Benefits of Cross Training03:15:52 PM on 01/26/2010
Where do you begin with training an employee new to the industry? Ours is not a trade typically taught in high school or college, so the avenues can seem limited. An elemental understanding of the construction market is a nice beginning. Ask yourself: where does your company fit in? What are your strengths? Who is your customer base? These are topics most effectively covered through an orientation process and by observing and working with coworkers and various managers. Then what and where to go for it?
Additional sources I am most familiar with are select manufacturers that dedicate resources to both internal and external training, trade organizations like the National Glass Association, trade schools and even some unions.
Kawneer, for example, conducts training schools for our customer network focusing on system design, estimating, fabrication and installation. We are committed to a working partnership with our customers and are not content to be just their vendor. We recommend that each person begin by acquiring a working knowledge of the types of systems and products inherent to the industry. We begin by teaching the basics of framing; providing an understanding of the critical elements and conditions that must be satisfied to select and install the proper type of framing system for a given structure. We accompany this with an introduction to doors and hardware. These sessions lead to curtain wall design and selection and some of the more advanced applications. Whether the student is employed as a draftsman, estimator, glazier or project manager, it is critical to understand why a part is needed rather than just knowing that it is.
Today, with the advancements in software and equipment, it is easy for someone to become an expert in their specific role without seeing the bigger picture. We see estimators, who have mastered reading plans and inputting data into a program like PartnerPak+, but have difficulty telling the difference between a storefront and a curtain wall. We see project managers that live and die with lead times and change orders, but depend on others to make reliable recommendations regarding product applications. And we see a huge disconnect between what the draftsman is detailing and what the installer can actually do. That’s why we are totally committed to cross-training to achieve the most effective teams.
In the past few years, travelling around the U.S. and Canada, I have had the opportunity to visit a number of glazing contractors of various sizes. All have been successful enterprises that have emphasized their strengths and have consistently stayed ahead of the curve in their individual markets. At the same time, all have been unique, be it via product or process. The market is currently experiencing the lingering effects of the passing recession, and, unfortunately, commercial construction tends to enter and exit market downturns later than most industries. As I stated previously, the time to prepare for the future is the present. One of the demands of the current market is the ability to do more with less. Work smarter, not harder. If your office staff understands the installation sequence of a framing system, and your glaziers understand the cost ramifications of a call-back, then your team will excel. Think about it: how much does a trip back to a jobsite cost? Not only in terms of material, but also in terms of man-hours wasted and the expense of driving that glazing truck across town when gas or diesel costs $2.50 to $3.00 per gallon.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Knowledge comes by eyes always open and working hands; and there is no knowledge that is not power.” Through a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, we have the power to face the future, and the challenges it may bring, head on. Glaziers, estimators, draftsmen, engineers, project managers and owners – there are the teams, the “working hands”, that are preparing to seize the day when the day comes.
Let me know your thoughts on how training helps you seize the day.