To Train or Not to Train?
When harried plastics employers contemplate the challenges of implementing technical training programs into their manufacturing plants, the training solutions sometimes appear to be as daunting as the challenges presented by untrained employees. Employers wade through a maze of buzzwords like Teambuilding, Total Quality Management or Advanced Manufacturing and try to choose a program that will meet their company’s specific needs. Then they squeeze money from a budget already wrung dry by escalating raw materials costs and low-cost global competition to pay for it. If the training program arrives in a cellophane-wrapped box, it often collects dust in a corner of the HR office waiting for someone to plan how to actually implement it. Once started, the training program often loses momentum and dies a quiet death when urgent manufacturing priorities claim more attention.
The Search for the Plastics Industry’s Most Dynamic Certification System
MAPP’s Board of Directors, comprised of plastics executives and business owners, is acutely aware of the urgent need for more highly trained production employees and understands the frustrations employers encounter when they attempt to remedy the situation. MAPP began an initiative to locate a structured plastics certification and training program that would positively impact the skill sets of employees and ultimately improve the efficiency and profitability of plastics manufacturing operations. The objectives were to find a program that was technically comprehensive and demanding while possessing the flexibility to meet the specific training needs of individual processing companies. In addition, the system needed to be affordable for processors yet robust enough to contain checks and balances to ensure standards and certification levels maintained their integrity.
Global Standards for Plastics Certification (GSPC)
While MAPP was conducting research to identify the best training option for plastics processors, representatives from the State of Indiana, lead by Ivy Tech Community College, requested MAPP’s help in creating a plastics certification program for the purpose of “credentializing” the state’s entire plastics workforce. This request led to the development of an innovative partnership among MAPP, plastics processors, workforce development entities, and Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College. After investigating several different options, alliance members agreed that the Global Standards Plastics Certification (GSPC) training system had the traits required to meet the stated training objectives. The Global Standards for Plastics Certification originated in Great Britain in the 1970s after the UK Government invested more than $10M to create and maintain plastics manufacturing core competencies. The GSPC system is now being implemented or promoted in thirty-three countries but is a relatively new concept in the U.S. Although still in its infancy, American processors are now becoming aware and are beginning to understand the impact this system is having on the companies who are using it. As the goal of increasing the skill sets of the U.S.-based plastics employment force is realized, employers soon will see globally recognized certifications attached to highly skilled employees in the plastics industry.
Pilot Program Yields Impressive Results
Over the last two years, Indiana companies have invested a significant amount of time and energy into the GSPC training process, but the direct costs have been covered by grant funds from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (IDWD). Thus far, Indiana has invested over $1,530,000 in the GSPC program.
From Indiana’s two-year pilot program, the plastics manufacturing companies engaged in the GSPC adoption have documented performance results that are truly impressive. Examples of the impact of GSPC include the following:
- Medical injection molder of caps and closures has achieved a 20 percent reduction in scrap, a 40 percent reduction in mold change time, a 20 percent reduction in customer complaints, and new customers as a result of its GSPC adoption over two years ago. The company is now manufacturing more parts per machine than ever before and attributes this to the increased skills and knowledge levels of its employees.
- Structural foam molding company has enjoyed a 23 percent increase in monthly sales and an 87 percent decrease in customer complaints, among other benefits.
- One of the nation’s leading micro injection molding companies has experienced a decrease of material rejection notices to 1/18 of what they used to be.
- One proprietary molder has experienced a 341 percent improvement in dollar cost of scrap, as well as a 25 percent improvement in changeover times.
“The IDWD’s vision for ensuring that Indiana companies remain competitive in a global market, and their commitment toward increasing incumbent worker technical competencies made this entire training initiative possible. The IDWD has created a successful model that will benefit states across the nation,” stated Troy Nix, MAPP director. As a result of these efforts, 44 plastics manufacturing companies have adopted, introduced, and are training the plastics skill standards to more than 700 industry employees. The next wave of companies will add several hundred more employees to the pool of GSPC certified workers. MAPP President Rick Walters, company owner and 28-year veteran to the plastics industry, recently indicated, “GSPC is not only what my company needed but is truly what our industry needs.”
The “Guts” of the GSPC Program
GSPC is a comprehensive, rigorous training system designed to ensure that plastics industry production employees have a consistent level of knowledge and hands-on skills related to safety, quality, customer service, and the production process. This certification program is for the individual employee (candidate) who is interested in bettering his skills and increasing his business and technical knowledge of the plastics manufacturing industry. To achieve GSPC certification, each employee engages in a series of structured training events designed to expand his knowledge base and improve overall skill sets. GSPC Level I Certification requires mastery of seven modules covering over 250 demonstrated competencies, designed to
- Contribute to the Safety of the Workplace
- Contribute to the Effectiveness of the Workplace
- Establish and Maintain Effective Working Relationships
- Contribute to the Maintenance of Product Quality
- Hand Over Production Activities
- Prepare a Machine-based Plastic Production Process
- Run and Monitor a Machine-based Plastic Production Process
The initial step in this process is a “training assessment” that identifies gaps between what the employee knows and what the standard requires. From a simplistic standpoint, employees reaching Level I certification must be able to identify, locate, and state the function of the various elements of an injection molding machines to satisfy one of the elements under the Production Process module. To reach level two, employees are further challenged to understand process theory or the scientific reasons behind why things happen they way the do. To achieve the level of knowledge required to reach each certification level, employees use customizable interactive technical training provided by A. Routsis Associates, a Division of RJG, Inc., simulation exercises, group training, and self-study. Each employee maintains documentation, and over time, builds a comprehensive portfolio of his accomplishments that is used to obtain Level III certification and more.
MAPP’s Role in the National Implementation
MAPP’s next priority will be to implement GSPC into several states in the Midwest plastics cluster, including Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. Toward that end, MAPP has submitted a $3.7M federal grant request and will continue to request state and federal funding to implement state-organized, grant-funded consortiums of companies interested in implementing GSPC training programs. For companies interested in gaining access to the GSPC system and participating in future grant activities, please send your company information via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact MAPP’s GSPC National Rollout Project Director, Cindy Webster, at (812) 323-0460.