M22 Honoring The Best in Manufacturing Training

November 04, 2021
  • Jeannine Kuntz
    By Jeannine Kunz
    Chief Workforce Development Officer
    Tooling U-SME

We love this time of the year when we get to present the SME Excellence in Manufacturing Training Award. Now in its second year, 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.

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 workforce development has always been important, the ongoing workforce crisis in manufacturing, exacerbated by the pandemic, motivated us to document, celebrate, and share best practices in workforce development.

Our thanks to all the companies that shared their impressive stories with us. If the entries are any indication, the industry has much to be optimistic about when it comes to developing a strong manufacturing workforce. 

Boeing: A Leader in Training and Innovation

We are pleased to announce that SME’s second annual Excellence in Manufacturing Training Award goes to Boeing. Congratulations to Boeing’s entire training team!

We were impressed by how Boeing, a 105-year-old manufacturer and the world’s largest aerospace company, has remained committed, despite Covid-19 challenges, to investing in its global workforce through a world-class training and development program that helps drive business success.

Of course, Boeing has a long tradition of aerospace leadership and innovation, and it is not surprising that the company recognizes its success comes from a team of motivated, well-trained, life-long learners.

The award goes specifically to the company’s training arm, Production System Training (PST). PST is an organization of approximately 300 training professionals with additional teammates from its Learning and Development organization who provide complex industrial skills and regulatory required certification training to Boeing’s more than 50,000 manufacturing employees around the globe.

Their efforts, tied directly to business results, ensure new employees are able to perform precision fabrication and assembly work to the quality standards demanded by commercial, military, and space programs needed by Boeing to deliver maximum satisfaction to customers and the public. 

Learning Paths Help to Streamline Training and Career Growth

Boeing has designated hundreds of job roles to build and maintain its portfolio of commercial, space, and military products. These roles include quality/inspection, fabrication, assembly, and installation with each role sub-defined to levels based on experience. Advanced roles include advanced manufacturing, systems troubleshooting, aircraft delivery and maintenance.

Common core manufacturing “learning paths” that apply across geographical locations and aerospace programs help train to the complexity of Boeing’s global workforce. These standard learning paths, for new and experienced employees, identify basic and advanced skills within a role to support and define a path from beginner to expert capability.

“It’s through our learning paths that we show value,” said Keith Kepler, Senior Manager on PST’s Leadership Team. “Using the same learning package allows us to track and measure employee development from onboarding competence to cross-functional, mid-level on-the-job training to advanced OJT.”

Kepler said that the learning paths help forecast training so that the training team – and employees – know what they need to grow. 

Blended, Structured Training for Maximum Effectiveness

PST acts to align the Boeing system in efficient and auditable delivery of training. Key features include:

  • The role of production training and its necessity in the regulatory compliance process are well defined. Workers are not allowed to perform manufacturing processes until they are assessed and receive industrial skills training and/or required program certifications.
  • Certifications are defined by Engineering and/or regulatory requirements. This supports the audit activities by internal and external entities. Learning content is maintained through a regular yearly cycle. Employee recertifications are required on a regular schedule.
  • Within the PST team, standard work roles and responsibilities are defined and maintained to provide a consistent product to production customers. Additionally, all senior leaders meet bi-weekly to monitor overall system performance and discuss optimization opportunities.
  • All curriculum, guided by policies and procedures, is updated on a regular cycle. Thousands of courses are reviewed and updated yearly to maintain alignment to the current state of production and needed certifications. Curricula is a blend of online, instructor-led, and hands-on learning.
  • Instructor standards are documented and enforced to provide consistent employee development. There is built-in credibility as 90 percent of instructors are hired directly from Boeing’s production workforce.
  • An enterprise learning management system serves as the company’s auditable source of data.
  • Data analytics tools assess work-team learning history and identify skill and certification gaps. Additionally, the team is implementing data analytics to measure real-time production trends and link them to business goals.

PST is exploring new ways of delivering training content while recognizing the hands-on nature of the work in Boeing factories. Some examples include augmented reality as a mode of knowledge transfer and retention. Other modalities include the use of video clips to give short, just-in-time (JIT) reminders of specialized techniques or processes.

Newer digital formats allow curricula experts to more rapidly repackage and streamline key content.

With our 2021 Excellence in Manufacturing Training Award, we are pleased to recognize Boeing for the effective implementation of best practices in training programs to build a high performing workforce.

Congratulations, Boeing!

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