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This morning I had a training course on Lean Manufacturing that took me back to my senior year in college. No, it wasn’t a course in operations management or engineering or anything of that sort. Actually, it reminded me of my foreign language classes back when I studied Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, all on the same days! The association with foreign languages has nothing to do with the fact that many of the Lean Principles refer to Japanese concepts like kaizen, kanban, hoshin, etc. which frankly were new to me. No, actually what seemed most “foreign” to me were the symbols used in Value Stream Mapping. As I looked at them, I could feel my brain associated each one with the meaning, similar to what I do when learning language.

I realize that by writing this, I am revealing how uneducated I am in something that many FPSA members and their customers view as second nature but that’s kind of my point. As someone who uses the WorkForge training platform that we provide our members, access to this course was available right at my fingertips. Before my day started to get busy, I was able to fit in a course and take the assessment, and retake the assessment, and then retake the assessment a third time (damn foreign languages!) before successfully completing the course.

It’s not that I expect to put this to use in someone’s plant tomorrow. I took this course because lean is something I’ve heard about for years but have never taken the time to get a better understanding of it. Eliminating waste and optimizing the production process makes all the sense in the world. In fact, I guess I already knew this as I have recruited multiple speakers over the years for topics on lean manufacturing at our show, Process Expo. But it certainly is different to sit down and learn about an organized system of continually improving your operations.

The Lean course was different from some of the other courses I’ve done this year. Stress management, problem solving in teams, food safety culture and time management are all much more within my wheelhouse as someone who has been working in an office since the 80’s. That’s the beauty of WorkForge. With over 800 courses, there is almost no end to the training I can do. Whether it’s “soft skills” courses for the office, or technical courses for someone’s plant personnel, it’s all there for me to choose. What courses can help me in my professional development to raise my knowledge for this company, or what courses include topics I simply want to learn about?  I have my choice since the license covers all courses for the year. What did taking this lean course cost me? Only about 45 minutes. That’s it.

Beginning this year, FPSA boosted its member benefits by including one free WorkForge license for each member company. The idea was not to stop there but rather to show them the strength and versatility of the program so that these members will encourage their companies to consider using the platform for their other employees, maybe someone like this marketer who only knew the term lean manufacturing but nothing behind it. We all have new employees that we need to bring up to speed on operations whether they be in the plant, the office, or on the road. Machinery maintenance, Health and safety, Electrician, Food Safety? There are hundreds of courses in these areas and obviously a lot more. And for our members that have a workforce that speaks Spanish, many of these courses are done in Spanish. I’ll have to try one of them next time!

We heard from a member recently who complained that the program was complicated. She shared her login with a bunch of her co-workers and had a hard time understanding who took what. In addition, one co-worker already completed the course in Excel Formulas and Functions that she wanted to take and since it’s already completed, it won’t allow her to go in and take it. We explained that her license was for her and that if her co-workers intend to use WorkForge, they need licenses too. It’s simple enough. Each additional license costs $349 for one year of use. However, my colleagues at WorkForge pointed out that they also have other pricing options. For example, one FPSA member is negotiating a discounted bulk purchase of licenses for all personnel at one of their processing plants. Once this gets kicked off, they’ll consider doing the same for some of their other plants. Another member is in discussions with WorkForge to develop some custom content just for their company. It all depends on what your professional development goals are for your personnel.

I think it’s a great program and worth exploring for any company working in this industry. Yes, I might be a little biased, but having taken over a dozen courses since we launched this, I think I know what I’m talking about. I’m happy to discuss it with any members that are curious.

Andy Drennan, FPS SVP