Bridging Language Barriers in Manufacturing Training

trainingIf you’ve been to our factory in Andover, you’ve probably noticed that our production workforce is highly diverse. Being a US-based factory, with English being our primary language, we trained our workforce in English for many years. When we decided to base our manufacturing standards using IPC we hit a roadblock that made us rethink our position on English language training.

One of the requirements of achieving IPC registration is the effective training of your workforce. The key word in that sentence – effective – turned out to be our catalyst for change.

IPC measures effectiveness by testing the workforce on the standards. Our first challenge was to get the factory folks calmed down after we told them they would need to pass a test to become IPC certified. Our second challenge was learning how to effectively train a diverse workforce.

Having firsthand knowledge of implementing World Class Techniques into a Manufacturing Culture made it relatively easy to tackle our “language” problem. All we had to do was change our historic thinking about training in general. We quickly came to the conclusion that a diverse workforce demands diversity in training. There are many reasons to manage a factory using World Class Techniques, one of which is reduced costs another of which is operator involvement. We hit a home run on both of these by asking our bilingual operators if they would be interested in becoming IPC trainers.

The rest is history…

Today we train and/or tutor in English, Spanish, Hindi, Vietnamese, Khmer and Chinese (mostly Mandarin and some Cantonese as proclaimed by the operator that volunteered). We’re working on Millennial but it’s a tough one to figure out completely!

During their IPC classroom training, any operator that is having trouble with understanding the concepts delivered in English are welcome to leave the class and be tutored in their language right on through the testing . When it comes to understanding process documentation the same concept holds true, someone is always available to help an operator bridge a language gap.

Language of the machines

One last and very important language that is highly leveraged at Vicor is the language of the machines. Our Information Technology group has had phenomenal success at providing us tools that turn raw data into plain English used to measure and manage improvement opportunities. See more on how by reading a recently-published case study by IBM on our use of their analytics capabilities throughout our organization.


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