The value of stone shop training
Taking time to educate your employees on proper procedures and behaviors will ultimately lead to a safer and more efficient working environment
Whether it is a new hire or a current employee, proper training, including cross-training, is important. Employees that are properly trained and cross-trained result in maintaining a high-quality efficient fabrication shop. Below are a few tips to help develop a valuable training program.
Begin by documenting your shop’s procedures. This can be a daunting task at first, but when tasks are documented, there is less chance for information to fall through the cracks. The documentation will be referenced during the learning cycle. The more specific the documentation, the more prepared your employees will be to run efficiently. Documented processes will ease the hiring procedure because current employees will have less explaining to do in-person. The new hire will read through the documentation to become prepared and ask more informed questions about the fabrication process in your shop.
New hire orientation
A great way to train a new hire, while developing back-ups for different positions in your shop, is to create a mentor program. Assign the new hire to a current employee for job shadowing purposes and to give the new hire a specific person to ask questions during training. Whatever the size of your company, cross-train your employees. When employees are sick, production can’t stop and the shop will need coverage in order to keep production flowing.
Aside from in-house training by your employee, we do recommend receiving training from the machine manufacturer. Certain machine manufacturers will offer a variety of training options (online, onsite or at the manufacturer’s training center). In many cases, the new employee is only getting part of the training by getting trained second hand. By enlisting the machine manufacturer for training, the trainee will receive the knowledge to program or operate the machine.
The online training operation option offers flexibility to the trainee’s schedule. It also allows for the trainee to take the courses at a pace they are comfortable with, while having the ability to take breaks to help out at the shop as they are needed. The production of the shop does not change because the employee is easily able to jump back into work and help. Online training is best suited for CAD/CAM programming.
Often manufacturers will offer sending a trainer to your shop location. This option has no travel requirements on your employees. It allows your employees to be trained in the environment for which they will be working every day. This could also help by setting up tooling on your equipment, with the guidance of a certified trainer.
Manufacturer’s training center
When one of your employees attends training at the manufacturer’s facility, it gives them in-person time with the trainer to ask questions and sit in a classroom-style discussion. Distractions are minimized by focusing only on the training, not the day-to-day production that could occur with online or onsite training. This type of training is hands-on experience for employees to totally immerse themselves in learning.
If it is available to you, it is best to train through the machine manufacturer. It is important for an employee to know what they’re doing first, before operating machinery. The more prepared your employee is for operating machines, the better hands your machines are in.
Hire for skill set
When hiring an employee, there are a few variables to consider. Every employee has different skills and interests to make them a better fit for different positions. They may gravitate toward a specific position, such as becoming an operator, an installer or a programmer. Someone training to be a programmer needs to know how to operate a computer first, as basic computer skills are not trained in these classes. Pick employees with skills to be useful that you send to training, so they can take advantage of their time and maximize their learning.
Aside from possessing basic knowledge of operating a computer, the employee should have an understanding of the digital fabrication process – from material layout all the way through the installation. In order for an employee to soak up the most knowledge during training, they should have these few things covered prior to attending.
Regular staff meetings
Safety is the number one topic to cover when training someone in a stone fabrication shop. There are many hazards within a stone fabrication facility. Employees should wear protective equipment and operate the equipment in a safe manner. Proper lifting techniques of slabs and countertops should be emphasized. Be sure no short cuts are taken with safety.
Educational seminars and workshops are a great way to further enhance your employee training. When seminars and expos are incorporated into the employee training process, it gives the employee a deeper understanding of the fabrication process and ways to improve the system in your shop. These events give your employees a chance to collaborate with other fabricators who are trying to gain new skills and information as well.
Preventative maintenance focus
A key part of training should be teaching employees how to complete basic stone repairs. When mistakes happen or stone chips, employees should feel prepared and know how to recover from that.
Your employees should be trained on the maintenance process. They should know and understand the first few levels of the machine maintenance. It is a continuous process, and they should continue to learn best maintenance practices. Eventually they will be able to complete tasks that are more specialized. When an employee is well-versed in the machine maintenance process, your machines will operate at their highest efficiency.
Depending on the position, it may take one month for the employee to be working comfortably on their own. While they should be trusted to work on their own, it is a continuous learning process and they should always have someone available for questions along the way. Your machines are in the best hands when they are cared for and operated by a well-trained employee.