Competition in the manufacturing sector is fierce, with challenges for business coming from across the globe. But Brad Ohlemacher, executive vice president and owner of Elyria Manufacturing, has found that making a commitment to work force development gives his company an advantage both in the marketplace and in some unexpected ways as well.
“We have a wide variety of training we do,” says Ohlemacher. “It crosses a broad cross-section of the different disciplines we have here.”
Shop workers at the precision machine products company are trained in the latest technical and quality assurance principles. Office employees are trained in how to make the most of their office software, and executives attend strategic planning training.
“It’s our belief that the only way we can survive as a company is that we have to invest in technology so we have the latest equipment, and invest in people to continually improve so that we’re always getting better,” says Ohlemacher. “We have a continuous-learning philosophy. We believe in continuous education and learning to help us become a better company.
“For us, it’s about investing in capital equipment so we have the latest technology, and investing in people so we have the latest thinking.”
Many manufacturers say they can’t spare the time away from the manufacturing process to train employees, that schedules would be disrupted and productivity would suffer.
Ohlemacher doesn’t agree.
“When you are investing in improving somebody, you would be amazed at how those issues just fall away,” says Ohlemacher. “Employees help make it up. The employee understands that it is an investment in them, and they work extra hard and other employees help cover for them.”
Investing in employees makes them feel important, and a stronger sense of loyalty is developed.
“If you are making an investment into somebody, there is some feeling of appreciation,” says Ohlemacher. “It gives people a reason to keep working here beyond just money. It’s a different way to show you care as a company. We don’t do it for that reason; we do it because we have to. It’s what keeps us a growing company.”
Another objection to work force training is that you might spend a lot of money on an employee’s training, only to have that person leave for another firm.
“How bad would it be to have someone leave, as opposed to have someone remain there that doesn’t want to learn?” says Ohlemacher. “That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. Why you would want someone there that is subsisting rather than someone you are investing in and making them grow to help you grow seems illogical. Sometimes employees leave, sure, but that’s part of life.”
Not only does training help retain employees and make Elyria Manufacturing more competitive, it also is a good recruiting tool.
“There’s no way to measure it, but it is a better sell to a potential employee,” says Ohlemacher. “From the employee’s point of view, would you rather work for a company that doesn’t do training or one that does?”
Elyria Manufacturing’s HR manager is responsible for scheduling all training sessions. Training ideas come from executives, managers and even course offering fliers from Lorain County Community College, where the company does most of its training.
Training sessions that need to be attended by everyone are broken up into smaller sessions spread across several days. The location of the training varies by the equipment needed for the course. If it can be done onsite, it is; if not, employees are sent to an offsite location that has the needed equipment.
“We want employees at every level to learn,” says Ohlemacher. “We are willing to invest the money, time and effort to develop them. They will define whether we succeed or fail. The point is, you need to train. It’s a matter of growth and survival.
“A company gets more than they pay for when they train. It’s very difficult to measure, and it’s one of the greatest challenges. If you put $1,000 into a machine, you can measure what the return is, but if you put $1,000 into an employee, how can you measure that return? You can’t. You have to make that leap of faith.”
How to reach: Elyria Manufacturing, (440) 365-4171 or www.elyriamfg.com