Introducing Our First Excellence in Manufacturing Training Award Winner

December 16, 2020
  • Jeannine Kuntz
    By Jeannine Kunz
    Chief Workforce Development Officer
    Tooling U-SME

As an organization dedicated to the advancement of manufacturing, SME understands the importance of having corporate recruitment, retention and development strategies as a key pillar of strategic planning for a business. While it has always been important, the ongoing workforce crisis in manufacturing motivated us to document, celebrate and share best practices in workforce development.

In September, we put out a call for nominations for SME’s inaugural Excellence in Manufacturing Training Award. The award honors a manufacturer that demonstrates an exceptional commitment and dedication to upskilling the workforce, enhancing talent, and preparing new and incumbent employees for a successful career in the manufacturing industry.

After reading impressive entries, our panel of judges selected a winner. Congratulations to Milbank Manufacturing!


We are inspired to see how a 93-year-old company is at the forefront of training and development. This philosophy of innovation goes back to 1927 when Charlie Milbank set the standard for quality metering equipment and enclosures. Milbank remains a family-owned company, rooted in innovation and committed to growth. Today, with three American manufacturing facilities located in Kansas City, Missouri; Concordia, Missouri; and El Dorado, Arkansas; Milbank products can be found in 37 countries around the world.

Milbank recognizes the value of a team that builds its products and dedicates its resources to making sure they do the best job possible. Milbank understands that talent is a key driver for their business success.

This investment pays off in a low turnover rate and longevity from their employees. In fact, more than a third of Milbank employees have been with the company for 10 years or longer.

Milbank’s Winning Manufacturing Training Program

Here’s how Milbank described their training program goal in their submission:

“While employee development has always been a focus at Milbank, in 2017 and 2018 employee development was selected as one of Milbank’s three key initiatives for the organization. The goal was to create a comprehensive training program that would increase job performance and satisfaction and improve operational efficiencies.”

After assessing several training models, Milbank customized and implemented the Training Within Industry (TWI) methodologies for Job Instruction (JI). It is standardized throughout, using Job Instruction Breakdown to create their standard work instruction. These written instructions for each area of production help ensure the process is documented and clearly explained. Each employee who receives training in this model receives in-person instruction and explanations of the “why” behind the process.

Extensive use of job shadowing is integrated into that process. They encourage employees to try their skills at new positions to locate the best role for them. The company also cross-trains and engages in continuous standard work improvement through the use of TWI methodologies.

Milbank’s learning and development commitment is underscored by its extensive Train the Trainer program. This year, the company focused on developing hourly trainers in manufacturing locations. One hundred four employees are qualified trainers in their areas with others working to become certified as trainers.

To enable employees to build skills in a safe, efficient environment, Milbank has set up practice training lines that mirror production lines at each facility to allow for researching, testing, documenting and training without disrupting production.

As part of their training and development program, Milbank has increased its use of blended training solutions for Job Instruction. The company has also invested in leadership development to strengthen the skills of current and future leaders. This program requires the participants to complete a two-year blended learning curriculum covering topics that focus on team building and leadership as well as practical skills such as reading financials for non-accountants.

Education assistance is also available for employees taking courses aimed at a degree relevant to their present or future work.

Ensuring Continuous Improvement

Milbank actively solicits feedback, providing opportunities to offer suggestions that will make processes safer or more effective. This focus on continuous improvement ties to quality, cost and delivery improvements.

A system for tracking employee concerns is also built in. Milbank's Job Relations (JR) program is a systematic approach to solving people problems. The JR program tracks discipline, grievances and investigations throughout the year. As a cooperative effort with its union, the program ensures follow-up and resolution, including training.

Finally, two daily auditing processes take place at all manufacturing locations. The first is a process audit where auditors review the Job Instruction Breakdowns for a specific role to assure accuracy. The second is a training audit for certified trainers to support continuous improvement.

Milbank Manufacturing is an excellent example of a company that recognizes the value of investing in its workforce to drive business success, and in the near future we’ll provide more details of this winning program.

With this first Excellence in Manufacturing Training Award, we are pleased to recognize Milbank for its exceptional commitment and dedication to talent development, recruitment and retention.

Congratulations, Milbank!

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