakes and greater productivity. So here are five ideas to consider in plant design:
1. Space for Adjacent Training Areas
A dedicated training area is a must, but too often the space provided just isn’t enough, or too far removed from the action. Providing visibility onto the production floor by creating a group training area next to the production floor creates ample opportunities to connect the training with the work. During unplanned downtime, it allows the company to remain nimble and move into training sessions to take advantage of any gaps in production schedules.
In a post-COVID world, more space is more important than ever. This allows for social distancing while still providing group training, a must-have in order to keep training on track while meeting production demands.
2. Space for eLearning Stations
Tech advances have brought computers, laptops and handheld devices into the training landscape for manufacturers. Providing space for several eLearning kiosks allows more than one user at a time to complete necessary training and avoids the “computer desk crammed into in a converted janitorial closet” setup.
A dedicated space for computers makes it a heck of a lot easier to add structure and organization around food and workplace safety training programs and reduces the need for ad hoc training.
3. Space for On the Job Training
OJT is considered a best practice by experts because employees learn in the environment they will be applying their learning, using the actual equipment that they will be working on daily.
For high-risk machines, there should be enough space nearby to allow both a worker to perform his or her task, and a supervisor to observe their work . This allows supervisors to validate the comprehension and application of high-risk activities and can help to greatly reduce injuries and/or incidents.
Bonus: By providing space for this side by side training and observation, relationships at the workplace will improve. More frequent one-on-one communication will happen naturally as a result of proximity. The observation and subsequent feedback will strengthen the dynamic and sense of trust between workers and supervisors. The result? Increased retention and employee satisfaction.
4. Space on Walls for Monitor Displays
Blank walls = hot real estate for displaying safety messages that refresh key training points. Mounting monitors in highly visible areas, or high traffic spots (like en route to the restroom) also provide visual stimulus while offering learning or reinforcement opportunities.
5. Consider WiFi Implications
While it’s nice to have, a dependable internet connection throughout the entire facility can be costly. For this reason, prioritize where WiFi is absolutely needed, such as offices and training spaces, and keep it in mind when considering what training technologies to implement. After all, if you aren’t fully wired, your training solution may not be fully functional everywhere you need it to be. Keep this in mind when researching new training programs - they should be able to function without WiFi!
It may go without saying but be sure to work closely with an EHS consultant before designing or revamping your manufacturing building, as they can help ensure that the proper safety injury mitigations are put into place. An expert in this field will see the enhancements and obstacles before you do that may even go beyond anything you imagined!