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How to use eLearning to Drive Your Quest for Zero Defects

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Benjamin Franklin was an inventor, a journalist, a philosopher and a statesman, but he did not work in the apparel and footwear industries. However, one of the many quotes he’s so famous for applies to your ongoing efforts to improve product quality: “Genius without education is like silver in the mine.” Your factories’ QA-QC teams, production department managers, line supervisors and artisans (operators) will all struggle to achieve a culture of zero defects if you do not first teach them how to ensure the quality of each and every unit they produce.

A comprehensive education program for your factories’ team members such as the Impactiva eLearning Academy provides the resources you need to activate your personnel ecosystem without committing the time and money to develop your own curriculum and hire teams of instructors.

Out with the old

The rise of the e-commerce economy makes delivering a quality product at the right time with the right value more important than ever. Improving speed and flexibility are the two critical keys to success. You need to reduce the amount of time it takes your factories to produce and ship new products in smaller lot sizes. Think 2,000 to 3,000 pieces instead of 25,000 or more.

Yet, the Henry Ford Model-T assembly line culture and its mentality of “we just need your arms and legs, don’t bother using your brain” still permeates factories today. That model may appear efficient as products move down the lines, but not when you consider the high costs of poor quality.

The typical non-athletic footwear factory has to rework 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent of entire orders, and units requiring rework within the production process can surpass 50 percent and frequently more than 100 percent. What’s worse is that no one measures or tracks these numbers! You ask the typical factory manager in our industry for their quality performance metrics and what he or she tells you are their defect and rejection numbers are far from the reality of what is happening on the shop-floor. As Peter Drucker, a leading management guru said long ago, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t change it.”

You can significantly reduce those numbers by motivating your factories’ team members to advance their education through self-led eLearning lessons they complete on their own time using their own computers or tablets. Providing your workers and managers with the education and training they need to get their jobs done faster while still producing high-quality products boosts their morale and reduces mistakes. They realize that you are investing in them, and that builds loyalty and compels them to work harder and smarter. It also reduces employee turnover, which is key because it is much less expensive to retain a current employee than it is to recruit, hire and train his or her replacement. Well-trained personnel ask for less help and strive to continue improving their own efficiency levels. The resulting increase in the across-the-board performance leads directly to higher profits and employee morale, and improved quality of products.

Getting started

Begin with the entire QA-QC team, particularly the fixed QC gatekeepers throughout the line, the roaming QC, the QA technicians and the QA-QC leaders. These are the people that the rest of your employee ecosystem look to as models of efficiency and accountability. A key component of the curriculum should be geared towards educating your QC gatekeepers and line-supervisors on what constitutes a defect, and how to execute their roles more efficiently via the collection and analysis of real-time data along every step of the production line.

Next, engage the members of your Continuous Improvement Team. Teach them how to use the same data available to the QA-QC teams to set aggressive improvement targets, and coach all factory team members on how to hit those targets. They should also be able to perform a root cause analysis when an issue arises, and quickly execute corrective action plans right on the manufacturing floor. No more waiting until the massive waste is generated when thousands of defective products arrive at a factory’s finished goods warehouse.

Then roll the education program out to your line supervisors and production department managers who are the key drivers to motivating all artisans to take accountability, responsibility and ownership for eQuality. Finally, engage every artisan on the shop floor.

Impactiva eLearning Academy

The Impactiva eLearning Academy offers eLearning-based curriculum built around self-led courses that enable your factory leadership and artisans to advance their educations anytime, anywhere, with modules available on a wide range of leadership and technical topics. Courses are designed with multiple chapters, each of a maximum of five minutes to match the focus span of today’s youth. The lessons fall under five main umbrellas: quality, process, technical, standards and change management.

Courses such as “How to perform final inspections,” “Garment fitting process,” “Stain management procedure,” “Defect calibration,” “Basics of leather cutting,” “8-lean-wastes,” “Root-Cause-Analysis,” “Project management” and “Employee motivation” all are geared to building the hard and soft skills required to create the behaviors, habits, values and culture required in the future factories of our industry. We will work with you to develop a curriculum that addresses your specific needs and goals tailor-made for each specific role within your factories.

All factory team members will be tested after the completion of each and every course. Percentage of curriculum completed by team member, role and factory along with corresponding test scores can be visualized by all parties via Impactiva’s Learning Management System. Brands and retailers can gamify the eLearning by showing average scores across factories (and roles within each factory) to motivate all of them to improve via healthy competition. Using the results, brands and retailers will also be able to understand the factories that are the weaker links in their production-chain so that additional resources can be used to get these factories to perform at the level of the rest of your production-chain eco-system.

Factory team members will be motivated to take the eLearning courses and excel in them as their scores can be shown, if desired, within each factory to thus gamify their continuous education. They will also earn electronic certificates for passing each course; certificates that will be available for them to show future employers via their own personalized permanent access to Impactiva’s Learning Management System.

By offering ongoing education programs to your factories’ team members, you empower them to strive for continuous improvement in their own work and in the quality of finished products they will produce. The top-line goal is to fully engage them to generate and maintain a culture of zero-defects which will meet the demands of today’s eConsumers.

By Jose R. Suarez, founder & CEO, Impactiva

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