Posted : 08 Oct 2008
The National Skills Academy for Manufacturing has signalled its arrival in the South West of England by developing a new regional initiative to demonstrate how local firms can boost business performance and profitability by helping employees obtain nationally-recognised qualifications. Lambda UK teamed up with leading manufacturers in the South West to pilot the new NVQ in Business-Improvement Techniques (B-IT) Level 2 training programme.
“We were very pleased to be asked to pilot the programme,” said Lambda’s General Manager, Phil Scotcher who strongly supports ongoing training within the company. He is also Vice Chair of the North Devon Manufacturing Association (NDMA), and was invited by the regional advisory group for the South West National Skills Academy for Manufacturing (NSA-M) to participate.
“The South West is not widely acknowledged by the rest of the UK as being the hot bed of manufacturing that it is,” said Phil. “We have many leading companies based in this region, manufacturing world-class products on a global level.” He cited Airbus and Honda, the two lead companies, along with the other prominent manufacturers participating in the pilot scheme including Broxton Industries, Reylon and Aldemans. “Our aim was to further the dialogue and interchange we have already established through our involvement with the NDMA.”
The main aim of the pilot programme was not to formally train the individuals for the NVQ B-IT certification but more to assess whether or not the training course would be a useful tool for the future and provide feedback to NSA-M. As Training Officer for Lambda UK, Jane Worley participated in the pilot scheme along with three employees. In order to obtain a fair evaluation of the programme and ensure high quality feedback, she selected an experienced process supervisor who was new to Lambda and two individuals who had already undergone formal training – one a manager, the other an engineer.
Already the feedback from the participants on the pilot scheme has been extremely positive; “We all feel it’s worked,” said Jane. “This NVQ will give us, as a company, a way to ensure every employee has a thorough understanding of the main business improvement techniques being actively employed within the manufacturing arena. This ensures that regardless of which department the individual belongs to they all start on a level playing field. They will receive each module in a standard way, following a recognised progression path and are assessed independently throughout the duration of the programme.”
For Lambda, the benefits of introducing this NVQ are considerable – “By taking out the waste in processes and improving overall efficiency, the potential cost savings are significant,” added Worley. Already the pilot scheme has allowed us to benchmark the participating companies against each other. We were able to see how well Lambda performed in certain areas in comparison to other companies – it was a true reality check.”
Lambda has followed the lean manufacturing route for a number of years already, “It’s all about sharing and learning,” explained Phil Scotcher. “You can’t be inspired by sitting in the classroom. Seeing good business practices in action inspires individuals to have the confidence to put them into practice themselves – the classroom is for more formal training to ensure that standard tools and techniques are taught.”
“This benchmarking is invaluable,” added Scotcher. “It will help inspire smaller businesses to improve upon their processes. Better stock control practices, for example, can herald significant cost and time-saving benefits across the whole of the company and these can be passed on to customers.”
“Our vision is to roll the NVQ in Business-Improvement Techniques throughout the company – much like a virtuous circle, it is anticipated that as employees get familiar with the scheme, there will be learning curve effects and some economies of scale. In addition, as waste in the various production and business processes is reduced or eliminated, overall efficiency will improve raising our competitive edge on the global market.”
Success, for the company and each individual, is already at the hearts and minds of the employee. Jane Worley added: “While the upper management has its role within Lambda, it’s the individuals on the shop floor that can employ these tools successfully to make significant improvements at the grass roots.”
Going forward Lambda will maintain its high-levels of support for training and continue developing individuals within the company at all levels. By ensuring that all training is nationally-recognised and standard, manufacturers within the South West can continue their success on the global market.